This is part of my Four Flies on Grey Velvet Tribute Week at Harry Moseby Confidential.
***A few of the quotes below contain some spoilers***
The films of Dario Argento are not usually noted for the quality of their actor's performances but it is this very thing that keeps me returning to Four Flies On Grey Velvet even though finally it is perhaps not among his greatest works.
I find Mimsy Farmer's beautifully bruised performance to be one of the best the Italian genre cinema ever offered up...a surprisingly moving and powerful turn from an actress who has always been undervalued as one of the best of her generation. Farmer's performance is totally captivating and unforgettable, specifically in the last two scenes of the film that rank along the best of any Argento ever shot.
Here is a photographic tribute to Mimsy in Four Flies on Grey Velvet along with some quotes by Mimsy herself (taken from the out of print Spaghetti Nightmares by Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta) and from Dario and co-star Michael Brandon as well (taken from the essential Profoundo Argento by Alan Jones). I am also including a couple of quotes from both Roger Ebert and Tim Lucas on Mimsy's performance.
"Argento must have seen More and decided that I was good at playing the part of the neurotic woman." (Farmer)
"Mimsy Farmer had made a strong impression on me in Barbet Schroeder's More." (Argento)
"I had a great time...Argento invented the Italian thriller, so in a way he did for suspense films what Sergio Leone did for Westerns, in that he neglected the characters, the psychological aspects and the story in order to focus on the effects..." (Farmer)
"The movie is Four Flies on Grey Velvet, an Italian suspense film that has very little going for it except for Mimsy Farmer. She's the slight, blond girl who starred in More, a sex-drugs-violence movie shot with a certain hypnotic effectiveness in Morocco. She also starred in a few cheapo motorcycle movies about five years ago. She looks a little like Jean Seberg, has a marvelously sculptured face and deserves to get some of those Mia Farrow roles." (Roger Ebert)
"Argento made us work hard, even 14 hours a day." (Farmer)
"There is, however, the interesting Mimsy Farmer, who has the best mouth since Joey Heatherton." (Ebert)
"As for Dario, I rather liked him, except that the way he wanted to come across as neurotic all the time seemed ridiculous to me. Perhaps he was a little neurotic-all of us are to some extent-but certainly not as much as he wanted people to believe." (Farmer)
"Working with Mimsy Farmer is not of my clearest memories. I think she purposely withdrew from me because her Nina character turned out to be the killer and she wanted to keep it real and method." (Brandon)
"I didn't establish much of a relationship with him (Argento), although we spent several hours of the day together. We weren't alone, the crew was there too, and we only talked about work." (Farmer)
"Away from the film we didn't hang out or socialize. That's what she wanted." (Brandon)
""I think he overdid it slightly with his neurosis...but basically I think he was perfectly aware of what needed to be done in order to make the film a success." (Farmer)
"How else can you put a psychotic killer across on a thematic level unless you make their actions disturbing for those watching?" (Argento)
"I remember that this (the final monologue) was another scene we shot very late at night, around 3:00am. It didn't take long to do it because Dario used three cameras to shoot the master, the American plan and the close-up simultaneously. I think that on the whole we repeated the scene two or three times at the most." (Farmer)
"As always, the sharper the picture, the more attentive we can be to matters of performance and Mimsy Farmer gives one of her most interesting and brittle performances here." (Tim Lucas at Video Watchblog, from his post on the newer German DVD release.)
"My face was made up to look very pale and my lips, by contrast, quite red." (Farmer)
"Mimsy Farmer plays Brandon's wife with the brand of porcelain calm and bared electric wiring that is her trademark; when she is revealed as the puppet-master behind her husband's carefully engineered torment (I'm not revealing anything here that wasn't revealed in the movie's stills set), she's as convincing a psychopath as Argento ever showcased. McDonagh's book reveals that FOUR FLIES was the only one of Argento's films in which the director did not stand in for his killer; she surmises that this is because Brandon's resemblance to the director satisfied his narcissistic needs, but I can well imagine the white-coiffed Ms. Farmer flashing her clenched teeth at Argento the moment he got too near her black gloves and sending him cowering to the nearest corner." (Tim Lucas again at Video Watchblog, this time in his original look at the film.)
"Argento's idea was good, he wanted the character to shoot at the other person without aiming, as though it were a mechanical gesture rather than mediatated. It's an interesting idea. I shot without looking, carried away by the memories; I talked about my past and shot randomly, without hate." (Farmer)
"Four Flies on Grey Velvet wasn't bad...the effects were good, but it's a film I don't particularly care for...I think the film did well, though, and I believe Argento achieved what he had set out to do." (Farmer)
For my older tribute to Mimsy, focusing on her entire career, please visit here.