Director: Kurt Neumann
Writer: James Clavell
Cinematographer: Karl Struss
by Susan Bartley
The Fly opens up with scientist Andrew Delambre (Davis Hedison) having been murdered with his frantic wife Helene (Patrician Owens) appearing in some way responsible. Al’s brother Francois (Vincent Price) arrives and works with the police to piece together the mystery. In flashback, we learn that Al had created a teleportation machine which worked by breaking objects into tiny microscopic pieces and transferring them through some type of energy apparatus. However, during Andrew's experiments, Helene discovers that when moving a yellow plate, the brand name's letters on the back became rearranged. Al ignores these warning signs and decides to experiment with animals and eventually himself. However, a fly enters the machine and the two become infused.
Given Cronenberg’s successful reimagining, I figured there had to be something strangely sexual, violent, or cerebral about the initial film; something a bit off and disorienting in a progressive sort of way. There are moments - Helene's descent into madness as she realizes that her husband is going insane, Francois’s strange and eerie attraction to her even though his brother just passed, the hysteria and schizophrenic attitude Al develops after morphing into his half-fly body. All of these moments are interesting when considered generally, they’re just not explored all that much in the film. Like Frankenstein (1931), there is an obsessive component to the story, but it in no way approaches the madness of Dr. Frankenstein.
Overall, the effects are awful, and I mean awful. If the film was black and white it could have been pulled off as the color cheapens the poor set design. The mask alone, while iconic, is awful, immediately pulling you out of the story. For what was a recommended rating of 4/5 on Netflix I just didn’t get it. Perhaps if there wasn’t so much history to the story I could have appreciated it, or maybe if I randomly discovered it like other sci-fi B-films then I would have enjoyed it more. It just takes too long for what we know is about to happen and when it happens I was left wanting more.
BELOW: A fan made music video of 'Mogwai's - Killing All the Flies' edited with footage from The Fly (1958), which is probably the best way to get a taste of how cheap the movie feels
Thoughts on films, old and new
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