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  Four Flies on Grey Velvet Death Image
Year: 1971
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Bud Spencer, Aldo Bufi Landi, Calisto Calisti, Marisa Fabbri, Oreste Lionello, Fabrizio Moroni, Corrado Olmi, Stefano Satta Flores, Laura Troschel, Francine Racette, Dante Cleri, Guerrino Clivero
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon) is a session drummer who works with rock bands in the studio, he has a successful marriage to rich Nina (Mimsy Farmer), but something has been troubling him lately and that is the man in black who has been following him. One night, after work, he appears again, inscrutable behind dark glasses, and Roberto decides to confront him so follows him through the streets until he sees him disappear into a theatre. Venturing inside, the musician catches up with the mystery man and grabs him, but after an argument where he denies everything, the flick knife he has pulled in self-defence ends up in his gut...

As if that were not bad enough, what was a tragic accident has been photographed by a strange figure whose features are completely covered in a creepy mask, and Roberto flees the scene of his "crime", convinced as the days go by that he is about to be charged with something that will put him behind bars for a long time. But this is a Dario Argento giallo, and nothing will work out so simply, so what actually happens is that the masked person appears to be blackmailing him by leaving copies of the incriminating photos around the place along with threatening notes, yet no money is demanded.

So what could the sort-of-blackmailer's motive be? And who are they anyway? If you've seen enough of these type of films then perhaps the identity of the villain, who turns to murder before long, probably won't be much of a shock, but that doesn't make it any easier on Roberto or you the viewer if you have any liking for the characters at all. And this is an Argento where more care seems to have gone into the amiablility of the personalities on show than most, as he makes sure to include many cheerful moments, even gags, to humanise them beyond the typical, all in service of the plot kind of people you might otherwise have found here.

So when Bud Spencer appears, there's a heavenly fanfare of "Hallelujah" because he is playing a character called God, short for Godfrey, who is a good friend of Roberto's and the man he turns to in the hope he will find out what exactly is going on. Roberto has told his wife the previous night that something is up when someone seems to have broken into their house, but she wonders if he is delusional and recommends he see a psychiatrist before taking further action. God and his sharp-witted mate The Professor (Oreste Lionello) look to be helping, but then the bodies start to turn up and it's clear events are closing in on the drummer.

The murder sequences are not as bloody as much of Argento's work, but his sense of style doesn't let him down, with fancy camera moves and closeups, accompanied by a novel way of tracking down the actual killer which involves a new machine that can capture the final image on a dead person's retina, so when one of the victims undergoes this treatment, a picture of four flies on, well, you know, appears, which is only significant at the finale. Before that, there are parts here that verge on outright comedy, especially with Jean-Pierre Marielle's gay detective who Roberto hires only to be told he hasn't solved a case in three years, but it's all right, because this means he's due to get it right this time! For all the lighthearted elements, it's the final tragedy of the killer that endures, so even if you do guess, it doesn't make it any easier to accept. The final minute features some incredible slow-motion photography that emphasises the inescapable dejection of what has just happened. Music by Ennio Morricone.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Dario Argento  (1940 - )

Italian horror maestro who began his film career as a critic, before moving into the world of screenwriting, collaborating most notably with Sergio Leone and Bernardo Bertolucci on the script of Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West (1968). Argento's first film as director, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) set the template for much of his subsequent work - inventive camerawork, sly wit, violent murder set-pieces, and a convoluted whodunnit murder plot. He perfected his art in this genre with Deep Red in 1975, before proceeding to direct the terrifying Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980), the first two parts of a loose trilogy of supernatural chillers that were finally completed with Mother of Tears in 2007.

Since then, Argento has pretty much stuck to what he knows best, sometimes successfully with Tenebrae and Opera, sometimes, usually in the latter half of his career, less so (Trauma, Sleepless, Dracula), but always with a sense of malicious style.

 
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