Animal Trilogy

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The Animal Trilogy consists of three consecutively released Italian giallo films by Dario Argento: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972). The giallo trilogy has had an influence on horror films and murder mysteries made outside of Italy since the early seventies.

The films are not connected to each other in any way and do not share characters or actors. The only connection they have is an animal in their title.


The Bird with the Crystal Plumage[edit]

Dario Argento’s directorial debut is considered as a landmark in the Italian giallo genre that turned the giallo into a major cultural phenomenon.[1] That film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, was greatly influenced by Blood and Black Lace, and introduced a new level of stylish violence and suspense that helped redefine the genre. The film was a box office smash and was widely imitated.[2] Its success provoked a frenzy of Italian films with stylish, violent, and sexually provocative murder plots, (Argento alone made three more in the next five years) essentially cementing the genre in the public consciousness. In 1996, director Michele Soavi wrote, "there's no doubt that it was Mario Bava who started the "spaghetti thrillers" [but] Argento gave them a great boost, a turning point, a new style...'new clothes'. Mario had grown old and Dario made it his own genre... this had repercussions on genre cinema, which, thanks to Dario, was given a new lease on life."[3] The success of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage provoked a decade which saw multiple gialli produced every year. In English-language film circles, the term "giallo" gradually became synonymous with a heavy, theatrical and stylized visual element.

Written by Argento, the film is an uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown's novel The Screaming Mimi. It stars Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall and Enrico Maria Salerno.

It was placed 272nd in Empire magazine's "500 Greatest Movies of All Time" list.[4]

Upon its release the film was a huge box office hit, grossing 1,650,000,000 Italian lira (roughly about $1 million US), twice the production cost of $500,000. The film was also a success outside of Italy, gaining €1,366,884 admissions in Spain.

The Cat o' Nine Tails[edit]

Although it is the middle entry in Argento's "Animal Trilogy", the titular "cat o' nine tails" does not directly refer to a literal cat, nor to a literal multi-tailed whip; rather, it refers to the number of leads that the protagonists follow in the attempt to solve a murder.

The film stars James Franciscus, Karl Malden and Catherine Spaak. Though successful in Europe, it was dismissed in the United States.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet[edit]

The third chapter of the Animal Trilogy stars Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer and Jean-Pierre Marielle.

AllMovie gave the film a positive review, calling it "an unfortunately overlooked and hard-to-find choice nugget in his [Argento's] oeuvre".[5]

Deep Purple was considered for the score, but because of scheduling difficulties with the band the film was instead scored by world famous composer Ennio Morricone, who had previously worked on Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.


The music for the trilogy was composed by Ennio Morricone.

Music has been cited as a key to the giallo film; writer Anne Billson explains, "The Giallo Sound is typically an intoxicating mix of groovy lounge music, nerve-jangling discord, and the sort of soothing lyricism that belies the fact that it's actually accompanying, say, a slow motion decapitation," (she cites as an example Ennio Morricone's score for 1971's Four Flies on Grey Velvet).

Morricone had a major argument with Argento over some tracks Argento did not want in Four Flies on Grey Velvet. As a result, the director and Morricone would not work together again until 1996 with The Stendhal Syndrome, and the rock group Goblin would eventually become Argento's regular composers.


  1. ^ "L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage) – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  2. ^ McDonagh, Maitland (March 22, 2010). Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento. University of Minnesota Press. p. 14. ISBN 081665607X.
  3. ^ Soavi, Michele (1996). "Michele Soavi Interview". In Palmerini, Luca M.; Mistretta, Gaetano. Spaghetti Nightmares. Fantasma Books. p. 147. ISBN 0963498274.
  4. ^ "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  5. ^ Buening, Michael. "Quattro Mosche di Velluto Grigio - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012.