Classic Sci-Fi: THE FLY

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Matt Donabie hides the jam...


Until just recently I had never watched the original 1958 version of The Fly. I'd always meant to, I really enjoyed the Jeff Goldblum 80s version, but this one had been way down my list of priority viewing as I imagined it would be kind of cheesy and poorly produced. I've seen some of the other 'insect' movies of the time and they are often quite childlike and do leave a lot to be desired.

So what a nice surprise this was! Unlike many of its kind, The Fly didn't have a childish feel. The context may seem silly here, but it's executed with enough skill and handled in a relaxed manner by director Kurt Neumann to set firmly above the rest. Just don't be expecting a monster on the rampage tale, if anything this sci-fi/horror movie verges more towards a sci-fi/psychological terror feel. It's an imaginative story with a certain eeriness contained in its material, rather than full on terror presented in visuals. Yet even though The Fly doesn't scare you witless, it still does provide a couple of memorable and ingenious shocks that are hard to put out of your mind.


After killing her husband Helene Delambre recounts the story of why she did it. Her husband was a scientist who was deeply into his work, and through those long days and weeks he makes a big breakthrough by inventing a teleportation machine that can transmit matter from one spot to another. After some glitches he fine tunes the device and decides to test it by using himself as a guinea pig. While, in the process of this test, a housefly gets caught inside with him. When he emerges from the other capsule he shares its genetic structure and physical attributes.

It's interesting that the film opens with the horrific outcome of Helene's husband Andre, and then it goes into flashback mode where the fate of Dr. Delambre unravels. We're treated with such passionately vivid characters and an interesting set-up which pulls you in by taking a more serious approach, with just a dabble of irony delivered along the way. The talkative first hour slowly builds up to its taut last 30 minutes, where we get a smart and venomously bleak climax (although I could have done without the preachy conclusion).

The script is incredibly dense, and features a surprising amount of quick wit and sincerity. The story is more about a woman trying to save the man she loves as he slowly fights the genetic effects of the fly's DNA. Dr. Delambre may seem hideous on the outside, but inside he is still very much man, for now, and trying his best to keep control of his dying humanity. This is proved by how much he cares for his family's safety when he'd willingly to take his own life for the best of everyone.


In the 1980s version we see the grotesque transformation of scientist to fly, but because of the times and effects available in 1958 we don't see it here. Really this focuses more on the aftermath of the mishap. It's wise that, for the most part, the deformity is kept hidden, but when it is revealed it actually stands up rather well. It's ugly, that's for sure, and very impressive for its time. There is also an inventive touch when we see the creature for the first time with the use of multiple frames representing the reflection from human fly's eyes.

The score plays a very important part in setting the perfect atmosphere, it adds in a forceful touch complete with nice crisp sound effects. The performances are very strong too, from Al Edison, Patricia Owens, and Herbert Marshall, and even though Vincent Price has a supporting role you'll be in awe of his effortlessly suave performance.


All in all, The Fly is an excellent classic of its field. Wisely it is a 'creature feature' which is more concerned with telling a moving and fascinating story than just presenting pointless action and cheap thrills to spice up proceedings. Although the first hour is heavy on dialogue, it's worth putting in the time as the final chapters are really effective cinema.

Matt has a passion for just about anything from the 1980s, and prides himself on never having seen the movie Grease. 
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