It's a tortuous and bizarre story, as much as most of Argento's films themselves are. In 1971, the Italian auteur completed his third film, 4 Mosche di Velluto Grigio, or Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Due to the violent nature of the giallo, he was unable to obtain distribution in his own country. Paramount Pictures picked up the U.S. distribution the following year, but when it hit American theaters in the summer of 1972, it was in edited form.
Since then, unless you were lucky enough to catch a rare theatrical screening, the film has been all but impossible to see, especially in uncut form. Argento himself was reportedly unhappy with the movie. On top of that, the rights are owned by a single anonymous individual, and with the original, uncut print stored in Rome, it was never a priority for Paramount Home Video to pursue. Allegedly, a bootlegged version popped up on VHS in France during the 1990s, but that had been made using the edited American print. Swedish distributor DMEG put out a low-quality VHS in 2004 in Sweden, one of more than 200 horror movies the company released that year. This version was later translated to an equally crappy German bootleg DVD.
But at the end of 2008, at long last, after failed attempts by genre distributors like Blue Underground, Mya Communication somehow secured the rights and got their hands on that print. And so, Four Flies on Grey Velvet receives its first official video release today, making this the first time anyone has ever seen it in its original, uncut form. It isn't often that fans get to witness an early, completely lost work from an acclaimed director. This is one such opportunity.
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