Sunday, January 30, 2022

Mavi Boncuk (1975)

A household of guys are out on the town, when their visit to a nightclub ends with them being beaten up after they can pay the extortionate bill. As revenge they decide to kidnap the club's star attraction, famous singer Emel Sayın. She is naturally just a little bit peeved at the ordeal, but both parties soon realise they hold grudges against the same crooks, and together they scheme a bit of payback...

Mavi Boncuk (The Blue Bead) is one of Turkey's most beloved comedy classics. It's got a fun hook, a brisk runtime, and features many Turkish icons at the top of their game.

The plot is reminiscent of Overboard, but predominately does its own thing. There are some who really rail into that film now, and while I don't wish to be harsh to them, I think such people look into things too much, and are unable to simply switch off and have a good time with a movie. The same is true here.

But there are many reasons why I think the plot and romance in Overboard works just fine. There are two factors at play. The first is the story, which has to make sense. Second is the characters. We have to believe everything they do and how they interact, otherwise it'd come off like they've got Stockholm syndrome. How does Mavi Boncuk fare? I think it handles it decently, and it's all tongue in cheek anyway, though the woman does start acting a little strangely in the last act!

On that note, I found the last act to be a bit lacking. The guys all come to the right decision, and we get the kind of ending reunion we all expect, but everything that happens in-between feels a bit small. We don't get much of a resolution to the nefarious nightclub. The ending is nice, though I kinda wish there was a little more.

The cast assembled here is a who's who of Turkish cinema, from heartthrob Tarik Akan, funny man Kemal Sunal, mature Münir Özkul, diminutive Halit Akçatepe, cackling Adile Naşit, and more, all doing good jobs, and sharing great chemistry. A notable presence is singer Emel Sayın, who is not only a fun presence, in acting and musically, but she is also playing herself! It's a surprising touch, and gives a neat dimension.

This is a musically neat film. The main theme is a great song, even if it is a bit repetitive and overlong towards the end (especially when they repeat it!). The rest of the score is likewise, using the song to create different tracks and leitmotifs, all of which are lots of fun. 

The film works visually too. It's a low-budget movie when compared with Hollywood, naturally, and the settings it uses are minimal and small-scale, but effective. The ritzy nightclub is nice, as is the boys' flat, complete with old movie posters, giving a nice bit of aesthetic and history.

Mavi Boncuk is a fun example of Yeşilçam cinema. Not one of my favourites, but still a good time to be had...

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Dracula vs. Frankenstein: Assignment Terror (1970)

The first in the Waldermar Daninsky series (the Spanish Wolf Man) proved to be a success, locally, and reasonably well overseas. This led to a first sequel that may or may not exist, and a further follow up, which is one of the weirder entries the series ever offered...

Aliens from the dying planet Umma have come to Earth with a plan-Find and resurrect several monsters, and use them to dominate or destroy mankind. Investigating the strange series of events is Inspector Toberman, who soon finds clues leading to a case of both the supernatural, and the fantastical. Will man triumph against the invaders, or will Earth be theirs for the taking?

Los Monstruos del Terror, known in English as Assignment Terror, and Dracula vs. Frankenstein, is an entertaining but flawed film. For a start, it's nothing like anything else in the series. The Waldemar Daninsky movies were gothic horrors, with with continuity that would reset itself with each film there was never too much pressure to keep things connected, but they at least felt consistent. Assignment Terror however goes all out and becomes a modern science fiction film, complete with an alien invasion!

The other distinctive thing about Assignment Terror is its collection of monsters. Not only do we have Dracula and Frankenstein, but also the Mummy, and the Wolfman! All are under the control of the aliens, in an effort to subjugate humanity. Not sure how half a dozen monsters is gonna cut it, but you can't fault them for creativity!

Due to the shared title, some compare this with with Al Adamson's Dracula vs. Frankenstein, including an irate producer who thought plagiarism was afoot. This is a fallacy, because first of all, Assignment Terror predates that film by almost 2 years. Secondly, and meaning no disrespect, no-one in their right mind would watch an Al Adamson film and go "Yeah, this is great stuff to rip off!". I also question the logic of accusing someone of ripping off your idea, when your idea is literally a rip-off itself.

The story here is mixed. It's not a long movie, but it takes half the runtime just to set everything in place, and by that time the movie's so crowded that there's not much room for plot. Everything just ambles on till the end. It's never boring, but perhaps could've done with a little less complication, and a bit more story. The climax is great though, and the movie ends in a classical b-movie fashion, with the hero making an impassioned speech about humanity's triumph.

The aliens are the film's main characters. Instead of being costumed squid beings, they conveniently take the form of people. This plays into the plot though, as we see them struggling with newfound hu-man feelings. It's great seeing how they get overtaken with emotions in different ways. Even the proudly emotionless leader gets dominated by jealousy without even realising it. This dilemma probably could have been the focus of the movie on its own.

The humans are given a little less focus, and fill pretty basic archetypes, but in a good way. Inspector Toberman is a likeable guy, a smooth customer, and he's a cop who discounts neither the supernatural, or cosmic elements. Making for an amusingly forward and cheeky love interest in Ilsa, who also serves as a damsel in distress in the climax. Toberman's gotta have something to do when the Wolf Man gets most of the monsters to himself!

Waldemar Daninsky returns here, though is barely involved. He has a pretty small amount of screentime, with large gaps between appearances. Where he gets to shine is in the last act, where he provides us with all the action we need. But it's a shame that this is an entry in his series, and he's just a supporting character. The continuity seems to follow on from Mark of the Wolfman, albeit loosely.

The remaining monsters don't have any character to them, but that's ok here. They don't need to be anything deep, just some fun monsters to give spectacle. Something I liked is that the movie didn't try and explain all the magic away with science. I hate it when that happens. Also, on a sidenote, how do you brainwash someone whose brain was yanked out with a hook 3000 years ago? Maybe they sent the scanner to the canopic jar?

One of the stranger elements of the film are the names. Technically Dracula and Frankenstein don't appear in this film. Instead they are known as Count Janos of Mialhoff, and the Farancksalan monster (misheard by some as Frankenalien monster, which admittedly would fit!). Why this was done I'm not sure. Perhaps the characters weren't quite in the public domain yet?

A good question to ask is-Does Dracula vs Frankenstein live up to its title? And the answer for me is a resounding Yes! No, it's not the greatest film, and definitely has some major issues, but honesty is not one of them. It promises a monster bash and by god it gives us one! And that's more that can be said for most of the Universal monster movies. Neither House of Dracula nor Frankenstein gave us the fights that were promised, with half the monsters dying before meeting the others, or getting literally 30 seconds of screentime before a plank of wood falls on their head and kills them. But here? It may take the climax to get there, but there are some pretty great fights, with some spectacular deaths! The mummy's in particular is conceived amazingly.

The effects in Assignment Terror all look decent. The exploding castle at the end is fun, and the costumes/make-up all look good, even if a couple look a little on the cheaper side. Dracula and the Wolfman looked the best (with some decent transformations for the latter), the mummy was good, and Frankie looked the 'worst'.

The acting here is all fairly decent for what this is. The guys are chiselled, the girls are pretty (and are superbly bug-eyed when the movie calls for it), and Hollywood veteran Michael Rennie (of Day the Earth Stood Still fame) does a good job in his role. I've seen many accuse him of slumming it being in a movie like this, but bahhh. He's an actor, here he is acting, having a bit of fun in his twilight years. And can you begrudge an old man a trip to Spain?

Assignment Terror was made in the 70s and it shows, from the groovy music we get! Sure it might take away from the spooky atmosphere, but then again I don't think there was any chance people would be genuinely quivering in their seats over this. Give a fun movie a fun score, and let the audience shake in their seats.

Dracula vs. Frankenstein: Assignment Terror isn't the best movie out there, and might rank lower on lists of the best Waldemar Daninsky films, but it's still a basic fun time, and worth checking out for fans of b-movies...

Mark of the Wolfman (1968)

In a small provincial village, the young judge's daughter Janice meets a charming Polish Count, Waldemar Daninsky. This ruffles the feathers of her would-be boyfriend Rudolph, but things change when Waldemar saves the boy from a werewolf attack. While he slays the beast, the = realises to his horror that it's too late for him. He is now a victim, of the curse of the full moon...

Mark of the Wolfman is the first of 12 in the world's longest running werewolf series, both in entries and =. Borne of a desire to emulate the Universal horror classics, they kicked off a grand new era for Spanish horror, highlighting directors such as Leon Klimovsky, Amando de Ossorio, and many more.

Mark is a classic horror movie in all the best ways. It has a Gothic setting and tone, and while it is set in the modern day, this works. It manages to  This village feels like a place time has largely forgotten. Its inhabitants might wear polo shirts, and drive cars, but many of the buildings and clothing feels straight out of medieval times.

The plot is fairly traditional werewolf stuff, with a preliminary attack from another beast, passing on the curse to the hero, who must deal with the curse, = by the fact that he may have to end his life to keep everyone safe.

Where things take a detour for the more fantastical is the last half hour. Mark of the Wolfman has a very good pace, and introduces things gradually, with plenty going on. By the hour mark, we get the addition of some scientists who may be able to cure Waldermar...But they're soon revealed to have an ulterior motive, and a sinister background.    This could've gone a bit awry, but thankfully it's all handled well enough, and feels like an extra treat!

The last act has plenty of action, from a werewolf vs werewolf fight, to some good brawls with the vampires. Then there's a inevitably tragic/sad ending,

characters   Waldemar Daninsky is a suave and debonair lead. You can definitely see how Janice is so swept over by him. He's noble too, as can be seen through his actions. You feel bad for the poor guy being afflicted with this curse, especially when it only happened due to his bravery.   tragic hero

Janice is a nice girl. Smart, sweet, and proactive. She really takes action to help Waldemar when she discovers the extent of his trouble. Rudolph is a good guy too! He's pretty hostile to Waldemar at first, as you can imagine from any red-blooded fellow whose [promised] girlfriend falls for another guy. But this all changes after the werewolf attack. After his life is saved by Waldemar, Rudolph pledges himself to help, and is a loyal companion.

He still wants to keep Janice away from him, for for a wholly different reason now, as he wants to keep her safe, which Waldemar completely agrees with. He's also reasonable about it, as he and Waldemar eventually let Janice in on the secret once they realise they can no longer keep her in the dark.

The villains are a delightfully spooky pair, openly evil and =. It's Waldemar and co's bad luck that the experts they heard about happened to not only be mad scientists, but vampires too! The original weewolf is a good presence too. Long since dead, he is resurrected when a silver cross is pulled from his heart, killed again when it's put back, then brought back again by the vampires! This is why I prefer it when a monster stays dead,

The supporting cast is good all round, from the friendly (but slightly larcenous) Gypsies who set off the movie's events, to the parents of the young =, who contribute a surprisingly good amount during the finale, and grasp what's going on perfectly. I was afraid they'd be a bunch of stuffed shirts, but nope!

Mark of the Werewolf's setting is in Germany, with a Polish lead. This is for a few reasons, I imagine. First is that Germany is internationally known as a home for werewolves, whereas Spain, not so much. Then there's General Franco, whose regime would often insist that horror movies take place abroad, to not besmirch their fair country's reputation. This I say bullcrap. People want to see werewolves in Spain, Generalissimo! In any case though, they picked a great setting, that feels just right.

One amusing bit of trivia is the film's English title-Frankenstein's Bloody Terror. Astute viewers may notice there is no Frankenstein, monster or otherwise, in this movie! What happened was the studio needed a Frankenstein movie, so they took this, tacked on a narration at the beginning which says the Frankenstein family changed it's name to Wolfstein. There, problem solved!

The effects in Mark are neat! The werewolf make-up is really good, and always convince. The transitions are mixed. The first has good build-up, then a single fade instantly covers Paul with fur. The later ones are better though, in showing the transformation, or hiding it effectively, and = through shadows.

The acting is good all round. Paul Naschy is a great presence as Waldemar Daninsky. Suave, musclebound, sensitive, tragic, he really runs the gamut, playing a perfect cursed man. He also plays the werewolf's animalistic rage well too. Dianik Zurakowska and Manuel Manzaneque are good as the young couple, as are Julian Ugarte  and Aurora de Alba as the vampiric villains.

There's some nice music here, that feels traditional and authentic for an old horror movie.

Mark of the Werewolf is a great start to a long-running series, and also a perfect example of Spanish gothic horror. Spain has produced so many classics in the genre, and we can be grateful that movies like this exist for all to see...

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Dario Argento's Animal Trilogy (1970-72)

Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento solidified his reputation as a master of the horror genre with movies such as Deep Red and Suspiria, creating a string of classics that would last until 1987. A screenwriter for a few years (even co-writing Once Upon a Time in the West!) before trying his hand at direction with a trio of films, linked by their titles...

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

Sam Dalmas is an American expat living in Italy. After a couple of unproductive years not writing nearly as much as he'd hoped, he's going back to America to get back into the swing of things. One night however he witnesses an attempted murder, and becomes embroiled in a larger case. The police have been after a vicious serial killer, and pressure Sam into staying and helping out. He does so reluctantly, but as it goes on, he can't help but get the feeling he's missed a vitally important detail, that could crack the case wide open...

Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a decent giallo, telling a tense Hitchockian tale. While some in the industry took umbrage with Dario getting such an easy start thanks to his producer daddy (like Lucio Fulci, who took the long way without such a luxury), there's no denying that this is a strong debut.

The movie gets off to a great start, with the attempted murder being a great visual and atmospheric setpiece. It sets the tone for the rest of the film, and establishes the plot in an effective way. Likewise, the climax is great stuff! The mystery gets a good explanation, and there's a suspense-filled final encounter.

Where the movie falls down however is literally everything in between. It is a decent movie, but frustrating, because throughout the whole thing there is nothing that allows us to solve the mystery! Giallos could often be more about the journey than destination, but here it feels especially bad. There are almost no suspects, and zero clues.

None of Sam's discoveries ever seem to amount to anything, not even the visit to the artist. Sam getting the idea to visit him was a big deal. Only 8 hours to go before they leave, yet he's going to risk visiting him. It should be worth it, and lead to a big "A-ha!" moment! Instead it's nothing. He leaves none the wiser, and the visit only offered a bit of mild comedy.

Where the plot takes a total backseat is during an extended chase sequence, but that was a tense and fairly exciting scene, even if it was a bit confusing. It felt like a gangster from another movie suddenly burst in to attack the lead. Us being able to see his face clear as day is what could really confuse you. I'm so used to giallos hiding everything.

The title is a great one, though ultimately has very little to do with the plot. I feel there could've been more effort to tie it together.

Sam is a basic enough protagonist, but is fine, and always likeable. The same goes for his girlfriend, who manages to keep herself fairly safe when the killer attacks. Carlo is an ok friend (and tolerates his mates being perverts well, probably thinking "Get a room, you two!"), but doesn't appear enough, and his end just feels random, not adding anything. And the police are a good presence. Conniving to an extent, but only to help catch a madman and keep the city safe.

The killer isn't seen a lot, but makes a good impression, and looks visually distinctive n their dark coat and wide brimmed hat. When they are uncovered, we see their sadism on full display

The victims are one of the more boring parts of the movie. I get that they are just random women, and targeted only because the killer did so on a whim, but it still fills a bit uninteresting when we know so little about the victims. Most of them don't even say a word.

The rest of the cast are ok. The convict is decent even if he does talk in a bizarre way, and the informant he supplies is amusing. I wish he'd appeared more. The artist is an eccentric weirdo. Fun in some ways, unpleasant in others.

The actors all do decently. Suzy Kendall was my favourite, while Tony Musante is good, if mediocre in places. Eva Renzi is great in her role, though k Barring one scene, her dialogue entirely consists of "Ahhhh!", and "Hahahaha!"

The violence is fairly medium here. Just a little blood, and basic murders for the most part. There are some gnarly moments here and there, 

Argento's direction is neat, taking full advantage of the art world, with an ornate gallery that makes for great suspense scenes, when both well-lit, and shrouded in darkness (and a great transition that shows how much the dark can hide). There are insane sculptures (talk about an accident waiting to happen!), and spooky paintings. The stalking and murder scenes are also directed fantastically, with some creepy moments. My favourite was the home invasion.

Ennio Morricone does the score here, and it's ethereal and spooky, with lots of 'La la la's', feeling only a few steps away from Freddy Krueger territory.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage has its issue, but is a neat debut with some great moments, and was one of the films that really set the Giallo genre in motion...

We needed more info about the actors. I would never have guessed who the killer was
We get the beginning and the ending with the killer, but nothing in between. Not a single clue which could have helped me with the discovery
The beginning and ending of the movie were great, but everything else was just decent. No info on anything, and the victims were just random girls with no dialogue
Definitely true! The scenes were quick I understand that. The director didn't want the viewers to discover the killer, but give us some clues, something

The Cat o' Nine Tails

Franco is a middle-aged blind man, living with his young niece Lori. One night he hears something odd, and when he discovers a connection to a murder at a scientific institute, he teams up with journalist Carlo to try and uncover the truth and catch a killer...

The Cat o' Nine Tails is actually one of the more recent Argento films I've seen. I saw both the other 'Animal' films when I was a teen, but this one always eluded me. I never saw any clips from it or even knew what the greater plot was about, who the killer was, or what the death scenes were like. Now that I've finally seen it, I'm pleasantly surprised. It's not a hidden masterpiece or anything, but it's a good time.

A weak spot many point out is the unnecessary runtime of nearly two hours. I agree, though the movie's never tedious. I don't think any scene in particular is useless, but a few just go on for a little too long. With a bit of editing this could've been trimmed to about 90 minutes (and actually was for its well-received U.S. release), and then we'd get the first real plot development less than an hour in. The genetics plot is interesting, though sorely unexplored.

It's at the hour mark when Carlo finally questions all the scientists at the clinic. Some are helpful, if a little brusque, while one amusingly insists that the police and journos are just looking for connections where none exist, and it's just a series of accidents. Dude, three of your coworkers have been butchered in the last few days!

While low-key compared to later giallos, this still has hallmarks of the genre, such as an everpresent killer. When Carlo's photographer pal discovered a clue in the negatives, I said to myself "This is exactly when the killer would sneak up behind and kill him!". But I knew that wouldn't happen, since this is just a random photographer they only just called right now, so how would the killer know who or where he even is? But sure enough, one ajar door and one strangulation later, he is dispatched.

Another example of this comes later, when a lady involved with the institute has discovered an important clue, and calls Franco. She says she she knows the killer's name, but, oh hey, what's that noise, I'll call you back later. *sigh* In that regard, Ghost in the Invisible Bikini is a better and more timely movie that Cat o' Nine Tails, since it actually poked fun at that cliche almost 10 years before this.

Franco Arno (Cookie to his niece) is a nice lead, with his disability making for an interesting character, and one who's adapted very well, and has no need to be pitied. I adored his sweet niece Lori, and wished she appeared more. Although I am glad she was sent out of harm's way, instead of being invited to stay or even tag along when this investigation has such a high mortality rate.

The only problem is that many scenes that should be from his point of view are entirely absent. He disappears completely from the midsection, and when he's attacked outside the crypt, we focus exclusively on a stressed Carlo lighting up a ciggie, sitting down, and going "Ah, shit", for about 3 minutes. Then Franco opens the crypt door, the struggle taking place offscreen. I guess it's to avoid showing us too much of the killer, but still! Give us a little, Dario!

Carlo's a good co-lead, and has his moments. One of the funnier scenes of the movie comes during a 'riveting' conversation he and a lady are having, and this smooth player makes the comment "Do you know how many people together right now are making love at this very second?". He then follows it up with "I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but that was an invitation.".

The killer's identity is fairly well hidden, but only because we don't get to know anyone well enough to form much of an opinion. All we know is that the most obvious culprits probably won't be guilty (and they drop like flies as the movie goes on). When we do hear the motive, it's basic, and a little silly.

I actually suspected the policeman Morsella would be the killer because of how unlikely a suspect he would be, and I've read others say the same. Hoping that maybe he snapped after one too many people didn't wanna hear about his wife's ravioli. They'd deserve it too! I was listening to his cooking tips before he got rudely cut off!

The climax has some pretty good action, and both heroes get some punches in, so to speak. The ending is disappointingly abrupt though. Nothing beyond the killer's death is seen. No final wrap-up with the police, no moment shared with Franco and his niece, nor do we see Carlo's romantic subplot resolve. It's all a bit limp, really.

The title is justified with a comment regarding the number of leads, and it's a little tenuous, but nothing worth complaining over. And thankfully it doesn't mean there are nine suspects!

The death scenes in Cat o' Nine Tails are fairly tame. In lieu of gore, there's a strong use of saliva, which is decently effective, if gross.

The direction here is stylish. The film has several moments where we see the killer's point-of-view, as well as their eyes close up. There are also strangely edited moments. Sometimes it effectively shows Franco's sensing of things, other times they're just scene transitions. The locations are particularly interesting. We get plenty of neat Italian pads of the 1970s, but also a few bits of inspired architecture, which really opens up the environment.

The music by Ennio Morricone is quite good in places, with a tender score that reminded me a little of The Beyond's softer tracks. What didn't impress me though was the screechiness in a lot of scenes. It's like a free jazz musician tried making ambient music.

Overall, Cat o' Nine Tails won't blow anyone's world, but it's just simply good. Not great, neither bad or mediocre, just simply good. And that level of simplicity (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) is something I wish Dario had adhered to more in his later career...

Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Roberto is a musician who's discovered he's being followed. He tracks down the man, in an encounter resulting in his death. Roberto has barely come to grips with it when he realises someone has seen him. He is soon contacted by a sinister figure, who seems to be blackmailing him at first, but wants no money. They only want to drive Roberto mad, and will kill anyone in their way to do it...

While Cat o' Nine Tails was overlong, Four Flies on Grey Velvet is outright boring in places. That film was simply guilty of extending good scenes too long, while here there are many scenes that don't really add anything, and could've been cut easily.

The central conceit is a good one, but only when the movie chooses to focus on it. Instead it gets distracted by many other little things, to the point where Roberto and the Killer don't actually have an encounter for a full 80 minutes! All he gets are a couple of menacing photos and then spends most of the film un-harassed. It hardly sells the required urgency.

Roberto is a fairly good lead, and you sympathise with his situation. On the flipside, he's a philanderous fellow! I figured it'd be Dalia acting as the seducer, but no, Roberto comes onto her faster than lightning! You're married, dickhead! Luckily for him it turns out his wife is unfaithful in another way, though he doesn't know that yet!

Nina is nice enough in some scenes, a bit cold and almost bitchy in others, and gets the most to do in the climax.

Despite her sleeping with a married man (her cousin's hubby no less!), I liked Dalia. She was one of the nicest characters. I was bit bummed out at her death. Although I was mainly annoyed by her constant inability to get in touch with Roberto at the right time.

The PI Roberto hires is an amusing guy, never having solved a case, but hopeful this time will be the first. He's openly gay, and the movie never shames him or pokes fun at this. The whole Animal trilogy has gay characters, which is an interesting thing to link them together. Most interesting is his death, where he takes it like a champ, since he finally cracked a case.

There's a collection of comic characters through, to varying degrees of success. Some are amusing enough, like the Bible quoting bodyguard, while others are less than funny. And lastly, there's God, aka Godfrey. Roberto's grumpy but helpful friend. I liked his friendship with the lead, and while there's an enormous gap between his first and second scenes, he plays a good role in the climax.

The mystery is a fairly weak one. As hard a time as Roberto has trying to figure out the murderer's identity, everyone else has it easy. Just about the entire cast figure it out, even the PI who's never solved a case.

The biggest problem is that there are no suspects! Roberto's friends and bandmates don't appear enough for any of them to be guilty, and the only other candidates are communicating with the killer the whole time (from a blackmailer, a cohort, etc). At the end of the day, there really is only one character it could be.

The flashbacks we see periodically are decent, but give away too much as they go  I also didn't get why this mysterious patriarch had to be a stepfather instead of just a regular one. It felt like an arbitrary decision.

One scene in particular feels like a cheat, because heroes will discover something we're not privvy too! If a supporting character discovers something, that's alright, because we're not following their point of view. But when Roberto's PI has the whole case explained to him clear as day, yet we don't know because the scene cut in late, it feels underhanded. And you'd better believe there's an "It's probably nothing, I'll tell you later" involved.

Where Four Flies on Grey Velvet often draws the most criticism is in the ending reveal. It's not the killer's identity I take issue with, but their motivations. They're unclear and muddled, and for the longest time, poor quality prints meant making out her dialogue was a chore in itself. Blah blah, something something, daddy issues, etc.

The ending is the film's most memorable sequence, with a car crash that manages to impress, and look oddly beautiful, the glass shimmering in slow motion like water, as the killer has a tranquil moment. The movie does wrap up abruptly, but I didn't mind that as much here, since there really isn't much left to resolve. Roberto's saved by Godfrey and they share a moment of relief, and that's all that's really needed.

The title seems mystifying at first, but draws you in. It takes near the end of the movie for it to be explained, and it's a neat element, even if it is pseudoscience. Although when I first saw the film at 13, I thought Roberto caught a brief flash of the 'four flies' swinging when the killer attacked him, and I kinda prefer that idea. That way the title would be justified early, and we'd have the whole movie to mull over this important clue, not 10 minutes.

The score (Ennio Morricone again) is decent, though not very memorable, and is silent too much of the time. The rock tunes we hear intermittently are pretty decent, and give the movie a nice feel. There's a strange but kinda fun choral leitmotif during God(frey)'s introduction. And the music that plays in the end is really serene.

The acting is decent. Michael Brandon is an alright lead, with an interesting resemblance to Argento at the time. Mimsy Farmer is ok for the most part, and I liked her manic turn at the end, though she shouts enough to burst your eardrums! Bud Spencer is a great presence, and I wish he'd appeared more! Funnily enough this was the first film I ever saw him in, and I didn't even realise it for years. One oddity is his dub actor seems to be voicing two characters! He was a busy bee here.

The direction here is neat, with a few intriguingly done shots, from the mosquito at the beginning, to the whole scene at the end. The film has a lot of visual flair and experimentation too. The killer's childlike mask is effectively creepy (though underused as the movie goes on), and the opening credits have a weird touch to them. Four Flies also contains a slow motion 'bullet time' sequence, predating things like The Matrix by decades!

Also of note is a recurring dream Roberto has, of an Arabian execution. As the movie goes on he feels it must be a premonition, and he may end up being right in a way. It's a neatly shot scene, and while the decapitation itself is hilarious, the scene has an ominous feel, even with the bright sunlight.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet has its ups and downs. It's not bad, and is recognisably an Argento film. It contains quite a few memorable moments, and while it may not be a classic, it's still worth watching for fans...

The Animal Trilogy is an interesting beginning for a filmmaker who would go on to become famous in the horror genre. While these movies may not be classics, in varying degrees, they still have moments of greatness, and laid a solid groundwork for what was to come...