Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 7th, 2012
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1971
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Luigi Cozzi, Mario Foglietti, Bryan Edgar Wallace
Cast: Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Bud Spencer, Jean-Pierre Marielle
BluRay released: January 30th, 2012
Approximate running time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
Subtitles: English, English SDH
BluRay Release: Shameless Screen Entertainment
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £24.99
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is the third film in a series of films directed by Dario Argento, which is often referred to as his Animal trilogy. The Other two films are The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails. Four Flies on Grey Velvet was co-written by Luigi Cozzi who would go onto to become a director in his own right, helming such classics like The Killer Must Kill Again, Starcrash and Contamination. Throughout his career Dario Argento has often surrounded himself with first rate cinematographers. The cinematographer on Four Flies on Grey Velvet was Franco Di Giacomo whose notable films include The Most Beautiful Wife, Hitch Hike and Who Saw Her Die?
The score for Four Flies on Grey Velvet was composed by Ennio Morricone who had previously composed the score for the other two films which make up the Animal trilogy. For each film in the Animal trilogy Ennio Morricone would create a distinctively different sound. His score for Four Flies on Grey Velvet stands out as his most inventive of the three scores. The musical motif which plays over the film’s final moments and appears throughout the film is a classic example of Ennio Morricone’s ability to create beautiful yet melancholy motifs. It has been reported that Dario Argento had a falling out with Ennio Morricone over the score and there next collaboration would come twenty five years later, The Stendhal Syndrome. Another rumor that has made its rounds is that Dario Argento had at one point considered using the rock band Deep Purple to score the film.
The main difference plot wise where Four Flies on Grey Velvet diverges from the other two films in the Animal trilogy is that the protagonist enlists the help of private investigator to help him solve the mystery. Structure wise Four Flies on Grey Velvet evolves a even pace that allows just enough information to come forth without giving away to much. The film’s ending is one of Dario Argento’s best with its slow motion execution of the killer. One of Four Flies on Grey Velvet’s strongest assets is its witty dialog that perfectly suits this most unusual thriller. If there is one weakness in the plot it is the elements that are more science driven like a retina retaining the last thing someone see’s before death.
Visually Dario Argento continues to experiment with a few standout moments like a scene where the maid calls the killer and the maid’s subsequent meeting with the killer at the park. Another innovative use of style is when the film’s main character Roberto Tobias goes to meet the private investigator for the first time. The sounds of his approaching car are intercut with a roving camera that moves towards the private investigator’s office. The aforementioned slow motion ending culminates the impending doom that has been plaguing Robert Tobias in his dreams.
Something that the films of Dario Argento all have in common is that they all are filled with many colorful secondary characters. Four Flies on Grey Velvet has a handful of baroque characters like the gay private detective who has never solved any of his eighty four cases, the bumbling mailman and a nosy neighbor who always gets the crippled neighbor man’s Swedish porn.
Despite working primary in the thriller genre comedy is something that is present in the majority of Dario Argento’s films. Also it is not surprising that Four Flies on Grey Velvet has the most comedy of the three films in the Animal trilogy. Especially since it is well known that by the time he was making Four Flies on Grey Velvet he had already grown tired of the thriller genre and his next film The Five Days of Milan would mark his only foray in the comedy genre.
The two performances that standout the most are Mimsy Farmer as Nina Tobias and Jean-Pierre Marielle as Gianni Arrosio (the gay detective). Both of these performances come dangerously close to going over the edge. The film’s most surprising role is Michael Brandon in the film’s lead role of Roberto Tobias. He does a exceptional job portraying someone who has been cornered and forced to face his fears head on. Another performance of note is Bud Spencer cast in the type of role that he plays oh so well. Ultimately Four Flies on Grey Velvet is an underrated thriller that has remained in the shadows for far too long.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Until a DVD of Four Flies on Grey Velvet immerged three years ago from Mya Communication the only way to view the film was via murky grey market releases that often leaned more towards atrocious in quality. Things finally changed with the aforementioned DVD release from Mya Communication, which was a quantum leap ahead anything that had come before it. This now brings us to this new release from Shameless Screen Entertainment, which also marks this film’s first Hi Def home video release. And while the overall quality of Shameless Screen Entertainment’s transfer is indeed very good, I have to say that it was not as big of leap in quaintly that I was excepting. Also for this new release from Shameless Screen Entertainment, there is about fifty seconds of footage that has been sourced from a lesser source (which looks very rough). It should also be noted that for this release that Shameless Screen Entertainment have removed that horizontal line that appears in the film’s finale.
This release comes with four audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English, Dolby Digital mono mix in English, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian and a Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian. All four audio mixes sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. With the only imprecations coming during the film’s finale for moments that are only available in Italian. During these moments, not only is there some background noise, the audio at times also sounds distorted. These minor flaws aside, it should be noted that all four audio mixes sound correctly pitched. Subtitle options for this release include English subtitles for the Italian language tracks (this also includes moments where there is only Italian audio during the English audio mix and Italian text appears on screen) and English SDH subtitles for the hearing impaired.
Extras for this release include two trailers, English language (55 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and Italian language (2 minutes 35 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), English language opening and closing credits (5 minutes – anamorphic widescreen), a image gallery that has music from the film playing in the background and a interview with co-screenwriter Luigi Cozzi (41 minutes 42 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles). Some of the topics discussed during the interview with Luigi Cozzi, how he got involved with this project, his role in interjecting more Sci-fi / Fantasy related material into the film, he also discuses in depth the various sources that served as inspiration for this film like – Raymond Chandler’s novel ‘The Little Sister’, Frederic Brown’s ‘The Screaming Mimi’ and François Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses, the film’s special effects – which were created by Carlo Rambaldi, the film’s visual style – most notably its dark look and various camera effects that were employed for this film – most notably the film finale, the film’s score and how at one time the Rock band Deep Purple were going to do the score and the film’s cast. Also at one point during this interview director Sergio Martino discusses the similarities between a scene from his film The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and a scene from Four Flies on Grey Velvet. To counter balance Sergio Martino’s comments, Luigi Cozzi weighs in on the subject and reveals the real source of the scene that appears in Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Also included with this release is a reversible cover art and trailers for other titles also available from Shameless Screen Entertainment. Overall Four Flies on Grey Velvet gets its best release to date from Shameless Screen Entertainment.
Note: Shameless Screen Entertainment are also releasing Four Flies on Grey Velvet on DVD.