The Fly (1958 )

Directed by Kurt Neumann
Cinematography Karl Struss

Plot

In Montreal, Quebec, scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison) is found dead with his head and arm crushed in a hydraulic press. Although his wife Helene (Patricia Owens) confesses to the crime, she refuses to provide a motive and exhibits a number of strange behaviors. In particular, she is obsessed with flies, including a supposedly white-headed fly. Andre’s brother, Francois (Vincent Price), lies and says he caught the white-headed fly; and, thinking he knows the truth, Helene explains the circumstances surrounding Andre’s death.

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In flashback, Andre, Helene, and their son Philippe (Charles Herbert) are a happy family. Andre has been working on a matter transporter device called the disintegrator-integrator. He initially tests it only on small inanimate objects, but he eventually proceeds to living creatures, including the family’s pet cat (which fails to reintegrate, but can be heard meowing somewhere) and a guinea pig. After he is satisfied that these tests are succeeding, he builds a man-sized pair of chambers. One day, Helene, worried since Andre has not come up from the basement lab for a couple of days, goes down to find Andre with a black cloth over his head and a strange deformity on his left hand. Communicating with typed notes only, Andre tells Helene that he tried to transport himself but that a fly was caught in the chamber with him, which resulted in the mixing of their atoms. Now, he has the head and left arm of a fly; and the fly has his miniature head and left arm, though he keeps his mind.

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Andre needs Helene to capture the fly so he can reverse the process. Although she expends great effort in her search, she cannot find it and Andre’s will begins to fade as the fly’s instincts take over his brain. Time is running out, and while Andre can still think like a human, he smashes the equipment, burns his notes, and leads Helene to the factory. When they arrive, he sets the hydraulic press and motions for Helene to push the button. She activates the press twice – once to crush his head and once to crush his left arm.

The police, hearing this confession, deem Helene insane and guilty of murder. As they are about to haul her away, Andre’s son Philippe tells Francois he’s seen the fly trapped in a web in the back garden. Francois convinces the inspector to come and see for himself. The two men see the fly, trapped in the web, with both Andre’s head and arm, looking terrified. It screams “Help me! Help me!” as a large brown spider advances on the creature. Just as the fly is about to be sucked dry by the spider, the inspector (Herbert Marshall) smashes them both with a rock. Thinking nobody would believe the truth, he and Francois decide to lie about the facts of the case so that Helene isn’t convicted of murder. In the end, Helene, Francois and Philippe resume their daily lives, with Francois explaining to Philippe that Andre died doing the most dangerous act for humanity, but also the most beneficial: “the search for the truth”.

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The Fly is a 1958 American DeLuxe Color science fictionhorror film in CinemaScope produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was written by James Clavell (his first), from the short story of the same name by George Langelaan. It tells a story of a scientist who mutates into a grotesque human fly after one accidentally flew into his transportation machine and mixes their atoms. It was followed by two sequels, Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly. It was remade in 1986 as a film of the same name by director David Cronenberg.

….said the spider to the fly.

13 December 2002 | by (bsmith5552@rogers.com) (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

“The Fly” is one of the better giant insect movies of the 50s. It starts out with the discovery by a night watchman of the grisly killing of scientist Andre Delambre (Al Hedison aka David Hedison) apparently at the hands of his wife Helene (Patricia Owens). She calls Andre’s brother Francois (Vincent Price) to tell him of the tragedy. Francois in turn, calls in Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) and together they question Helene to try to find out what happened.

In a flashback, we learn that Andre had been experimenting with transporting matter at light speed from one point to another. When he reached the stage of using a human in the tests, he had used himself. Unfortunately, when he transported himself, unbeknownst to him a common fly had been in the disintegrator with him. When they re-integrated things were not quite as they had been before. Of course no one really believes Helene’s story until Francois and the Inspector are shown the unfortunate fly by Andre and Helene’s son Philippe (Charles Herbert).

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Director Kurt Neumann builds up the suspense by first letting us guess what has happened in the laboratory and then delaying the unmasking of Andre as long as possible. That scene reminded me of the unmasking of the Phantom in Lon Chaney’s “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925). The wide screen is used to great effect in that scene when Helene first sees what has happened to her husband, and we then see multiple images of her, much in the way that we believe a fly would see it, screaming in terror.

The fly makeup was, I thought, quite convincing and who can ever forget the final scene when a spider is closing in on the title character (Help me, please…Help me..)

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Scenes engraved on the mind

Author: existential from Near the Chesapeake
28 August 2000

It’s been said again and again that this is a good horror film. A Very Good film. But it is more than that.

I can still hear with my mind’s ear (is that right?) the sound of the hydraulic press “WHUMP” and the echo. Then again that “WHUMP” … is there another sound experience that reverberates through a movie like that?

Sure, surround sound, THX, all that tech stuff, but the sound as the manifestation of the crime that encircles this story, the horror as the mind tries to put together the images that (finally) is seen in a flashback as this scene bookends the start and “finish” of the plot.

The inner struggle of the scientist as he fights with his human hand to control the spasms of his “fly” arm is both horrible and heart-wrenching.

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The shock as the cloth is torn away from the scientist’s head… the fly’s POV shot with facets and mirrors of the the screaming face of the scientist’s poor wife! The scene at the spider’s web as the shrill voice begs “help me… help me”

The horror of murder of a man/thing and a thing/man being shown and even compared in sharp (but obvious) dialogue.

You MUST see this and experience the earlier days of horror -when classics like this, like “The Thing From Another World,” like “It, the Terror From Beyond Space” (the original model of Alien) exhibit a freshness and a palpable terror that remakes cannot capture, whatever wonderful special effects are thrown in to add to the creepiness. Sure these later gorefest horror films are good. I buy them all the time. But they are a different genre. The Fly with Vincent Price is NOT the same story as The Fly with Jeff Goldblum. It’s not really a remake as a retelling.

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See the original. It is rich with emotion and intelligence, not to mention some pretty fine acting for what was really a “B” movie.

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