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Four Flies on Grey Velvet(1971)
Roberto, a drummer in a rock band, keeps receiving weird phone calls and being followed by a mysterious man. One night he manages to catch up with his persecutor and tries to get him to talk but in the ensuing struggle he accidentally stabs him. He runs away, but he understands his troubles have just begun when the following day he receives an envelope with photos of him killing the man. Someone is killing all his friends and trying to frame him for the murders...
For more about Four Flies on Grey Velvet and the Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray release, see Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 7, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento
Starring: Mimsy Farmer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Bud Spencer, Aldo Bufi Landi
» See full cast & crew
Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 7, 2012
Dario Argento's "4 mosche di velluto grigio" a.k.a "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" (1971) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Shameless Screen Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailers; photo gallery; alternate opening and closing credits; and video interview with assistant director Luigi Cozzi. In English and Italian, with optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Roberto (Michael Brandon, Jennifer on My Mind), a rock musician, accidentally kills a stalker who has driven him crazy. He returns home to his beautiful wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer, More, Devil's Angels) but does not tell her what has happened. Soon after, someone enters their house and tries to kill him. The experience turns his world upside down and he begins to have terrible nightmares.
Eventually, Roberto approaches an extravagant homosexual detective (Jean-Pierre Marielle, Coup de Torchon, Tous les matins du monde), who enthusiastically agrees to help him find out who might be interested in having him suffer – or see him dead. The detective begins looking for answers and soon discovers important information that could explain recent events. But Roberto's enemy immediately recognizes the threat.
Meanwhile, some of Roberto's friends die and his nightmares become unbearable. After a serious argument, Nina also leaves him. Alone and enormously frustrated, Roberto barricades in his house and begins waiting for the killer to reveal himself.
Most Dario Argento fans have a great deal of respect for his Four Flies on Grey Velvet, but this isn't one of the Italian director's better films. While stylish and deeply atmospheric, the film is surprisingly chaotic, to the point of often being seriously annoying.
The narrative is like a long and intense dream that eventually evolves into a nightmare and then collapses. For a while, portions of it make sense and look appealing – Roberto's own nightmares, for instance, imply that there might be events from his past that could be linked to the dilemmas he faces in the present; when the detective enters the story, it also seems like some of these events will be put into play to make sense of the chaos. But as the dream becomes more and more intense, it becomes obvious that its climax would be underwhelming. And this is precisely how the film ends – opting for the easiest and most banal resolution rather than trying to surprise with something special.
What the film does well is creating and for a while maintaining that spooky atmosphere Dario Argento's best films are known for. The many dark shadows and random noises, in particular, give it a very special flavor. But, again, once it becomes clear that the chaos won't produce anything special, even the spooky atmosphere eventually becomes annoying.
The acting is convincing. Michael Brandon's struggle to keep his sanity never looks unnatural. One of the reasons why is because he often remains silent and lets his eyes tell the viewer how he feels. Trying to express these feelings with simple words would have seriously affected the integrity of his character. Mimsy Farmer, who looks stunningly beautiful in this film, also gives a credible performance. She is, however, so much better in Barbet Schroeder's More, a film about two young people who meet in Paris and later on become heroin addicts on the beautiful island of Ibiza. As usual, Jean-Pierre Marielle is simply a joy to watch. The great Italian actor Bud Spencer has a small and easily forgettable role in the film as well.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet was lensed by the great cinematographer Franco Di Giacomo, who worked with such prominent Italian directors as Marco Bellocchio (In the Name of the Father), Damiano Damiani (The Most Beautiful Wife), Bernardo Bertolucci (The Spider's Stratagem), and the Taviani brothers (The Night of the Shooting Stars). The film is also complimented by a strong soundtrack composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Dario Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Shameless Screen Entertainment.
I own quite a few of the distributor's DVD releases - The Frightened Woman, Footprints, The Designated Victim, Oasis of Fear, and the complete Baba Yaga, among others - but this is the first of their Blu-ray releases to reach my desk. Generally speaking, I like a lot what they have done with Dario Argento's film.
Though not flawless (I will explain why later on), the high-definition transfer is very strong. Detail is very good throughout the entire film, contrast levels stable, and clarity dramatically improved. However, the best news is that the high-definition transfer is free of the heavy scanner noise that we have seen sneak in on a couple of Blu-ray releases of cult Italian films produced by companies such as Blue Underground and Arrow Films. Unsurprisingly, the basic film qualities we expect to see when a catalog title transitions to Blu-ray have been retained here - good edge definition, pleasing depth, light grain, and image fluidity. The film's color-scheme is also convincing. During the daylight sequences, in particular, there are wonderful soft but natural yellows, blues, greens, browns, and greys. Lastly, there are no traces of overzealous sharpening and denoising. Truly, the basics here are solid.
There is, however, a small issue that I would like to quickly address. Around the nine-minute mark shadow definition collapses and produces a short flicker-like effect that is very similar to the side effect color crushing introduces. I have included two screencaptures, #6 and 7, and on the second one it should be extremely easy to see the described above effect on Roberto's face. As the camera zooms in, colors (blacks and browns) and definition collapse, and Roberto's face becomes unrecognizable. This strange anomaly, however, lasts only a couple of seconds, and as far as I am concerned it is extremely easy to tolerate.
Shameless Screen Entertainment have also included a couple of very short extra scenes that make their release of Four Flies on Grey Velvet arguably the most complete version of the film ever assembled. Please keep in mind that the footage is from non-HD sources and therefore its quality varies (please see screencapture #16). For the record, the original version of the film runs at approximately 1.42.23, while the version of the film with the extra footage runs at approximately 1.43.19.
All in all, despite the anomaly described above, this is a very pleasing presentation of Dario Argento's cult film, which should appeal to people who understand how older films must look when they transition to Blu-ray.
(Note:This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are four audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0. For the record, Shameless Screen Entertainment have included optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
Generally speaking, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is very strong. In fact, its dynamic amplitude is amongst the best I've heard on a Blu-ray release of a film from the '70s. During the short rehearsal sessions, for instance, the music has excellent depth and energy. There is no strong background hiss to report in this review either. This being said, there are a couple of volume fluctuations that should have been addressed. The most problematic ones are at the end of the film, during the crash scene. For a short period of time, the sound gets surprisingly loud; there are high-frequency distortions and even a couple of dangerous sound spikes as well. Interestingly enough, the distortions are not present on the Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. It is also worth mentioning that there are a few small portions of Italian dialog throughout the film where in addition to the volume fluctuations there are also small pops and cracks. Despite the issue described above, however, the audio treatment also represents a major upgrade in quality.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dario Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet has quite the reputation, at least some of which has to do with the fact that the film was so difficult to see for a number of year. To be honest, my interest in it has always been linked to the presence of Mimsy Farmer, whose European films I have been trying to collect since the VHS days. It is not a bad film, but it is certainly not the lost masterpiece some of the Italian director's fans have argued. Despite the few issues addressed in our review, Shameless Screen Entertainment's presentation of the film is pleasing. RECOMMENDED.
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Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Four Flies on Grey Velvet Blu-ray Detailed - December 22, 2011
Cult UK label Shameless Screen Entertainment has detailed its upcoming Blu-ray release of Dario Argento's Quattro Mosche Di Velluto Grigio a.k.a Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), starring Mimsy Farmer, Michael Brandon, Jean-Pierre Marielle, and Bud Spencer. Street ...
• Four Flies on Grey Velvet Heading to Blu-ray - July 7, 2011
Cult UK label Shameless Screen Entertainment is preparing to release the first ever worldwide Blu-ray of Dario Argento's Quattro Mosche Di Velluto Grigio a.k.a Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) - "remastered in HD from the original negative by the original lab." ...
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