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Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Four Flies on Grey Velvet
File:Quattro mosche.jpg
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed by Dario Argento
Produced by Salvatore Argento
Screenplay by Dario Argento
Story by Dario Argento
Luigi Cozzi
Mario Foglietti
Starring Michael Brandon
Mimsy Farmer
Jean-Pierre Marielle
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Franco Di Giacomo
Edited by Franco Fraticelli
Marianne Productions
Seda Spettacoli
Universal Productions France
Cinema International Corporation
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
17 December 1971
Running time
104 min.
Country Italy
Language Italian
Box office 1,231,000,000 (Italy)

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Italian: 4 mosche di velluto grigio) is a 1971 Italian giallo film written and directed by Dario Argento. The film is the third in director Argento's "Animal Trilogy", which started with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat o' Nine Tails.


In the opening scene, Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon) plays the drums for a local rock and roll band when at various time, he sees a man in dark sunglasses wearing a suite and tie, watching him. After the session, Roberto sees the man and follows him through the dark streets to an apparently abandoned opera house where he confronts the man and asks him why he's been following him for the past several weeks. The man declines such actions and pulls a knife on Roberto when the drummer gets too close. In the struggle, the man is accidentally stabbed and he falls from the stage to the lower level. Suddenly a spotlight is turned onto Roberto and a masked person on the balcony snaps some photos of Roberto holding the bloody knife.

That night, Roberto returns home and lies in bed awake as his wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer) lies beside him. The next day, Roberto reads the newspaper describing the dead man and he receives a letter containing the identification of a certain Carlo Marosi, the man who Roberto stabbed. That evening at a get-together of several band members and friends at his house, one of the guests talks about beheading executions in Saudi Arabia, and Roberto looks through some record albums and sees the photos of the incident. Amelia (Maria Fabbri), the maid, sees him and the photos, but does not tell him that she knows. That night, Roberto has a disturbing dream about him being beheaded in a coliseum in Saudi Arabia when he wakes up after hearing a noise. Roberto looks around and a cord is wrapped around his neck. The masked person tells Roberto, he could kill him now, but will not for he is not finished with him, and knocks him out before running away. Nina walks in and asks her husband what is wrong and he finally admits to the accidental stabbing and subsequent harassment, and says that they cannot go to the police.

Roberto goes to see Godfrey (Bud Spencer) (whom Roberto's annoys by nicknaming him 'God'). Godfrey is a beatnick artist living in a shack outside Rome with his colleague, a con-artist known only as the Professor (Oreste Lionello). Roberto confides in them about his problem and Godfrey suggests having the Professor keep an eye on him.

Meanwhile, Amelia calls someone and says that she knows what the person is doing to Roberto. She wants blackmail money or she'll go to the police. The unseen person has a flashback episode of being committed to a lunatic asylum and being tied down on a bed.

Amelia goes to a local park and waits on a bench. As night falls, the park crowd dissipates, and she stands to leave when she hears a person say her name. When Amelia discovers that she is locked inside the park, she runs along the high wall and cries out for help. A couple on the other side hear her, but the man is unable to scale the stone wall. Before he can get to the gate entrance, Amelia screams and is killed by the unseen person who slashes her throat with a straight razor.

That same evening, Nina arrives at a train station where she picks up her cousin Dalia (Francine Racette) and she joins Roberto's group for another get-together in the house of playing music, smoking dope, and political discussions. Roberto is the only person who does not seem to want Dalia there. Mikro, Roberto's band mate, asks why Roberto did not show up for rehearsals that day. Then Nina gets a phone call and learns that Amelia has been murdered. Roberto later has the same dream of being decapitated again and he wakes up when a noise is heard. He investigates but only hears his pet cat hissing. The next morning, there is note from the killer, and Nina is now frightened.

Meanwhile, it is revealed that Carlo Marosi is alive and well, and eating at a local restaurant. Carlo calls someone and asks them to meet at his place. At Carlo's small apartment, he tells the unseen person that what they agreed to in harassing Roberto and mentions the "toy" (a knife with a trick blade). Carlo had been approached by the unseen killer to set this whole thing up, but now Carlo wants to back out. But the killer picks up a blunt object and hits Carlo on the head. The unseen killer gets a wire and twists around the man's neck, decapitating him. The killer then disposes of the dead Carlo to make sure he is not found.

Elsewhere, the Professor tells Roberto that he saw someone last night in his back garden, with his cat wrapped in a blanket. He tried to stop the person, but got hit on the head. The Professor tells Roberto that he may seek outside help to learn who is harassing him.

Roberto goes to meet with Arrosio (Jean-Pierre Marielle), an eccentric and flamboyantly gay private investigator. After the drummer tells the P.I. his story, Arrosio admits to never having solved a case, but is optimistic that his bad record will be broken. During a drive with Roberto, Arrosio asks him questions about his life and about Nina, when they met and how long they were married. Roberto mentions Nina getting a big inheritance. After dropping off Arrosio at his apartment, Roberto returns to his house where Nina is leaving with police officers about the Amelia murder. She tells Roberto that she does not want to stay in the house anymore with someone stalking them. But Roberto decides to stay and invites Dalia over to spend time with him.

That evening Roberto takes a bath when Dalia walks in and admits that she has had romantic feelings for him and the two of them make love. Afterwards, Arrosio arrives and is a little surprised to see Roberto with Dalia and that Nina has left. Roberto gives Arrosio some photos of his past and his family as well as Nina's and Dalia's. They find Roberto's pet cat's severed head and wrapped in plastic. That night, Roberto has his nightmare again about the decapitation execution, and wakes up in a cold sweat. Dalia comforts him.

Meanwhile, Arrosio is in his office looking at photos of Roberto's family and friends, as well as some old papers and financial records. He is getting frustrated at not making any progress with the case until something catches his eye. He begins looking through more old papers of Roberto's past. A little later that same night, Arrosio phones Roberto and tells him that he's found a "strange physical resemblance" in one photo, but tells him that it may only be a red herring. Arrosio tells Roberto that he's found the name "Villa Rapidi" and asks if anyone ever mentioned it, but Roberto claims to have never heard it before.

The next day, Arrosio arrives at the Villa Rapidi Psychiatric Clinic where a doctor tells the private investigator about a patient that Arrosio is inquiring about (the name and gender is not mentioned) who stayed there for three years as a teenager, whom was diagnosed as a homicidal maniac. When the father who committed the teenager died from a sudden heart attack, the mental symptoms disappeared overnight and the patient was deemed cured and released. The doctor also suspects that the man who committed the teenage and the teenager's mother was not the patient's real biological father.

Arrosio talks to various people around Rome looking for the nameless ex-patient from Villa Rapidi. He later visits an estate-turned-boarding-house where he talks to the landlord about the patient he is looking for. The boarding house is the residence of the killer. Arrosio follows the unseen person from the estate and onto a Rome Metro subway train. He follows the unseen person off the train to a restroom where the unseen killer attacks him in a stall, and stabs him in the chest with a syringe of a glowing blue poison. The killer flees, as Arrosio lies dying on the restroom floor. But with a smile on his face and with his last breath, Arrosio mumbles, "I was right..."

Roberto learns of Arrosio's murder and meets with Godfrey and the Professor at a convention hall where coffins are being sold. Roberto tells them about his nightmares and Godfrey thinks that it might be a premonition of something to come. Godfrey suggests that someone with a grudge against Roberto is trying to drive him crazy and wants him to leave Rome at once. But Roberto refuses, determined to find the killer on his own.

A few days later, Dalia calls the studio asking for Roberto, but he is busy recording music with his band. As Dalia packs her suitcase, she notices a strange similarly between a recent photo of Roberto and Nina with some unseen person in another photo. Just then, Dalia hears a noise and is frightened. Dalia slips off her shoes and sneaks up to the attic where she arms herself with a knife and waits as she hears the intruder looking for her. Dalia hides behind a door with the knife when the killer comes inside, then leaves. When Dalia thinks the killer is gone, she steps out of the doorway when a knife hits her on her forehead. Dalia stumbles down the attic stairs and is stabbed to death by the unseen killer.

After finding the body, Roberto calls the police and they tell him about a test they will do on Dalia. By removing one of her eyes and shooting a laser through it, they will be able to see the last image that Dalia had seen for the image is retained on the retina for several hours after death. On a computer screen, they see only four dark smudges against a gray background which looks like, as the technician puts it, "four flies on gray velvet." The test is declared inconclusive.

That night, Roberto loads a gun and sits in his dark home, waiting for the killer to make his move. He nods off and begins dreaming again, and his dream goes all the way with the gory beheading of a criminal in Saudi Arabia. Roberto is woken up when the phone rings and it is Godfrey asking if the drummer is okay. Roberto says that he is, and then the line goes dead. A few minutes later, Nina arrives home from her long getaway and Roberto almost shoots her as she walks through the front door. Roberto puts down the gun and tells her to leave and tries to push her out the front door, when Nina's necklace (a fly enclosed in glass) swings... giving the appearance of more than one fly, and Roberto pulls her back inside and hits her. Roberto confronts Nina and accuses her of killing Amelia, Arrosio, and Dalia, and the one who terrorized him. Nina grabs Roberto's gun and shoots him the in shoulder.

As Roberto lies wounded on the floor, Nina mechanically laughs and she tells Roberto about her abusive stepfather who placed her in a lunatic asylum when she was little. When her father died, her mental condition was cured. But when Nina met Roberto many years later, he reminded her of her late father. So, Nina married Roberto and planned up this murder/blackmail scheme as part of her twisted way of getting back at her father by using Roberto as a surrogate because Roberto is the dead-splitting image of Nina's late father. Nina shoots Roberto a few more times in his arm and both legs, when Godfrey runs in and Roberto knocks the gun out of Nina's hands. Nina runs to Roberto's car and speeds away. But in a twist of fate, she doesn't look where she is going and rams into the back of a truck. Nina is decapitated by the truck's rear bumper as it smashes, in slow-motion, through her car windshield. The car then explodes in a mass of flames.


Michael Brandon Roberto Tobias
Mimsy Farmer Nina Tobias
Jean-Pierre Marielle Gianni Arrosio
Bud Spencer Godfrey
Francine Racette Dalia
Calisto Calisti Carlo Marosi
Marisa Fabbri Amelia
Fabrizio Moroni Mirko
Oreste Lionello The Professor
Aldo Bufi Landi Pathologist
Laura Troschel Maria


Some of the earlier cast considerations for the main role Roberto Tobias were Terence Stamp, Michael York and even some members of The Beatles. Argento did not want to use the "image caught in the retina" plot device since it was too fantastic [1] for the giallo genre. But once Carlo Rambaldi showed him how the effect would look in the finished film, he soon changed his mind. This was originally intended to be Argento's swan song to the giallo genre. This would later change once The Five Days did poorly at the box-office.


A high-speed camera equipment (capable of producing 1000 frames a second) was used [1] to shoot possibly the first known instance (in feature films) of following a bullet's trajectory with high-speed cameras.

To film a car crash and a motion bullet in its flight, a camera that could produce a triple digit number of frames per second and twelve cars were used to get the effect shown in the film.[1]


Deep Purple was considered for the score, but because of scheduling difficulties with the band the film was instead scored by world famous composer Ennio Morricone, who had previously worked on Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Morricone had a major argument with Argento over some tracks Argento did not want in the film. As a result, the director and Morricone would not work together again until 1996 with The Stendhal Syndrome, and the rock group Goblin would eventually become Argento's regular composers.


Critical reception

AllMovie gave the film a positive review, calling it "an unfortunately overlooked and hard-to-find choice nugget in his [Argento's] oeuvre".[2]

Home video

It was not until early 2009 that the film was made available to home video audiences in a legitimate version, both domestically or internationally, with the exception of the long out-of-print obscure French VHS. The rights to this film (at least in America) are owned by Paramount Pictures, who had chosen not to release it.

MYA Communication released a region 1 DVD of Four Flies on Grey Velvet on 24 February 2009. The disc contains an uncut, completely remastered print of this "lost" film, featuring theatrical trailers, the English language opening and ending credits and an extensive photo gallery. However, this release omits 30–40 seconds of footage due to print damage.[3]

To celebrate the film's 40th anniversary and to mark 20 years since it was thought to be lost, Shameless Screen Entertainment released it on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on 30 January 2012. This release includes the following special features:

  • An introduction to the film by writer and assistant director Luigi Cozzi
  • A new, exclusive and extensive interview on the making of film with Cozzi
  • Original English audio remastered in HD exclusively for this release from the original magnetic soundtrack, available for the first time since the film's original theatrical opening in the 1970s
  • Shameless' re-build edit of the complete version of the film including four inserts of previously missing footage known amongst Argento fans as the legendary "missing forty seconds" (the inserts are in standard definition quality). The Blu-ray will allow for seamless branching of the four inserts giving viewers two versions of the film: one all HD without the re-inserted scenes and one longer version including the inserts.
  • Restoration of all individual damaged frames, most notably with respect to the removal of the black diagonal frame line (caused by the film jumping the high speed camera gate) in the final car crash sequence


  1. ^ a b c Alan Jones: Dario Argento The Man, The Myths & The Magic, ISBN 978-1-903254-70-7
  2. ^ Buening, Michael. "Quattro Mosche di Velluto Grigio - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Boer, Michael Den (24 January 2009). "Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Mya Communication) – 10,000 Bullets". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 

External links