Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

four flies on grey velvet poster 1971 movie argento italian
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good looking, some good moments

Story is a little wonky

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Studio:  Seda Spettacoli/Universal Productions France

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  December 17, 1971 (Italy)/August 25, 1972 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG

four flies on grey velvet jean pierre marielle gay detective

I solved the crime….and I’m dead

Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon) is being stalked by someone.  When confronts the stalker, it takes a deadly turn and someone knows about it!  Roberto now cannot go to the police and he’s being targeted with his wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer).  As he seeks answers, he learns that the blackmailer also has a killer instinct…the killer is getting closer and Roberto must uncover the truth.

Written and directed by Dario Argento, Four Flies on Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio) is an Italian horror giallo film.  Following Argento’s The Cat O’Nine Tails also released in 1971, the film is considered part of Argento’s loose “Animal Trilogy” which also includes 1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

The Animal Trilogy is kind of a challenge to find.  While relatively acclaimed, the movies are not all released by the same people have different rights issues…Four Flies on Grey Velvet was the last entry I had to find, but it wasn’t the best.  A *****spoiler alert***** is in effect for the rest of the review.

four flies on grey velvet eye optography

Ok…reading images off a dead eye seems logic…I guess

The movie is a mystery which is similar to the giallo movies and the other two films.  This movie starts out with a murder that becomes almost incidental to the plot and the reason behind the murder is pretty extreme (and it isn’t even really a murder).  The bottom line of the set-up is that Roberto must figure out who is stalking him through various means that do not include the police.

The film takes a weird turn in the whole optography where it gets the title.  Argento was supposedly hesitant of using it but the idea is that the last image seen by a person when they die can be recaptured from the eye…leading to an image of Four Flies.  It is pretty ridiculous, but the movie treats it dead serious and that it is scientific fact…enough to gaslight the audience.

four flies on grey velvet killer nina tobias mimsy farmer

Wait…what’s the motivation?

The movie has the Argento style through some very tense and some rather extreme deaths.  The movie isn’t as insane as some of Argento’s later films, but they have enough tense and thrilling deaths like the park scene or the death on the stairs…while if you watch them out of context, they seem rather ridiculous, but in the film, they work.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet is a definite must watch if you are a fan of giallo or Argento, but if you are on the fence on either the director or genre, it probably won’t win you over.  The case of the trilogy, this is the probably the second best of the films behind The Bird with the Crystal Plumage…but all are entertaining.  The movie is PG in early days of PG, but it is still rather intense…and would probably be R-Rated now (not even PG-13).  Argento followed his Animal Trilogy with a comedy-drama Le cinque giornate aka The Five Days in 1973.

Related Links:

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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