Spoilers follow ...
- Four Flies on Grey Velvet review by NP
There’s an instantly arresting opening credit sequence to this. Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon) playing some dreaded progressive rock with his band, interspersed with a back background punctuated with a graphic beating heart. Ah, this will be directed (and co-written) by Dario Argento then!
The first few scenes are suitably macabre and bizarre also. Gruesome events are witnessed and apparently recorded by a strange figure wearing an outsized doll mask. Like Pete Walker’s later ‘The Comeback (1978)’, a male musician, rather than a female, is the victim of sinister events. In this case, this results in a lack of one of the many merits of giallo – no strong women characters. As Tobias’ wife Nina, Mimsy Farmer seems too weak-willed to stand up to him much of the time, and Nina’s cousin Daria (stunning Francine Racette) is very happy to fall into his arms (in the bath-tub no less). And yet the nervous Tobias is somewhat brash and arrogant, despite Brandon’s convincing portrayal, and this adds to a paucity of characters to identify with, much less side with.
Dario Argento’s occasionally overtly gaudy, wilfully weird set-ups and execution can sometimes actually work against the atmosphere of the films I have seen under his stewardship. This is very much the case here. There are some psychedelic moments, some truly surreal set-pieces and some impressive killings. He has a style which is very much his own, and rightly he has been lauded for his sense of unique imagery. And yet to my tastes, this is at the expense of a narrative I can really get involved in.
This was the final part of the ‘animal trilogy’ that had also included ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)’ and ‘The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971)’, all of which contain traits similar to this. Enjoyable giallo entertainment, but I’m not entirely enamoured of the lurid execution.
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