It’s time to dig up another 1950’s classic. I’m doing individual reviews of three classic 1950’s Sci-Fi’s, each themed around one of the main Sci-Fi sub-categories, which are exploring the unknown, science experiments gone wrong and alien invasions. Last time I reviewed the 1951 alien invasion classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, now it’s time to cover a film from the next big 1950’s Sci-Fi category, SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS GONE WRONG! Aside from classic Sci-Fi, I also love Horror movies that are ahead of their time, films that are low budget and become legendary. The 1958 original classic “The Fly” blends these two outstanding categories of Sci-Fi and Horror perfectly in one movie. It was based off a short story by George Langelaan and the film follows it beautifully. It had a low budget, small screenings and it was not rated, but that didn’t stop this movie from becoming a classic.
It stars horror movie legend “Vincent Price” as Francois, who gets a call that his brother named Dr. André Delambre has been murdered by his own wife Helene. Francois has a hard time believing that she’s a psychotic murderer, so to prove her sanity, the wife tells everyone a dark and sad story about what drove her to kill her own husband. We learn Andre was a scientist that had created a teleportation device. It draws the audience in right away because it’s such a fascinating idea, you won’t need to us cars or plains again just step in a transporter and be beamed anywhere you need to be. It really makes you consider all the possibilities that can come from something as monumental as this. Although it does sound a little unsettling to have your molecules broken apart, sent through cyber-space and then reassembled some place else. There’s one part where he tests it on a cat but unfortunately it never reassembles, too bad. The doctor claims that her molecules were scattered across cyber space but we still hear the cat purring, so is it still alive and just trapped in some void or is it just invisible, it’s never fully explained. Despite that failed attempt, the transporter begins to work and he feels that it’s time to test it on himself, which only leads to bigger problems.
One day, his wife goes to his lab discovering that he’s wearing a hood. Turns out that when he tested the machine on himself, some of his DNA was mixed with a fly that had flown into the machine during transport. Now his wife has to capture the fly so they can send both of them back through the machine to reclaim their original DNA. It may not sound that scary or exciting but it is actually a pretty engaging film that dose get a little unsettling at times. This movie is completely devoid of clichés and it warns you about the dangers of science similar to “Jurassic Park” or “Frankenstein”. It’s not about a giant fly dominating the world or a half man half monster terrorizing people uncontrollably, it’s a very emotional, sophisticated and sad flick. The doctor is still himself and he speaks to his wife by typing letters and carving words on a chalk board. It’s the most emotional performance I’ve seen with no dialog and the actor named “David Hedison” just gives an amazing and powerful performance just by using his hand motions or body postures. The saddest part is when he tries to right “I love you” on the board but he can’t get himself to do it because the fly part of his brain is taking over. The fly makeup is also really cool, with a lot of moving parts and the actor dose a great job giving it an insect like movement. Then there’s that awesome effect where the fly see’s her screaming and it’s like several shots of the same image all in one frame. There’s also a lot of conflict regarding the transformation, he has only a few days before he loses his mind and the fly has a short life span. This really makes things exciting for the audience.
For such an old film it does a great job holding your attention, from the fascinating topic of teleportation, to the mother and son trying to catch the fly, and not forgetting the awesome screen presence of Vincent Price. He really is a power house actor, he's so genuine and emotional that you can’t take your eyes of him. The laboratory is also really cool with a bunch of blinking equipment and flashy colors. The most famous and disturbing part of the film comes at the very end when they find the fly in a spiders web and he starts crying out “Help me! Help me!” It’s such a creepy and unsettling image and that scream just rings in your ears afterwards. Of cores this became the most memorable part of the film and has been spoofed several times, the first time I ever heard this was a short parody in Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove”.
After the success of this movie there was a sequel called “The Return of the Fly”, again staring Vincent Price. Then there was another one called “The Curse of the Fly”, but it was very distant from the first two. In 1986 there was a spectacular remake (again called “The Fly”) starring Jeff Goldblum. I highly recommend this one because it’s one of the best remakes I’ve ever seen, I’ll leave it at that. This remake actually had a sequel called “The Fly 2” and as far as sequels to remakes go, this wasn't that bad, worth giving a rent. There were all kinds of spoofs and tributes to follow, one example is one of R. L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” story’s, “Why I’m afraid of Bee’s”, in this story a boy accidently gets his mind switched with a bees mind, there body’s are untouched but the bees mind is now in the boy’s body. Now while the boys mind is trapped in the bees body, he needs to find a way to reverse the problem, it’s an ingenious way to put a twist on the story. Then there was a popular episode of “The Simpsons” that parodied every event in the film and it did an excellent job of it.
People now a days tend to find old films like this boring and unexciting but it’s still a wonderful piece of science fiction/horror cinema and very recommendable to people who love classics. To sum things up, if you would like to see a classic Sci-Fi/Horror film that (in my opinion) rises above a typical, cliché B monster movie, then check it out.
I give “The Fly” 3 ½ stars.
Stay tuned for my third review, we’ll be exploring the unknown in the 1959 classic “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.