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Four Flies On Grey Velvet (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Four Flies On Grey Velvet (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 25th, 2022.
    Director: Dario Argento
    Cast: Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Aldo Bufi Landi, Bud Spencer
    Year: 1971
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    Four Flies On Grey Velvet - Movie Review:

    The third feature from writer/director Dario Argento, co-written by Luigi Cozzi, and the final film in his so-called ‘Animal Trilogy’ (made up of this picture as well as The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Cat o’ Nine Tails) tells the story of a young man named Robert Tobias (Michael Brandon) who makes his living as a drummer in a popular rock band.

    Robert is aware of the fact that someone has been following him for a few days now and when he spots the man responsible for it, he confronts him, cornering him in an empty theater. A struggle ensues and the man pulls out a switchblade. In the chaos of the struggle, Robert accidently winds up stabbing the man, at which point he falls into the orchestra pit to his death. Moments after this happens, someone wearing a strange doll mask turns on a spotlight from an upper floor of the theater and blasts it at Robert and then proceeds to take a few pictures. Robert gets out of the old theater as quickly as possible and hopes to get on with his life, but that won’t be easy.

    In the coming days, Robert becomes exceedingly paranoid – and for good reason. Someone is toying with him, sending him the dead man’s driver’s passport in the mail and then pictures from the crime scene. Initially, at least, he decides not to tell his wife, Nina (Mimsy Farmer), about what’s happening to him. When Robert comes home one night and finds the masked person from the theater in his apartment, he realizes that something far stranger than he initially expected is happening. It isn’t long before his maid winds up dead, leading him to team up with private detective named Gianna Arrosio (Jean-Pierre Marielle) to try and stop the killer before a next victim is claimed.

    Made in Argento’s typically tense and stylish manner, Four Flies On Grey Velvet is paced well and set to an absolutely fantastic score courtesy of the inimitable Ennio Morricone. Highlighted by a couple of the director’s best murder set pieces and a seriously eerie doll mask, and making use of some great locations, the story, from Argento as well as Luigi Cozzi and Mario Foglietti, has some solid twists and turns that keep us intrigued as the story unfolds on the screen. It’s one of those movies that just comes together really nicely, with the score enhancing the visuals and the visuals somehow enhancing the score. There are moments where some of the humor worked into the picture feels a bit inappropriate and tonally out of whack, but overall, this works quite well.

    Performances are pretty strong here. Brandon is a pretty decent leading man and he makes Robert an interesting enough character, even if he isn’t as charismatic as maybe he could be in a certain scenes. Overall, however, he fits the part well and he has a decent chemistry with his lovely co-star, Mimsy Farmer, who is quite strong in her role as well. Jean-Pierre Marielle is also a good casting choice, well-suited to play the detective that Robert winds up working with to try and sort all of this out. Bud Spencer of all people has an interesting supporting role here as well.

    Note that this UHD/Blu-ray release from Severin Films includes The Director’s Cut of the picture, which runs 1:43:24, as well as the English language edit of the film running 1:41:22.

    Four Flies On Grey Velvet – UHD Review:

    Severin Films brings Four Flies On Grey Velvet to UHD with “fully restored in 4K from the original 2-perf negative.” Framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and presented in HEVC / H.265 2160p with HDR10, the picture looks fantastic. The colors are consistently impressive and the black levels are nice and deep. Detail is very strong from start to finish and there’s a lot of impressive depth and texture on display throughout the presentation. Skin tones always look perfectly natural, never too pink or too red, and the image is pretty much spotless - you’ll spot a few specks during the decapitation dream sequence but aside from that, the image is pretty much pristine. Compression is never a problems and there are no issues with any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. The expected amount of natural film grain is present but never distracting. All in all, this looks excellent.

    As far as the audio options go, for the Director's Cut of the film we get a choice of either English Mono with partial Italian Mono or Italian Mono. For the English Language Cut, audio options are offered in English Mono and Italian Mono. Each track is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono option. English subtitles that translate the Italian track are provided as are English SDH for the English track. Regardless of which option you go for, the audio is clean, clear and properly balanced, with Morricone’s score sounding really strong here.

    Extras are spread across the discs in the set as follows:

    Disc 1: UHD:

    The main extra on this disc is an audio commentary with Mondo Digital's Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth, Author Of So Deadly, So Perverse: Giallo-Style Films From Around the World that plays out over the Director's Cut only. The talk about the naming of the 'Animal Trilogy,' who did what in terms of the film's script, homages to other films placed within the picture, where some of the set pieces in this picture harken back to his first two giallo pictures, where Argento was at professionally and personally when the movie was made and how his marriage to Marissa Cassel was ending around this period, the casting decisions and some of the choices that were considered that didn't wind up in the film, the importance of Morricone's music to the picture, some of the films and writing that clearly had an influence on this picture, details on the different cast and crew that worked on the picture, the film's distribution and Paramount's involvement and promotional tactics, the murder set pieces in the picture and the impact that they carry, the cinematography in the film, how the picture was received by critics and plenty more. It's a solid talk with a lot of good information in it.

    This disc also includes Italian and U.S. trailers, menus and chapter selection options.

    Disc 2: Feature Blu-ray:

    The commentary from the UHD is included here alongside quite a few featurettes starting with Lord Of The Flies, an interview with Dario Argento himself. Here, over twenty-eight minutes, he talks about why the film was a challenging one and some of the issues he was dealing with while making it. He talks about wanting to do something different here than what he did in the earlier giallos he directed, the autobiographical details that worked their way into the movie, the importance of the theme of communication or the lack thereof to the picture, how the movie is a prelude of sorts to Deep Red, where he took some inspiration from the picture from, his personal fascination with beheadings, memories of the different people he worked with on the film, his original casting choices for the movie, the complexities of shooting some of the murder set pieces and the car crash scene, screening the film for the President of Paramount Pictures, how the film was received in different territories and how he has spent all of his adult life just making movies.

    Up next is The Day Of The Flies, an interview with co-writer Luigi Cozzi. This piece runs just over seventy-five minutes and it's a very in-depth talk about how Cozzi and Argento came to meet and start working together. He talks about his own work on the script for Four Flies On Grey Velvet, the influence of specific writers, working closely with Argento to create the story, crafting specific scenes based off of ideas, how and why some of the characters in the movie were created and written the way that they are, why the movie ends the way that it does and changes that were made to it, who distributed the film in various territories, Salvatore Argento's role in the making of the movie, shooting on a subway without permission, the pressure brought on by the success of Argento's earlier thrillers, Argento's relationship with Bud Spencer, why Cozzi's own car is used in the film, some of the problems that they ran into on the shoot, the music in the film and loads more. This is really in-depth and detailed and Cozzi is a really enthusiastic storyteller.

    The same Italian and U.S. trailers that are found on the UHD are also included on this disc, as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    Disc 3: Special Features Blu-ray:

    Have A Talk With God is an interview with actor Bud Spencer running for ten minutes. He talks about why he considers Argento a master of horror, the film's production schedule and the locations used for his scenes, being able to help invent his character in the movie, how he had complete trust in Argento as a director, why he prefers comedic movies to thrillers, what Argento was like as a director, the difference between acting for the stage and the screen and more.

    Please Mr. Postman interviews actor Gildo Di Marco for sixteen minutes in a piece that covers how he got into the film business, working with Hill and Spencer on Ace High, meeting Argento for the first time without realizing he was Argento, auditioning for the film, his thoughts on Argento's films, being sure to follow Argento's instructions on the shoot, what it was like on set, how he feels about his work on the film, his own thoughts on the film and its merits, how he wasn't as close to cinema as many of the other people he worked with on the movie and how he appreciates Argento's humanity and personality.

    Assistant Cameraman Roberto Forges Davanzati is interviewed in Death In Slo-Mo. In this seven minute interview he discusses having to shoot a lot of night sequences, the cameras used for the shoot, not knowing all the details of the camera used in the night scenes when he started, the lenses that were used, the film stock that they used, memories of some of the people he worked with on the shoot and not really remembering anything specific about Argento himself as he was so wrapped up in getting everything right with the camerawork.

    Time Flies – Interview With Production Manager Angelo Iacono Time Flies is an interview with Production Manager Angelo Iacono running fourteen minutes and covering how he came to work on the movie after collaborating with Argento on Cat 'o Nine Tails, some of the locations that were used for the production, how his relationship with Argento started and carried on for quite some time, why the movie was setup as a French co-production, shooting much of the film in Turin and other parts in Rome, his appreciation of Spencer's presence in the movie and how odd it was for him to take a smaller supporting role, thoughts on Michael Brandon and how great he was to work with, the quality of Farmer's performance and other memories from the production.

    Dissecting Flies gets Film Historian Antonio Tentori on camera for half an hour to go over his thoughts on the movie. He talks about why he considers this the most modern of the 'Animal Trilogy' films, how it gives the characters more depth than Argento's earlier movies, some of the themes the movie explores such as trust and alienation, how this is the first of Argento's movies to introduce elements of the fantastic, the comedic elements often used in the director's movies, the depiction of the police in Argento's movies, the influence of American pulp novels on the film, the tendency for giallo pictures to use animal names in their titles, the importance of the titles to Argento's films, how the director's films represent the time periods in which they were made and how the visuals hold up so well.

    Finishing up this third disc is Flies On The Wall, a sixteen minute interview with Alan Jones, the Author Of Profondo Argento. Here, Jones goes over his thoughts on the film, noting that Argent told him that based on the international box office returns he figured Four Flies might be his last picture. He discusses the rapid pace at which the 'Animal Trilogy' films were made, the experimental nature of Argento's filmmaking style in this film, how Argento figured out that after The Five Days he realized his future as a filmmaker lied in genre cinema, the Freudian elements of the movie and how Argento's divorce shaped much of the movie, changes that were made to the film as production started rolling, casting the film, Farmer's work in the picture, Jean-Pierre Marielle's work in the film and decision to play his character as gay as well as what that brings to the movie, Argento's intentions to use telepathy as a key element in the movie and how the film essentially gave birth to Deep Red.

    Disc 4: Soundtrack CD:

    The fourth disc in the set is a CD including all ten tracks from Ennio Morricone’s original score for the film. The track listing is included on a postcard-sized insert included inside the case alongside the four discs in the collection.

    Four Flies On Grey Velvet - The Final Word:

    Four Flies On Grey Velvet is a rock solid thriller, a tense and well-made giallo made all the better by some fine acting, some excellent camerawork, strong direction and a fantastic score. Severin Films’ UHD release finally gives this picture the special edition home video release it deserves, presenting it in a gorgeous presentation on a disc loaded with interesting and illuminating extra features. Highly recommended!

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    Ian Jane
    Last edited by Ian Jane; 11-28-2022, 02:43 PM.
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