Review Day 04: The Fly (1958)
The Fly (1958) is a classic of sci-fi and horror cinema, spawning two sequels and a remake the story is an intriguing one. The 1950’s was a great era for the two different genre’s and this particular story offered something a little different to the usual giant monster or UFO saga. Based on the short story by George Langelaan, The Fly takes a look at the horrors of science when an experiment doesn’t go to plan and the lengths one will go to to fix the ultimate mistake.
The film begins with a mysterious murder at a factory, Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) phones her brother in law François Delambre (Vincent Price) stating she has killed her husband Andre Delambre (David Hedison). François is most horrified by the revelation and calls Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) to try and determined what has happened. Both Helene and Andre seemed happy with their young son Phillippe (Charles Herbet) and Andre was busy in his lab, Helene murdering him makes no sense. As some clues arise when Helene becomes obsessed with a fly and Phillippe also makes mention of said fly, François decides to trick Helene into revealing what happened and why Andre is dead. As Helene recounts the weeks leading up to the murder, the experiment Andre was working on is revealed to be not only groundbreaking but highly dangerous with terrifying results.
What makes this such a unique experience is how the story is told, the big event happens first and much like the characters the audience is taken into a mystery that doesn’t start to unravel well into the film. The approach is the same as the short story, and watching it unfold the way it does certainly keeps the viewer hooked. Once the flashback begins as to what happens, we finally get to meet Andre and discover he is a passionate scientist with an incredible break through. He has invented a teleportation device, placing an object in one box it will materialize in another box in a different room. He struggles to understand why there are issues when trying to teleport living beings, he invents a bigger machine in order to be able to teleport a person. It is in this experiment that something goes very wrong and Andre has become spliced with a simple fly, and in order to reverse what has happened the fly needs to be found.
The science shown within the film would later be used for Star Trek with transporters, the film was certainly ahead of its time with its thinking. The splicing of a human and a fly is not the most pleasant thought, and this becomes far more horrific than shown here with David Cronenberg’s remake. The performances in the film are all mostly quite good, with Vincent Price being a stand out, the man had an incredible screen presence and was able to disappear into any character he portrayed. Patricia Owens is really solid, some of her over acting leads to a few cheesy moments but they still work within the film. David Hedison perhaps had the most difficult role, having to act under a cloth hiding his face for some of his screen time. He was able to convey a lot of emotion and passion and made for a good choice with casting. Herbert Marshall is well cast and delivers a nice performance, he was a welcome addition here. Perhaps the only lesser performance was from Charles Herbert, however he was young at the time and certainly tried hard.
It is remarkable what this film achieved, elevating itself above a B-grade film, having good performances, a clever story, a shock twist ending and staying grounded where possible. There are some flaws, the pacing is hit and miss and some scene’s perhaps could have been edited a bit tighter. While the remake may technically be a better film, they are very different in many ways. They tell different stories and have different meanings, and watching both back to back would make for a very interesting viewing experience. The Fly is a great film, and deserves to be known as a classic.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea