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Dario Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet [Import]

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Amazon.com: 28 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Along Came a Spider March 22 2009
By GoldfishNation - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
First, a word of caution - if you haven't already seen the film you'd do well to avoid Amazon's image gallery as it pretty much gives the game away.

As with the previous two entries in the unofficial Animal Trilogy, Four Flies on Grey Velvet is short on explicit gore but brimming with atmosphere and artistic ingenuity, with set-piece murders primed and mined for maximum tension. It was with this film that Argento began to cement his particular style and is something of a crucible for future ideas. The murder of Roberto's maid in a local park foreshadows John Saxon's fate in Tenebre, and with its sudden lapses in time and attempted escape through the cobwebbed space between two buildings (to a soundtrack of whispers and sighs) it also sows seeds that would flourish in Suspiria. Other visual motifs (crimson curtains, extreme close-ups, inanimate objects suddenly wielded by a seemingly maniacal camera) would be repeated or re-jigged in Deep Red, Phenomena and Opera.

Argento's original intention was to have a gay protagonist and though the character of Roberto is still open to such a reading - his victimisation being as a result of a fear of being outed (as a murderer) has obvious correlations (note also Brandon's shaggy mane v Farmer's gamine crop or the rather tame bathtub scene with Francine Racette which sees Roberto playfully seducing his mirror image) - the more overt references are passed to Jean-Pierre Marielle who brings immense likeability to a small role as the PI hired by Roberto, and whose swish factor is tempered by a steely determination to finally cracking a case. A frosty Farmer acquits herself well, though Brandon is merely okay. Argento's fascination with weird science (here ludicrous by design but ingenious in execution) gives the film its animal-themed title, and the finale boasts one of his greatest sequences - a stunning, slow-motion shot of a car impacting with the back of a lorry, which marries chillingly beautiful aesthetics to Hollywood folklore, scored with Morricone's haunting "Come un Madrigale".

Having spent nearly 40 years in bootleg hell the picture quality in this release is a revelation, as has been noted, however, the English audio is problematic, there are no English subtitles included for the full Italian audio and there are minor cuts to transitions between scenes which are occasionally jarring. How much of a nuisance all this proves comes down to personal taste, but chuck in a couple of obvious factual errors on the sleeve blurb and sadly it amounts to a rather sloppy rush-release from MYA, whose claims of "fully uncut and with an astounding picture and sound quality" are at best over-zealous.

Four Flies is a solid giallo and an important entry in the Director's canon which bears repeated viewing, blurring gender roles and sexual identity, adding subtext and hit and miss humour, asylum flashbacks, well-executed deaths and a recurring nightmare in the form of a sun-bleached, public beheading - the significance of which turns out to be twofold. It also has in spades what a good Argento giallo conveys like no other, that chilling feeling of something wholly alien on the loose in human form.
26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Excellent picture quality but some missing footage (:40) Feb. 26 2009
By gswithen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
After suffering for so long with fuzzy VHS bootlegs, I was very much looking forward to this release. It's certainly the best the film has ever looked but after going through every single scene and comparing it to the recent RetroFilm DVD, I found that there are three scenes with missing footage totaling :40. These occur during scene transitions and include dialogue. Also, the speed of the audio seems slowed down. If you listen to Mimsy and Michael, their voices are way too deep compared to previous versions or films. It sounds like they rushed this release once they got the exclusive rights instead of getting it perfect. That is too bad. This could have been the one. It is not. I gave it 3 stars for the picture quality alone.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Retinal Scan... March 28 2011
By Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
I spent years telling myself that "One day, I'll watch all of Argento's movies!". Well, up until recently, I'd only seen DEEP RED, TENEBRE, PHENOMENA, and SUSPIRIA. A few weeks ago, I watched INFERNO and BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, leading me to finally see FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET. I must say that FLIES is superb, even w/ it's sometimes-goofy characters and lifeless leading man. Argento is indeed a genius of suspense, mystery, and horror, using symbols and colors to paint his gloriously bizarre pictures. The scene of the victim entering the tight, labyrinthine passageway is brilliant! We feel her desperation and doom! If you love Argento giallos, then this one is a must...
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Worth Owning if you Are an Argento Fan, But... April 26 2009
By Robert W. Gomez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Four Flies ranks somewhere in the middle of Argento's films. Way better than is 90s era stuff like Trauma, but not quite on par with Suspiria or Deep Red. Still I'd recommend it to anyone who is is even mildly an Argento fan.

I have mixed feelings about this DVD. The picture quality is great, and, let's face it, the visuals are really the main attraction in any Argento film. There is an ugly black line across the screen during the climax, but, after checking the video on some of the bootleg copies that are floating around the 'net, this appears to be part of the source film?

Also, the sound quality is poor but passable. Basically, the audio is crackly, like an old, dusty vinyl LP. Often it is too quiet and you'll be leaning in to your TV trying to hear the dialogue or the wonderful Ennio Morricone score.

Fans will still have to wait for the perfect DVD of 4 Flies, but, for the time being, this version will do fine.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Argento film, the best of the "animal" trilogy... May 7 2009
By Grigory's Girl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
As a Dario Argento fan, I thought this was a lost film. Prints of this film rarely pop up anywhere, and the VHS copies of it (which were put out by Paramount many centuries ago) are impossible to find, and if they are found, they're usually so worn (and pan and scan) that they aren't worth looking for. But alas, the film was not lost, and thank goodness. This is a great Argento film, the best of his early work (aka the animal trilogy), and a great precursor to his later masterpieces.

There is a lot to enjoy here. Argento's camerawork here is quinessentially Argento, and his framing and lighting give this film a superb, surreal look. Even ordinary things seem strange and evil. The film has a lot of cool twists, and it also has some darkly hilarious scenes, especially the one that takes place in a funeral parlour. There are people trying out coffins for their future deaths, and it's one of Argento's most amusing scenes in all his work. The scene where they examine an eyeball is surreal and creepy, and the music score is haunting. Even the songs from the main character's rock band are pretty good. Argento's framing is very good as well (the DVD has been restored to its 2.35:1 aspect ratio), and some of the violence is quite jarring, even by today's standards. It also has the best opening credit sequence in any of Argento's work.

The only problem the film has is boring English dialog and wooden performances (which happens a lot in Argento's work), especially by the lead Michael Brandon, who shows hardly any emotion at all in this film. The supporting characters, however, are quite colorful (especially "the professor", a bumbling mailman, a gay private detective, and "God") and amusing. This is a must film for any Argento fan, and it's really one of his best films.