Quattro Mosche di Velluto Grigio (1971)

Genres - Crime, Mystery, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Giallo, Psychological Thriller, Whodunit  |   Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Michael Buening

The third directorial effort by famed Italian splatter maestro Dario Argento, created during the middle of his giallo (pulp thriller) phase, Quattro Mosche di Velluto Grigio is an unfortunately overlooked and hard-to-find choice nugget in his oeuvre and the final film of his so-called "Animal Trilogy." The bravura opening-credits sequence, tuned to the music of Roberto's band (composed by Ennio Morricone) spliced with beating heart-shock cuts, establishes Argento's signature Hitchcock-meets-garishly-psychedelic style and sets up Roberto's stalked-by-a-stranger backstory. Its final shot, of a fly getting crushed by cymbals, suggests the tongue-in-cheek cant to the murder mystery that follows. Though the film is stocked with several incredibly effective suspense sequences, the inclusion of a pun-prone gay detective and the inchoate ramblings of Roberto's hobo friend God lead one to believe Argento did not take this film too seriously, so it is less stylistically oppressive than later productions. The storyline is burdened by the sort of Freudian hogwash and scientific make-believe used to propel lesser thrillers, but it's nonetheless relatively easy to follow and so grippingly laid out it's hard to get bogged down in specifics and prevents the film from slipping into camp. Franco di Giacomo's endless evocative photography is topped off by a hilariously grotesque ending.