Director: Kurt Neumann
Writer: James Clavell
Cast: Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman, Betty Lou Gerson, and Charles Herbert
Composer: Paul Sawtell
Release Date: 7/16/1958
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
After killing her husband Andre (Al Hedison) in a mechanical press, Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) relays her story to brother-in-law Francois (Vincent Price) and police Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall). According to Helene, Andre had successfully designed a teleportation device known as the disintegrator-integrator prior to his death. Upon testing the invention on himself, however, Andre—unaware of a small “guest” caught in the machine with him—came out of the receiver with the head and left claw of a fly.
A classic sci-fi/horror film, The Fly preys upon fear of the unknown in order to generate and maintain suspense. Also effective is the twist ending, which earns its reputation as one of the creepiest movie scenes of all time.
By emphasizing the love, dedication, and undying loyalty that Andre and Helene share with each other, both before and after the transporter accident, screenwriter James Clavell reinforces the tragic essence of the main character’s predicament—in contrast to the protagonist of David Cronenberg’s The Fly, who, given his solitary lifestyle, lacks a wife and son to mourn the loss of his humanity and eventual death.
Despite the unconvincing nature of the giant insect head, The Fly sustains an air of realism for one reason: David Hedison (whom science fiction fans will recognize from Irwin Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) embodies the struggle of two organisms, one a rational being and the other a savage brute, fighting for control of the same body. On many occasions, for example, Andre physically grapples with his fly appendage, strengthening the credibility of an otherwise extraordinary conflict.
Often criticized for its dated special effects and scientific inaccuracies, The Fly may fail to unnerve the majority of modern audiences. (The iconic spider web sequence does, however, retain a haunting and surreal impact in spite of its primitive execution.)
Lacking the gross-out violence of its 1986 remake, The Fly relies on the power of suggestion to elicit terror from the audience—an approach that, when accentuated by the film’s underlying theme of human discovery/exploration gone horribly awry, will produce a harrowing effect on those of an imaginative or curious mindset. Specifically disturbing are the behaviors of Andre, who, following his transformation, wears a tablecloth to conceal his visage, sucks on his food instead of chewing it, and communicates with his wife only through typewritten messages—all of which plant terrible ideas about the grotesque, unhuman creature now coexisting with a once kind and brilliant man.
By combining mad scientist tropes with heart-wrenching drama, The Fly will appeal to monster movie buffs of a sensitive inclination. Worth noting in particular are the performances of Price, Owens, and Hedison, adding a hint of poignancy to Clavell’s narrative.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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