This previously obscure Dario Argento cult film has had its run through the bootleg market. But now, it’s available in a fairly decent print laid to DVD. So, is it worth the wait for giallo fans, hungry for more ’70s Italian psycho-thriller goodness from this pre-horror period of Argento? Put a few drinks in me and I’d say yes, but with some strong caveats.
Our story begins with Roberto, a musician who is being stalked by a stranger. When he gains the opportunity to confront his stalker, he accidentally kills the man in the struggle as someone in the theater’s balcony takes pictures and flees, leading Roberto to the idea that the scene was all pre-arranged. The next day, Roberto receives the pics in the post — is it blackmail, harassment, or worse? Will the musician find out before he too is dead? Since this is a giallo, and everyone in a giallo loves to play detective, then it’s fair to say that he’s on the case.
Four Flies On Grey Velvet is grouped in name only as part of the “animal trilogy,” which also includes Cat O’Nine Tails and The Bird With The Crystal Plumage — the last of which considered by many, including myself, as the best of the three. Yes, Four Flies has its flaws. The quack scientific exposition on a killer’s face being imprinted on the eyes of its victim is pretty laughable. Though, in all fairness, giallo occasionally takes some liberties with the facts. The Morricone score is enjoyable and nowhere near the distraction that Argento’s typical score choice (Goblin) often is. The movie starts strong, but winds down to a slower pace after. It’s a little uneven as a result, and it doesn’t take any real chances. The story is reasonably entertaining but don’t expect anything particularly grand.
I would probably recommend this movie more to fans of Argento’s work, as there are better offerings both by this director and within the genre itself. This is all before such Argento classics as Deep Red and Suspiria, which nicely led his career down the horror path many of us know so well. Seemingly, these later gems were probably the result of what Argento learned from his earlier efforts, so that might provide a curiosity factor for genre fans to check out this film. If you’re just coming into giallo, I would probably have you steer clear of this as your introduction. All and all, a mixed bag for most and more interesting to the fans.