Friday, October 26, 2007

Four flies

4 Flies on Grey Velvet is the legendary "lost" movie of Dario Argento. The third of the "animal trilogy" of gialli, after The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O'Nine Tails.

It's not the actual lost Argento movie. That would be The Five Days of Milan, which doesn't even have the benefit of being regularly discussed and fawned over in online movie discussion groups.

Realistically, if it were widely available, it wouldn't take long before the mystique of 4 Flies on Grey Velvet. Not because it's bad, but it's simply not the kind of movie that would ultimately satisfy a large portion of Argento's fanbase. It relies heavily on that very Italian kind of broad comedy that shows up occasionally in other genre movies, and often to the displeasure of more earnest American horror fans.

I came to the movie with its soundtrack already being one of my favorite pieces by the Ennio Morricone, which is saying a lot.

And, while I've heard tell of people making it to screening of good looking 35mm prints, I have not been so blessed, making due with a print that looked pretty crummy and sounded even worse.

The movie stars Michael Brandon as the drummer in a painfully groovy rock combo. After confronting a man he believes to be following him, he finds himself in the position of accidentally killing him and being photographed in the act by a strangely masked figure.

This brings him to ask the assistance of Godfrey (or "God" - How does that little joke play in Italian?), played by Bud Spencer and eventually hire a flamboyantly gay private investigator, played by Jean-Pierre Marielle.

Honestly, I'm not even sure what I make of it, goofy comedy, solution that's ridiculous even by giallo standards... and yet, somehow the charisma of the leading actor, the creepy smiling masked figure, the painfully groovy score, I can't say I'm not interested to see it again some time under more ideal circumstances and a better opportunity to have lived with it and see what I think...


Cinebeats said...

You've made me want to see this again. I have a bootleg video of the film somewhere and I do like it a lot, but it's been years since I've seen it. With Argento being so popular now, I'm surprised the film hasn't been released.

If things pan out, I may be getting a DVD recorder/VHS player soon so I can better enjoy some of my old videos that haven't gotten a DVD release yet and this will be one of the first films I revisit.

Neil Sarver said...

Kimberly, thanks for your comment. I hope you take the opportunity to see it again soon. I'd love to hear more thoughts from you. It's definitely an intriguing movie and one that I enjoyed a lot. I've read a couple of places since watching it that he intended at that point to give up gialli and I can see that he was, at that point, almost goofing around with the formula.

I think the Deep Red was the opportunity to do the opposite and do it as seriously as possible, so they'd be interesting to view perhaps as companions at some point. The two poles of a man stretching to find value in the formula that brought him to success.

Jeremy Richey said...

I must admit that FOUR FLIES is one of my favorites. I think it is one of Argento's most imperfect great films...if that makes any sense. Chief among the aspects that work for me are Morricone's score (WOW) and Mimsy Farmer's performance.
I must also admit that I like the way he so casually throws logic out the window. There is an element of that in many of his best films but here he seems almost gleeful in the discarding of it.
Of his early giallos, I greatly prefer it over CAT and rank it under BIRD. I really wish a DVD would get released because my old Midnight Video composite is pretty piss poor (and it is probably about the best there is).

Neil Sarver said...

Yes, I agree. There's a kooky quality, as I said, almost like he's taking a piss on giallo formulas, which I think the overt broad comedy is part of... although like I said, if one day it does get a good DVD release, and I hope it does, the fan boards will be filled with bitching about that element by a good size element of the fanbase.

That said, I'd certainly like to have a quality copy in my collection, as I agree, it's an "imperfect great movie" and one I'd like to continue revisiting.

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