Four Flies on Grey Velvet
|Four Flies on Grey Velvet|
Italian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dario Argento|
|Produced by||Salvatore Argento|
|Screenplay by||Dario Argento|
|Story by||Dario Argento
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Cinematography||Franco Di Giacomo|
|Edited by||Franco Fraticelli|
Universal Productions France
Cinema International Corporation
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||₤1,231,000,000 (Italy)|
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Italian: 4 mosche di velluto grigio) is a 1971 Italian-French giallo film written and directed by Dario Argento, from a story by Luigi Cozzi (whom also served as assistant director). The film is the third in director Argento's "Animal Trilogy", having been preceded by The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971).
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While confronting a mysterious stalker in sunglasses, rock drummer Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon) inadvertently stabs the man when the stalker pulls out a knife, mysterious third man shining a spotlight on the incident and snapping several photographs. Roberto reads about the man's death in the newspaper the next day, and receives a letter identifying the man as one Carlo Marosi. During a get-together of with his bandmates, Roberto's maid Amelia catches a glimpse of him with the photographs, but does not intervene.
That night, Roberto begins having recurring dreams of being decapitated in a Persian coliseum. He awakens to find himself being attacked by a masked man, who tells him that he could kill him now, but won't because he "isn't finished with him." The man knocks Roberto out and flees. When his wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer) returns home, he confesses to her about the accidental stabbing and subsequent harassment, telling her that he can't go to the police.
Roberto goes to see his beatnik artist friend Godfrey (Bud Spencer), who lives at a shack with his con-artist colleague nicknamed the Professor (Oreste Lionello). Roberto confides in them about his problem and Godfrey suggests having the Professor keep an eye on him. His tormentor has a flashback of being committed to an insane asylum and being tied down to a bed. When Amelia (whom the tormentor evidently knows) attempts to blackmail him, he locks her inside of a city park after hours and kills her with a straight razor.
That same evening, Nina arrives at a train station to pick up her cousin Dalia (Francine Racette) for another get together, in spite of Roberto not wanting her their. His bandmate Mikro, asks why he skipped rehearsal. Nina gets a phone call and learns of Amelia's murder. Roberto later has the same nightmare of being decapitated again and awakens to a loud noise. He investigates but only hears his pet cat hissing. The next morning, the couple find a note from the killer, frightening Nina.
Carlo Marosi is revealed to be alive and well, in league with Roberto's tormentor to blackmail him. Carlo however wants out, and is killed the tormentor with razor wire. Elsewhere, the Professor tells Roberto that he saw someone last night in his back garden, with his cat wrapped in a blanket. The Professor tells Roberto that he may seek outside help to learn who is harassing him and also informs him that he will not be watching his house anymore out of fear for his own safety.
Roberto goes to meet with Arrosio (Jean-Pierre Marielle), an eccentric and flamboyantly gay private investigator. Arrosio admits to never having solved a case, but is optimistic that his bad record will be broken. During a drive with Roberto, Arrosio asks him questions about his life and about Nina; when they met and how long they were married, mentioning that Nina received a large inheritance. After dropping off Arrosio at his apartment, Roberto returns to his house where Nina is leaving with police officers about the Amelia murder. She tells Roberto that she does not want to stay in the house anymore with someone stalking them. Roberto, however, resolves to stay and invites Dalia over.
That evening, Dalia confesses romantic feelings for Roberto, and the two have sex. Afterwards, Arrosio arrives and is given some photos of his past and his family as well as Nina's and Dalia's. They find the pet cat's severed head and wrapped in plastic. That night, Roberto has his nightmare again.
Arrosio catches something while flipping through Roberto's old papers and financial records, phoning him to say that he’s found a "strange physical resemblance" in one photo, but that it may only be a red herring. Arrosio tells Roberto that he's found the name "Villa Rapidi" and asks if anyone ever mentioned it, but Roberto claims to have never heard it before. The ‘Villa Rapidi’ turns out to be the name of a psychiatric clinic. Arrosio travels there where he enquires with a doctor about a patient (whose name and gender are not mentioned), who stayed there for three years as a teenager after being deemed a homicidal maniac. Upon learning that it’s father, whom had personally had it institutionalized, died suddenly of a heart attack, the patient’s mental symptoms inexplicably disappeared, and it was subsequently discharged. The doctor relays his suspicion that the man who committed the teenager was not the patient's real biological father.Arrosio tracks down the killer’s residence in a boarding house, and follows it into a metro station only to be killed in a bathroom stall by a poison-filled syringe.
Upon learning of Arrosio’s murder, Godfrey insists Roberto leave Rome immediately, but he refuses, determined to find the killer himself. Meanwhile, Dalia notices a strange similarity between a recent photo of Roberto and Nina with some unseen person in another photo. Before she can contact Roberto, the killer breaks in and stabs her to death. Roberto returns home to find the body. The police perform an optographical test to see the last thing Dalia saw before she died, but only get a blurry image of four dark smudges against a gray background, an image which the technician refers to as "four flies on gray velvet."
Knowing the killer will likely come for him next, Roberto loads a gun and awaits the inevitable showdown. Dozing off, he has the same recurring nightmare before being awoken by a ringing telephone. Godfrey asks him if he’s okay, when the line goes dead. Just then, Nina arrives home from her long getaway and Roberto almost shoots her as she walks through the front door. Roberto puts down the gun and tells her to leave and tries to push her out the front door, when Nina's necklace (a fly enclosed in glass) swings, giving the appearance of more than one fly. Roberto realizes Nina is the killer and tries to fight back.Nina grabs Roberto's gun and shoots him in the shoulder. As her husband lies wounded on the floor, Nina explains how she was placed in the asylum by her abusive stepfather. His death cured her condition, but when she met Roberto years later, he reminded her of her stepfather. So, Nina married Roberto and planned a murder/blackmail scheme as a twisted way of getting back at her stepfather by using Roberto as a surrogate because of his striking similarity to her late stepfather. Nina repeatedly shoots Roberto, but Godfrey charges in to his rescue, giving him enough time to knock the gun out of Nina's hands. Nina runs to Roberto's car and speeds away. But in a twist of fate, she doesn't look where she is going and rams into the back of a truck. Nina is decapitated by the truck's rear bumper as it smashes through her car windshield. The car then explodes in a mass of flames.
- Michael Brandon - Roberto Tobias
- Mimsy Farmer - Nina Tobias
- Jean-Pierre Marielle - Gianni Arrosio
- Bud Spencer - Diomede/Godfrey
- Aldo Bufi Landi - Pathologist
- Calisto Calisti - Carlo Marosi
- Marisa Fabbri - Amelia, the Maid
- Oreste Lionello - The Professor
- Fabrizio Moroni - Mirko
- Corrado Olmi - Porter
- Stefano Satta Flores - Andrea
- Laura Troschel - Maria
- Francine Racette - Dalia
Some of the earlier cast considerations for the main role Roberto Tobias were Terence Stamp, Michael York and even some members of The Beatles. Argento did not want to use the "image caught in the retina" plot device since it was too fantastic  for the giallo genre. But once Carlo Rambaldi showed him how the effect would look in the finished film, he soon changed his mind. This was originally intended to be Argento's swan song to the giallo genre. This would later change once The Five Days did poorly at the box-office.
A high-speed camera equipment (capable of producing 1000 frames a second) was used  to shoot possibly the first known instance (in feature films) of following a bullet's trajectory with high-speed cameras.
To film a car crash and a motion bullet in its flight, a camera that could produce a triple digit number of frames per second and twelve cars were used to get the effect shown in the film.
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. Morricone had a major argument with Argento over some tracks Argento did not want in the film. 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.
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Four Flies on Grey Velvet received a mixed response from critics.
Howard Thompson, in his review for The New York Times, praised the film for its "striking, imaginative color photography and deep-freeze pacing and atmosphere" and highlighted the sequence where Amelia is trapped in the park as "spine-tingling", "superb" and "Argento at his chilling best". However, he criticized the plot as "not only old but farfetched" and the dialogue as "banal", and went on to say that "[a]ll that circuitous teasing and those red herrings don't produce a shred of real evidence to nibble on. You're on your own, in pure hit-or-miss speculation."
Roger Ebert gave the film a negative review, deeming it a "badly dubbed and incoherent murder thriller" with "a conclusion that's so arbitrary we feel tricked." He did, however, give praise to Mimsy Farmer and said of her that she "deserves to get some of those Mia Farrow roles."
It was not until early 2009 that the film was made available to home video audiences in a legitimate version, both domestically or internationally, with the exception of the long out-of-print obscure French VHS. The rights to this film (at least in America) are owned by Paramount Pictures, which had chosen not to release it.
MYA Communication released a region 1 DVD of Four Flies on Grey Velvet on 24 February 2009. The disc contains an uncut, completely remastered print of this "lost" film, featuring theatrical trailers, the English language opening and ending credits and an extensive photo gallery. However, this release omits 30–40 seconds of footage due to print damage.
To celebrate the film's 40th anniversary and to mark 20 years since it was thought to be lost, Shameless Screen Entertainment released it on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on 30 January 2012. This release includes the following special features:
- An introduction to the film by writer and assistant director Luigi Cozzi
- A new, exclusive and extensive interview on the making of film with Cozzi
- Original English audio remastered in HD exclusively for this release from the original magnetic soundtrack, available for the first time since the film's original theatrical opening in the 1970s
- Shameless' re-build edit of the complete version of the film including four inserts of previously missing footage known amongst Argento fans as the legendary "missing forty seconds" (the inserts are in standard definition quality). The Blu-ray will allow for seamless branching of the four inserts giving viewers two versions of the film: one all HD without the re-inserted scenes and one longer version including the inserts.
- Restoration of all individual damaged frames, most notably with respect to the removal of the black diagonal frame line (caused by the film jumping the high speed camera gate) in the final car crash sequence
- Alan Jones: Dario Argento The Man, The Myths & The Magic, ISBN 978-1-903254-70-7
- Thompson, Howard (5 August 1972). "'4 Flies on Grey Velvet,' Suspense Film". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- Ebert, Roger (18 October 1972). "Four Flies on Grey Velvet". Sun-Times. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- Maltin, Leonard (2014). "Four Flies on Grey Velvet". Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2015. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-698-18361-2.
- Buening, Michael. "Quattro Mosche di Velluto Grigio - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Boer, Michael Den (24 January 2009). "Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Mya Communication) – 10,000 Bullets". 10kbullets.com. Retrieved 3 August 2012.