Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) - 4 mosche di velluto grigio (original title) This decent giallo by Dario Argento is one of his better pictures. Not as dark as but better than Deep Red, or as good as the wildly weird and superior horror of Suspiria, but certainly not close to the great (and Argento's best) Tenebre, but a solid effort not without problems but it keeps the audience engaged and guessing. The problems with the film are in plain view but they are not so bad that they make the film a dud. The first being the lead character Roberto (Michael Brandon). He is just not particularly likable. An introverted drummer in a rock band he is intense and not the most loving person in the world. In the end you find this is exactly why he is the main character and it is really good writing by Argento. Early in the film we see him plying his trade and in between, him noticing the same mustached man watching him from the distance. Annoyed by the man, Carlo Marosi (Calisto Calisti) always being around one night after a practice he chases the man to a empty auditorium and confronts him. He wants to know why the guy is following him. The man denies that is what is happening and tells Roberto to get lost. Things go horribly wrong when the man pulls a knife. Roberto grabs at the man and accidentally stabs him. He fall into the orchestra pit and looks dead. Roberto sees someone up in the balcony saw what happened and was taking pictures as it happened. What the hell? Here is the mystery, who was the person taking pictures? What do they want? Blackmail? This is the central theme of the film.
Roberto stews and worries about the incident but tries to go about his life. His wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer) wonders whether he should go to the police, but Roberto fears being in trouble. He is sure that being an angry guy and confronting and killing a stranger would not look good if the police were to get involved. The body is discovered but his wallet is not on him. This does not make anything easier on the drummer. Roberto and Nina continue there lives as if nothing happen, at least outwardly. They have a party, or have people over however you want to see it. During the gathering Roberto finds a photo print of his incident stabbing the man slid inside his albums. Now not only does he know that the picture taker knows who he is he also knows there are games afoot. It may be someone who is in the room at the party. Who in his group would want to make his life a living hell? Why?
Since this is a mystery I don't want to go too much into the specifics of the plot. The general direction is that the blackmailer, (even though they never make a request) continues to up the ante. There is home invasion, pet disappearance, and a murdered maid. There is a growing sense that the game may become dangerous and Roberto wants Nina to leave so she will not be in danger. Still Roberto does not want the cops involved. We the audience start to learn that Roberto is being set up for some mysterious reason. Mixed in are these scenes, flashes of a mental hospital and the voice of an angry dad. It is designed to lead the audience towards thinking Roberto had a bad spell in his life but after the big turn we learn this is not the case. Wait, have I already shared too much? Maybe not...
Roberto is not sitting around letting this happen, he gets some help from a friend of his Godfrey (Bud Spencer) they send "The Professor" (Oreste Lionello) to keep a watch on the house, and he also hires a private investigator Gianni Arrosio (Jean-Pierre Marielle). Unfortunately the entire film must play out the the big turn and by that time several people are dead, we know from the mental hospital flashbacks that who ever the person in there was, they were criminally insane and we know that Roberto is a bit of a dick. His wife is not away a couple days when he and friend Maria (Laura Troschel) end up in bed together. Did I mention that Nina and Maria are cousins. Mixed in are characters being murdered and who I will not say. There is this really strange part where pseudoscience is used to figure something out. After the death of a character the retina supposedly holds the last image seen before death. This happens to be four flies on grey velvet. It is such a contrived way of getting this information that it was annoying. Then that allows Roberto to make the connections he needs to for the big reveal. The end is just freaking wonderful and you come away feeling like this was a decent film. The music in the film is pretty grooving at times and some of the shots are quite well composed.
Rating (5.3) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system Rent it!