Director: Dario Argento
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is the third of Argento's films, and the third I have seen. It stars Michael Brandon as Roberto Tobias and Mimsy Farmer as his wife, Nina Tobias, and is the third and final film in the unofficial 'Animal Trilogy', the others being The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O'Nine Tails. Of the three, I would consider this one to be the weakest in storyline, and consequently the most confusing, although the final scene is the best ending of any of the films.
The film is fragmented and sometimes maniacally shot, with scenes being edited together in such as way so that as a viewer you are never quite sure which part of the film you are seeing. This works quite well at building up the confusion, as in typical Giallo style there are a lot of characters and a lot of red herrings, pseudo reveals and possible villains. The storyline itself concerns the protagonist being blackmailed over an accident that occurs at the very start of the film, and from there on, we are taken on a chaotic and pretty befuddling journey of kills, private investigators, flashbacks and an array of characters. Sadly the kills were very tame, even for Giallos of the time, and I can't help but feel that, although the film built tension very well, and the suspense did ratchet up throughout, there would have been a lot more suspense if the kills had been more shocking. The acting is not top class, Brandon being particularly stale in some scenes, but I'd be lying if I said Mimsy Farmer wasn't captivating in the final few minutes.
As in all of Argento's films, the beauty is there in the visuals, and although this is not as visually striking as his other films, there is one scene where a woman is in a park in the daytime, surrounded by creepy carnival music and lots of playing children. All of a sudden the park turns to darkness and we see the woman running through an increasingly mazy, fog-filled scene, trying desperately to escape her pursuer. This is one of the most beautifully shot pieces of the film, and, barring the ending, the most stunning visually. It showcases Argento's immense skill at building suspense in eerily beautiful surroundings. Another captivating visual is the frequent dreamscapes/flashbacks to a person being beheaded in a very washed out desert setting, which is also probably the most graphic scene in Four Flies. This becomes all the more mesmerising after the credits begin to roll.
Overall, while it is not the best of Argento's first three films, it is still definitely worth a watch, and although it can be confusing at times, it is not overwhelmingly so. It is a good suspenseful film, and the ending is memorable and very well done.