Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971).
This early directorial effort by Dario Argento is the final film of his so-called “animal trilogy” that started with “Cat o’ Nine Tails” and “The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.” It is also pretty much indistinguishable from his other early films — same Hitchcockian aspirations, same plot themes, same visual artistry. The man practically invented the “giallo” subgenre of Italian thrillers, but he just seems to be on cruise control here.
The story concerns a rock drummer (played by Michael Brandon) who kills a man in self-defense, only to be blackmailed my someone who witnessed the killing. Anyone who has seen any other Argento murder mystery will already be familiar with the plot’s twists and turns, and probably even guess the blackmailer’s identity well before the end.
The film is great to look at and the attention to bloody detail is a gorehound’s delight, but the uninvolving story, lifeless acting and oddly misplaced bits of humor conspire to make this one of the Italian master’s lesser films. Which is probably just as well, since it’s very difficult to find anymore, with no current commercial release in the United States. Unless you’re a completist, do yourself a favor and stick to his better and more readily available work.
“Oh, you heterosexuals!”
Brandon, who does a merely marginal job portraying the drumming hero, was far from Argento’s first choice for the role. Among those who couldn’t do it for one reason or another were Michael York, Terence Stamp, singer/songwriter James Taylor and even two Beatles — John Lennon and Ringo Starr.
“The Bird With the Crystal Plumage” (1970) and “Cat o’ Nine Tails” (1971).
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