Oct 30, 2014

Review: The Fly (1958)

After having seen David Cronenberg's The Fly, it was only a matter of time before I'd see the original 1958 version. While it was certainly gory and special effects laden, it had some pretty significant dramatic touches that made it a pretty tough movie to get through. Add in Jeff Goldblum's superb performance and you've got yourself a sci-fi classic.

Interestingly enough, I've actually already seen a Kurt Neumann directed sci-fi movie before in Kronos. Although fun in a B-movie kind of way, I was expecting a bit more out of The Fly. Based on a short story by George Langelaan which was published in Playboy magazine, I was expecting a lot more in fact. If the remake was so good, then this had to be good as well right?


Genre: horror, sci-fi
Directed by: Kurt Neumann
Produced by: Kurt Neumann, Robert L. Lippert
Written by: James Clavell
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Running time: 94 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Centfox, Fox Film, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English, French
Budget: $495,000
Box office: $3,000,000 (United States)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman, Betty Lou Gerson, Charles Herbert 


On night in Montreal, Quebec, a security guard finds Andre Delambre (David Hedison) crushed by a hydraulic press while his wife Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) flees the scene. The police are brought into the matter as is Andre's brother Francois (Vincent Price). Helene doesn't appear the have any motive for the murder of her husband and she appears to have gone mad. Eventually, Francois is able to convince Helene to tell him as well as Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) what happened. 


One thing that's exciting for me is that the movie is set in my hometown of Montreal. I wasn't expecting that and was thrilled when I saw Montreal on the manufacturing facility belonging to brothers and co-owners of the company Andre and Francois at the very beginning of the movie. The French that's used doesn't have the correct accent, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that Vincent Price has played a Montrealer. 

The film sets itself up with a lot of questions to be answered. Why did Helene kill her husband? Why does she seem to some sort of obsession with flies? What was Andre working on in his laboratory at home? The way in which we get our answers is through a long flashback of everything that happened before Andre's death. It's well integrated and well paced as well. 

It can be said that The Fly has a lot of good camp value. There are some moments that can shrugged off as just being B-movie stuff, but I disagree to a certain extent. If you really think about what's going on in regards to Andre's big dilemma, it's actually quite heart wrenching and there's a big message as well. Is man venturing to close to the sun in terms of scientific advances? That's the question that The Fly puts out there.

Once we know that something has gone wrong with Andre's research, there's a lot of well built tension. Kurt Neumann takes his time in revealing the extent of Andre's plight and makes it far worse once we see what's happened. (Spoilers) I didn't expect the fly costume to have been done so well, but it is. It's also scary to watch Andre walk around with a blanket over his head to hide from his wife just as much as it is when Andre walks around with his fly head revealed. (End Spoilers

A few moments might be shrugged off as being campy as I said, but I was more often struck with a sense of horror than any laughter. (Spoiler) That's especially the case when it's clear that Andre is losing his will, becoming more and more fly which is relayed by typewriter. It might look silly when he's wrestling with his own fly hand, but the implications are no joke. This is a tragedy just as much as Cronenberg's The Fly is. (End Spoilers)

While the easy reaction might be to just see The Fly for the B-movie qualities that it brings, I see it mainly for its horror and dramatic values which are pretty powerful. Kurt Neumann brings a real sense of gravity to the film and proves to be very good at upping up the suspense during critical scenes. The Fly is a different take on the story compared to Cronenberg's version, but both are well worth seeing.



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