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on 10 May 2017
This is the last of Argento's animals trilogy and has been the hardest to acquired having been tied up in the rights mire of being purchased by a Hollywood studio. This is a great Bluray with sharp picture, good xtras and a chance to see the film uncut (finally!)
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on 11 November 2012
Although Four flies on grey velvet is a stylish giallo, it isn't Dario Argento's best work by far. Although (in my opinion) this is the weakest in the "animals" trilogy there are still many flourishes of Argento's genius, inventive deaths, strange camera angles and ramped up tension but the plot suffers from a lack of pace and the antagonist is easy to spot, something that i never usually predict in an Argento film.

For me Argento's animals trilogy was his work experience with his next film "Deep red" the beginning of his true genius.

Shameless have faithfully restored the movie from it's original elements, including footage not seen elsewhere,making this the most complete version on the market. The Blu ray transfer is decent enough but i didn't find it as good as Arrow's Blu ray transfers of Argento's other films like "Bird with the crystal plumage" "Phenomena" etc.

Not many features, trailers notwithstanding, but you get a decent (if slightly dry) 40 min interview with director and long time Argento collabarator Luigi Cozzi who co wrote the screenplay.

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on 28 September 2017
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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on 30 December 2017

'Tenebrae' is one of my favourite films. For me, it's interesting how so many of Argento's films up to Tenebrae contain the elements that make that film so memorable, but don't package them in the same way. There is a darkness about Tenebrae (not surprising I guess, given the title!) that is largely absent in the Animal trilogy. It does appear in Profondo Rosso, and obviously in the Three Mothers films, but Tenebrae is his most fully realised film, in my opinion. Those that came after pale in comparison. I can't watch 'Phenomena' because I hate insects, so I can't really comment on it.

This particular film is very enjoyable and does have some great elements to it, but there is an overall humour that undermines much of the atmosphere that Argento works to create.

However, my real reason for writing a review was to question the presentation of the film by Shameless. At the conclusion, when Nina is ranting, the film keeps switching to the Italian soundtrack. I haven't seen the film before, so it is possible that this is what is supposed to happen, but I would be surprised if this was the case.

Additionally, the Blu ray credits two sets of English subtitles. One doesn't work, and the other one at times bears almost no relation to what is being said. You would think if the film is being restored then someone could at least create some new and effective subtitles.

Not a bad film though. Better than most, but not Argento's best.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2010
NB: As is Amazon's Wont, they've very unhelpfully bundled all the reviews for various editions and formats together. This review refers to the US Region 1 NTSC DVD release and Shameless' UK Blu-ray.

Long lost in a prolonged rights battle and unseen for years, Dario Argento's Four Flies On Grey Velvet may come from his most consistently inspired period but it's still such thin and often tedious stuff you'd half suspect he was keeping it hidden himself out of embarrassment until you realize that he's happy enough for the far worse Phantom of the Opera and The Card Player to still be out there. The chief problem is the disjointed and unconvincing plotting, but Michael Brandon's insipid performance as the unlikeable and uninterestingly passive musician being blackmailed after accidentally killing someone shows up just how rickety this one is without a charismatic or proactive figure to hold it together. It's not without its compensations and a couple of striking pieces of imagery - a recurring sequence of a Saudi execution, point of view tracking shots of approaching an office every time Brandon shifts gears in his car and an ultra-slow motion car crash - although Argento seems to be expending far more energy and visual flair into purely expositionary shots like letters being delivered or phone calls being made than the surprisingly few setpieces. Too often he relies on cheap gimmickry, be it Jean-Pierre Marielle's camp gay private eye ("Oh, you heterosexuals!") who has never solved a case or the old `image caught on dead person's retina' plot device, while the main character treads water. The less said about the clumsy comedy (much of which comes from brutally beating an Arab postman), the better. There's an appealing performance from Francine Racette that partially offsets Mimsy Farmer's hysterical overacting and a cameo from Bud Spencer that briefly threatens to liven things up but it's far more forgettable than it has any right to be in that unwelcome I-think-I'm-dropping-off-to-sleep kind of way. Even a second viewing of the film with lowered expectations feels a bit like clearing out the garage: you might find the odd item of interest but parts of it just feel like a tedious chore.

The Region 1 NTSC DVD may have much better picture quality than the bootleg copies floating around, but aside from being a slightly cut version the sound quality on the English soundtrack is very poor, making Brandon sound even more bored than he is to begin with and most of the women ironically sound like female impersonators. The Italian soundtrack is much better - but since only a brief section of the film is subtitled in English that's not going to be much help for most viewers. It's also unfortunate that the grading of a scene that was shot day-for-night that saw a park gradually grow darker has been graded so that it goes straight from broad daylight to near darkness. Not much in the way of extras either: English opening and closing credits, stills gallery, the Italian trailer, a US TV spot and a copy of the US trailer that's been mastered from what looks like an atrocious seventh-generation dupe video source.

Shameless' UK region-free Bluray release rectifies a lot but not all of those problems. There's clearly been some digital work done on the image that sometimes results in a slightly unnatural waxwork look in a few shots and the look of 70s colour magazine reproduction in some others, and disappointing it has the same problem with the grading in the park scene, but considering the legal difficulties the film has faced it's acceptable. The sound, however, is much better than the Region 1 DVD (again offering both English and Italian tracks but not forgetting to include English subtitles), and the disc offers the option to see the film uncut with poor quality snippets of restored deleted footage (nothing major, just snippets of dialogue or shots at the beginning and end of scenes where presumably there was reel damage to the negative that required replacement from old and worn dupe prints), or seeing it without those moments for those more concerned with consistent picture quality than completism. The exrtras package is better: worn dupe-quality English opening and closing credits, stills gallery, the Italian trailer that includes a lot of specially filmed graphics, a new UK trailer as well as trailers for plenty of other Shameless releases and, best of all, a 41-minute interview with assistant director and long-time Argento associate Luigi Cozzi.
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on 6 December 2015
This is a 40th anniversary reissue, which has taken the trouble to restore missing bits of film - leading to slight variations in picture quality. It was 40 years since I had seen the film, which had always remained in the back of my mind as one of the most bizarre movies I had encountered. I was pleased to find that my memory was not mistaken! The film is unsuitable for anyone who demands coherent or plausible plots. Rather, it is a set of beautifully lit and composed set-pieces. Argento borrows liberally, from Antonioni as well as Hitchcock, to produce a dazzling piece of pure cinema, which is also often very funny.
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on 2 December 2015
Very good very pleased with it.
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on 25 February 2011
Although this film was out of print for a long time, that doesn't reflect its quality; Four Flies on Grey Velvet is a stylish giallo with an interesting mystery. The only downsides are some hit and miss humour and a somewhat substandard soundtrack from Ennio Morricone.
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on 26 March 2009
Like others at long last I can review Argento's "lost film."

I was not expecting much. Art of Darkness provides a poxy 2 page review by the usually reliable Kim Newman that does nothing to excite. Alan Jones' Profondo Argento has a bit more background but as it was from the period before he wrote reviews for Starburst, there was no review of the time as there is for the later Argento films in the book. DVD Delirium Vol 1 mentions this film in passing in the review of The Cat O'Nine Tails DVD but merely says that it was a more difficult film. All in all it seemed impossible to watch this film and those who had were not saying much of interest about it!

SPOILERS AHEAD. I watched it last night for the first time and whilst it did not stun in the way that the first viewing of Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno or Tenebrae did, my first reaction was that it reminded me how good Argento was before falling from grace. I continue to buy the likes of Phantom of the Opera, Jenifer, Pelts and Mother of Tears in the hope that Argento will show what he is capable of but here is a film that contains all the elements that made his work so attractive in the 70s. The only failing it has is in its lack of jaw dropping violence that we expect from Argento.

What it does have once analysed is links to most of his subsequent films and so watching this now with hindsight allows us to appreciate his development as a director.

For example, the maid awaits a meeting in a public place and Argento uses cinematic distance in varying shots displacing us from the camera, the screen and the distance between objects onscreen as he did so successfully with the murder of John Saxon in Tenebrae. The build up here is just as unsettling.

Then we have the use of a dummy by the murderer as an object to mystify just as Argento would return to in Deep Red and Nonhosonno. Flashbacks to memories of an asylum appear early on and the gender and sexuality confusion of the murderer are themes that he examined so well in Tenebrae also.

Hereditary mental illness appears here for the first time as the murderer's mother was also in an asylum. Argento returns to this theme in Phenomena (mother and the criminal father of the maniac) and Deep Red (unbalanced son with maniac mom.)

Whilst the murders are tame we see strangulation with a cord as he used in Cat O'Nine Tails and returned to in Tenebrae (cord still), Phenomena (chain this time) and Trauma (device that strangles then decapitates!)

To balance the warped sexuality issues of the murders Argento invests the most sympathy for the homosexual character in the film, the private detective who continually fails to solve cases. Argento would also explore such characterisations in Deep Red and Tenebrae, of both homosexual men and homosexual women respectively.

Visually the film excites. Jump cuts are used superbly in the opening stalking when looking at the doors to the theatre. One victim hides in a wardrobe and is lit by a vertical streak as she looks out, an image he would return to equally well in the opening train sequence in Nonhosonno.

At the climax the apparent murderer runs from the hero to be caught in a tragic vehicle accident that kills her, an event repeated to Carlo in Deep Red.

An element explored here that we have not seen repeated is the element of dream imagery. Throughout the film Roberto dreams of a middle east execution as described by a character early on. This is then repeated in the stunning car death of the murderer at the end, with a similar decapitation as shown in the dream. These dreams are the key to Four Flies as the whole film runs in a dream like state - at the beginning we have the stalking of the stalker and the stalkers apparent murder and its photographing by the unknown dummy like person. The maids death is partcularly nightmarish with the inspiration of Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace appearing when characters literally vanish within the camera shot and the maid realises she is alone. Suddenly darkness falls and the nightmare continues. Argento would return to nightmare cinema in his masterpiece Inferno (my own favourite, along with Opera.)

So for all of you Argento fans what are you waiting for? This is a greatest hits by a director at a point in his career when he was beginning to shine. Easily the best of the animal trilogy.

We live in hope that one day Five Days in Milan will surface with english subtitles.
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on 24 August 2016
master of horror
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