Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1972). Written and directed by Dario Argento.

Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon), a rock musician in Italy, accidentally kills someone in self-defense, but the dope doesn't go to the police, opening himself up to blackmail and worse. We learn fairly early that someone is out to get Tobias, by framing him and making his life miserable. A series of murders occur when others learn who the person is behind the plot, or if they come too close to learning the truth. An early film by Italian horror specialist Argento, Four Flies holds the attention but is never quite satisfying. Mimsy Farmer plays Tobias' wife. Calisto Calisti plays Carlo, a gay private eye that Tobias hires to find out who's behind his torment. "What do you think -- that this fag is going to jump on a chair when he sees a mouse?" Carlo asks Tobias, although the point would have been better served had Carlo not been so stereotypical. There is some moderate inventiveness -- and a certain hoariness -- to the murder scenes. The title refers to the image seen on a murder victim's retina after death, supposedly captured by a photographic device. There's a lot of foreshadowing throughout the movie of the film's climactic and gruesome death. There's a certain over-the-top ugliness to the theme and tone of the movie, which is true of many of Argento's productions. After an career in the U.S. in the sixties, Farmer has worked mostly in Italy, with many more roles after Four Flies. This was Brandon's fourth film; he has exclusively appeared on television ever since.

Verdict: Not Argento's best but probably not his worst. **1/2.

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