For years the only way to get Dario Argento’s “lost” film Four Flies on Grey Velvet was through some very shady bootleg avenues. A couple of years ago I finally broke down and bought a copy from a dealer at a horror convention (anyone who has ever attended one can attest to my use of the word “shady” above). The transfer was so awful I only made it about five minutes, ten bucks down the drain.
Years later-lo and behold- Argento’s lost Giallo is found. For the uninitiated the Italian Giallo subgenre is a prognosticator of the American slasher boom. Black gloved killers, convoluted plots that often defy even the most basic logic: they’re basically horror movies with a heavy mystery element.
As examples of the genres go there are far better films than Four Flies on Grey Velvet; that said it’s not without its charm. The plot is more often than not nonsensical in this type of film but the gist is a musician is blackmailed by a masked killer over his involvement in an accidental death. By the time the movies is over there will be a couple more murders, psyched out slow-motion dream sequences, and a flamboyantly gay private detective thrown in for comic relief.
There are really only two scenes that stand out in this fairly bloodless and mediocre film but boy are they good. The first is a riff on the classic “staircase murder” from Hitchcock’s Psycho, and the second is a beautiful slow-motion car wreck that is utterly spoiled by an insert shot of a rather lame looking severed head. Also in the plus column is an Ennio Morricone score that sounds like a cross between the Get Carter soundtrack and Ringo Starr on meth…hard to believe that can be a good thing, but it is.
For a movie that was thought lost by many the DVD (put out by mya communications) has very good picture quality. Some grain is present but it is certainly far better than the VHS dupes making there way around the convention circuit.
For Argento completists the film is a refreshing look back at a maestro who has lost his way (Mother of Tears anyone? Didn’t think so) while still being a lesser work. For Giallo diehards there are a couple of scenes of note, plus the bonus of an extra-implausible conclusion. For everyone else Four Flies on Grey Velvet offers nothing.
To those curious of the Giallo subgenre I suggest as good starting points Argento’s Deep Red, Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in A Woman’s Skin or—my personal favorite—Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks at Midnight.
Not all my entries on films are going to be this long; it’ll probably fluctuate greatly with my mood.