The Fly (1958)
Review by Jude Felton
In the ever infernal debacle that rages online about remakes, there is one that stands proudly as superior to the original, and that is David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of The Fly. Now, you may be shouting out about John Carpenter’s The Thing, but I see that as much an adaptation as a remake of Howard Hawkes 1951 movie The Thing from Another World, so in my opinion it’s The Fly, even though the 1958 movie The Fly was based on a short story. Either way, it’s a point that could be argued endlessly, and no doubt will be.
One thing about Cronenberg’s remake is that it was a film born of passion and not the dollar sign. The Canadian maestro is a fan of horror, and treated the material with respect, and it was also made when remakes weren’t the norm. The end result was a masterpiece of body horror. What of the 1958 Kurt Neumann directed film though?
Well, 20th Century Fox Studio Classics have at last given the original film the HD treatment, and released it on shiny Blu-ray, and what a camp treat it is. Even though the remake surpassed its source material, there is still plenty to love about this delightful movie. For a start, it stars Vincent Price, and if that’s not enough I don’t know what is.
The film starts with Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) phoning Francois Delambre (Vincent Price) and confessing to killing her husband Andre. Not murdering, I might hasten to add, but killing him nonetheless. Francois can’t believe it, and even tells the police that it is not in her nature to commit such an act. Helene is incredibly calm about what has happened, yet she still won’t fully divulge what happened. Not yet, anyway.
When she does finally succumb, and agrees to tell the story of how she came to kill her husband, we get taken back in time to learn of Andre’s experiments in the basement of their house. Now, we aren’t taking the Doctor Frankenstein route here, instead he is working on teleportation of solid matter, which eventually results in his experiment with living creatures, such as himself.
It’s here that things go pear-shaped, when a fly get caught in the teleportation chamber, resulting in two hybrid creatures, and Helene’s attempts to help her husband.
The Fly really is a strange and charming little movie. There’s an element of campiness to the entire film and, while it never descends into comedy, it’s never quite as dark as it probably should be. Well, not until very late in the film, when a scene on a park bench is truly creepy and quite disturbing.
Price, as ever, is a joy to watch, and for once plays the ‘good’ guy. In fact it was quite strange to watch the film again and see him in such a straight role. David Hedison, as Andre, is perfect in his role, and even dons the ‘Fly’ costume himself, whilst Owens gives a truly convincing performance as Helene. All being said, this is a wonderful movie, albeit one from a different age, and it has indeed aged, but a joy to watch nonetheless.
The new Blu-ray release is quite the beauty too, in my opinion, with the picture quality really emphasizing the bright Cinemascope images and giving it a nice clarity. This is a film that’s well over 50 years old, and it looks and sounds great. There are also a few worthy extras contained on the disc, including an Audio Commentary from David Hedison and Film Historian David Del Valle, and a couple of other cool bits and bobs.
All in all, The Fly, especially this release, is well worth your time and is definitely worth picking up. It’s not a great film, but it is most enjoyable and in its own way is a precursor of the body horrors to come in the 70s. Camp and daft, but also creepy and unsettling, The Fly on Blu-ray is definitely something you want in your collection.
The Fly is available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Studio Classics now.