At the recommendation of Derek Jacobs I watched The Fly recently. I ended up watching both the 1958 and 1986 versions. And I am so freaking glad that I did.
I’ll be reviewing both versions followed up with my usual collection of behind the scenes finds. However, since both movies deserve their own individual attention, I’ll post each review on a separate day.
So, this week, let’s talk about The Fly that was graced by the wildly charismatic Vincent Price.
The Fly (1958)
Date Released: Jul 16, 1958
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Mystery and Suspense
Screeenplay by: James Clavell
Based on the Story by: Geogre Langelaan
Director: Kurt Newman
The near-catatonic Helene is held for murder and refuses to tell anyone what happened and why she did it. Not even Andre’s brother, Francois. Francois can’t help but notice how wildly Helene reacts to a tiny fly zipping around her room. When Francois pretends to have captured the fly with the funny head (mentioned by the son, Philippe), Helene finally relaxes enough to tell how her husband’s experiments in teleportation went horribly wrong, leading them to that fateful moment in the factory.
*** Synopsis Spoilers start here, I’ll do a spoiler- free verdict directly after this, and before the big chunk of the review ****
Andre, the scientist, had been secretly inventing a teleportation device in his basement. He succeeded in his experiments and then decided to try it out on himself. Unfortunately, a fly got into the teleportation chamber with him and their molecules got all mixed up.
After locking himself in his basement laboratory for days, Helene convinces him to let her in and help him. He lets her in, but keeps one hand in his pocket and his head draped in a black cloth. Through a series of notes he tells her she, “must find the fly with the white head” if he is to be saved.
Helene then tries desperately to catch the fly, with the help of her son and housekeeper, but with no luck.
Helene returns to her husband and during the conversation she reveals his face and discovers the horrible truth, Andre’s head and arm have been swapped with the fly! Without the white-headed fly Andre is doomed and slowly losing his mind. In his last conscious effort he destroys his lab and begs his wife to kill him.
Neither Francois nor inspector Charas believe the story…until they discover a tiny entrapped fly with Andre’s head and arm screaming “Help me! Help me!” in the garden. Now that they believe Helene’s tale, she is freed of all charges and they all live happily ever after.
I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Not only was Vincent Price a mesmerizing character on screen, but I was really impressed by the strength of Helene. She wasn’t just the helpless screaming damsel in distress, (although she did faint at one point). She was actually main character of the story and felt like the loving wife who would try to move mountains for her husband. But it’s so tragic how the tale ends.
I really enjoyed the character Andre (even though his struggle with himself at the end felt a little too theatrical). He seemed the perfect blend of obsessed scientist and tragically lovable husband.
The maid and the kid? Oh, I wanted to smack them. The maid because she kept killing flies even after her mistress flipped the heck out on her after killing the first one! (Gah!! Why don’t you listen?!) The kid was just a generally awkward performance, but his misogynistic lines of “you know how women are” etc. just irritated me. But whatever.
The only part of this movie that seemed to make no sense to me was the final scene where everything is pretty much hunkie-dorie and (Other than Helene’s black dress) you would have had no clue that she was still dealing with her husband’s death. Reality dissappeared for a while there, it seems.
Overall I really enjoyed this movie. It was heartfelt, well, produced, and imaginative. And I actually think it has held up well over the course of time and is worth checking out.
4 out of 5 blood spattered stars.
***From Here on out, it’s SPOILER LAND****
You’ve been warned my pretties. *maniacal laugh*
What critics thought when it 1st hit screens
Here’s an excerpt from the earliest article I was able to find from Howard Thompson’s review published on August 30, 1958
IT FLEW in yesterday, “The Fly” did—and folks, hang on to your hair. This Twentieth Century-Fox fantasy-thriller, which the company is advertising as the absolute end in horror, alighted at more than 100 neighborhood theatres.
It does indeed contain, briefly, two of the most sickening sights one casual swatter-wielder ever beheld on the screen. At one point, the hooded hero discloses his head as that of a giant-size fly. And the climax, when this balcony-sitter nearly shot through the roof, is a fat close-up of a fly, with a tiny, screaming human’s head, trapped by a spider on its web. To any random customer expecting a pleasant doze, watch out! Short as these two scenes are, there’s no escaping them.
Otherwise, believe it or not, “The Fly” happens to be one of the better, more restrained entries of the “shock” school. As produced and directed by the late Kurt Neumann, with an earnest little cast headed by Al Hedison, Patricia Owens and Vincent Price, this is a quiet, uncluttered and even unpretentious picture, building up almost unbearable tension by simple suggestion. [www.nytimes.com]
Also, it has an incredibly memorable ending, which you may or may not be familiar with: the “Help me! Heeeeeeelp me!” Scene:
Behind the Scenes
BTS is a little harder to find with a film this old, but here’s what I’ve gathered:
Leave me a comment, would you be able to squish someone you loved to save them from losing their mind and becoming a science experiment in some lab?