The Fly (1958)


Help Meeeee!  Help Meeeeeee!

When I reviewed the remake of The Fly, I found myself extremely disappointed.  Not in the movie or in the review, but at something that was missing from the movie.  Before seeing it, I knew only the basic premise and one simple line that came to represent the movie in only two words: Help me.  And when I watched the remake, I was waiting for that line to show up throughout the entire movie, only to be extremely saddened when it never came.  When I did some research, I found that the line was actually from the original 1958 version of The Fly, and was not included (at least not in the goofy way that is always parodied) in the remake.  This only cemented the idea with me that I needed to see the original.  And, since it is also available on Netflix streaming, it took me no time to get myself satisfied.  Amazing how often the internet is able to help me satisfy myself immediately, isn’t it?  … Anyways, today’s movie is the original version of The Fly, written by James Clavell, directed by Kurt Neumann, and starring Patricia Owens, David Hedison, Vincent Price, Charles Herbert, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman, and Betty Lou Gerson.

Scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison), and the paste that used to be his head and arm, are found inside a hydraulic press, with his wife Helene (Patricia Owens) standing at the controls.  She confesses to the murder, but refuses to provide any reason for it.  The loss of her husband has been replaced with a new fascination with flies.  They instantly capture her attention, but she’s always disappointed when she inevitably finds out that their head and arms are not white.  So, obviously, we all assume she’s nuts.  Eventually, her son Phillipe (Charles Herbert) lets slip to Andre’s brother Francois (Vincent Price) that Helene told him to capture the white headed fly and bring it to her, but never why.  Confronted with this information, Helene confesses what actually happened to Andre to Francois and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall).  Andre had been working on a matter teleporter, but had only been able to transport inanimate objects, though they would be a little off, like when he teleported a plate and the “Made in Japan” logo appeared like a mirror image when it came through.  As he tries to fix it, he accidentally disintegrates the family’s cat, which can somehow still meow when turned into atoms.  Eventually, he safely transports a gerbil into Richard Gere’s butt.  And then, without explanation, Joe locks himself in his lab and won’t receive visitors.  Eventually, he tells Helene through notes passed under the door that he had an accident and can’t speak, but he desperately needs her to locate and capture a fly with a white head and arms.  Turns out, Andre tried to teleport himself but there was a fly in the machine.  He came through on the other side, his head and arm switched with the fly’s own.  And, unless Helene can catch the fly so he can fix it, he needs her to kill him.  I wonder how this will turn out …

I really cannot say what has made this movie such an enduring classic.  Very little of this movie worked for me.  Perhaps it’s just because I’ve already seen the remake, and most of what they changed for that movie made a lot more sense to me and made itself more interesting.  I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed the setup of the movie more had I not made the mistake of reading the basic premise before watching the movie, but really having any idea about the movie kind of spoils that.  You don’t need much more information than the title of the movie to allow the movie to spoil itself.  You know it’s called the fly, by this point you probably know that they get their DNA mixed together, and the movie starts at the end, with Helene apparently killing Andre.  After that, the rest of the story just falls into place.  It’s interesting enough, but kills all chances of surprise with the way it’s edited.  On a positive note, this movie did in fact feature the line I was looking for.  And, just to cement my reasoning to see the movie based on that quote, it came up coincidentally in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie I was watching as I’m writing this very review.  I’m pretty sure they use it almost every time there’s a bug in distress.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  The quote comes up at the very end of the movie when, after Andre is already dead, they finally find the fly that has his head and arms on it.  It’s trapped in the web of a spider, seconds from being devoured, and it’s screaming in a tiny, high pitched voice, “Help meeeeee.  Help meeeee.”  It looks goofy and was more comical than anything else, but at least I got to hear the quote and see the movie it was originally from.  ::END SPOILERS::

The look must be given some forgiveness because it came out in 1958, but it didn’t really work for me either.  The fly was basically just a real fly with nail polish on its head, the human fly looked a little like a fly, but was more cute than scary, and the science-y stuff was what you would expect out of a 50’s movie.  Their policy was mainly just to get as many flashing lights and multicolored neon tubes, and play some Theremin noises.  I don’t know how a reel to reel player would help a teleportation machine, but they had their idea for how it would happen, I guess.  But the looks of the two flies got on my nerves, not for the production of them, but for the idea of them.  In the remake of the movie, they were combined on a cellular level by the machine.  This seems somehow logical.  In the original, the fly and the scientist exchange heads and one arm.  This would be fine if the movie ended right at this point because the fly with the giant head and arm and the human with a tiny and nearly invisible head and arm would both die immediately, solving the problem.  Instead of going that way, the machine decided that the basic shape and design of the head was the important part to duplicate, not so much the size.  And with their brains being exchanged as well, it probably wouldn’t have fit in the head of the fly.  I never really got behind the idea of the fly’s instincts taking over Andre either, mainly because it only seemed to manifest itself as the fly fucking with the rest of him, like grabbing his arm when he was trying to type.  I half expected it to take his arm and start doing the whole “Quit hitting yourself” thing to him.

I can’t really say I cared for any of the performances in this movie either.  The first thing that started getting on my nerves was that they were supposed to be in France, and every character was supposed to be French, but all they could really muster was one word a piece in French.  Once every 20 minutes or so, a character would say something like, “That is terrible!” but with terrible being pronounced as it would be in French, like teh-ree-blay.  I don’t need them to speak a lot in French, but you can also not bother having them speak French at all.  And you can just have the movie not be set in France because they never really left the house of the scientist anyway.  Patricia Owens had to do most of the carrying of this movie, but never really seemed that up to the task.  I suppose it wasn’t really her fault, but she didn’t impress.  This movie made me realize that every actress had the exact same crying technique.  To cry, you need only to drape yourself sideways over something like a desk or a bannister, bury your face in crook of your arm, and make weeping noises.  Every girl does this exact thing when crying in these old movies.  And Owens does it around three times in this movie alone.  Also, as this movie is kind of a horror movie, you know that she’ll have to scream.  Her scream sounded really weird, and probably a few octaves deeper than it should have.  She also annoyed me when she grabbed the fly net away from her son to try to catch the fly because he had already caught half a jar full of flies and she was unable to catch one.  Maybe you should leave it to the pro, honey.  This is going to sound weird, but I actually liked the way David Hedison acted when he was the fly, even though he couldn’t speak or even show his face.  He didn’t do anything impressive when he had his face, so they covered it up with a blanket and said that it looked like fly under there.  But they worked out a method of communication for him involving typing, writing on a chalkboard, and knocking on a desk for yes and no.  But his body language was well-executed so that he could still act even without the use of his face.  Even Vincent Price didn’t impress me in this movie.  I don’t think this is the type of movie that he really shined in.  It’s kind of a horror movie, but he wasn’t trying to be spooky in it.  From what I’ve gathered about him, that’s what he’s best at.  In this one, he just had to be really concerned and mopey all the time, and it didn’t really work for me.

The greater majority of critics love this movie, but I honestly can’t tell why.  The premise is an interesting idea, but they pretty much spoil the entire movie for themselves in the first few minutes of the movie, ruining any chance for surprise.  You can’t expect much from the look of such an older movie, but you can at least try to explain how the fly’s head grew and the human’s head shrunk.  None of the performances are able to impress me much in this movie either.  In my opinion, skip this one and watch the remake with Jeff Goldblum.  If you really want, you can catch both on Netflix streaming, but I think the only part about this movie worth watching is the quote that made me watch it to begin with.  The Fly gets “It’d be funny if life wasn’t so sacred” out of “Did your brother ever experiment with animals?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Fly (1986)


Am I Becoming a 185-Pound Fly?

Today’s movie is considered a classic.  Or, perhaps more accurately, a remake of a classic that then became a classic itself.  But, it’s also a movie I have never seen.  I find that I missed out on a great many classic movies because there was violence in it and my mother was hemophobic.  No, my mom doesn’t hate gays and I hit the wrong button from time to time.  My mom always claimed that she faints at the sight of blood because she is so afraid of it.  I’ve seen her do it a time or two in my lifetime.  And since she was my mother and necessary to get into rated R movies, I missed out on some classic movies just because of violence.  I’m trying to rectify that in my adulthood, but remembering all of the movies that I need to see can be difficult.  Friends of mine had to remind me to finally watch Jaws a few years back, and I loved it.  And when I saw today’s movie was available on Netflix streaming, I felt like it was time to get this classic horror/science fiction movie under my belt.  This movie is The Fly, written by Charles Edward Pogue, written and directed by David Cronenberg, and starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, and Les Carlson.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) lures a vaguely pretty girl named Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) back to his warehouse with the promise that he has invented something that will change the world.  When they get there, Brundle shows Veronica that he’s invented a teleportation machine, currently capable of teleporting inanimate material from one pod to another in the same room, but that’s still an accomplishment.  Veronica turns out to be a journalist and is going to break the story until Brundle suggests that she wait until he’s able to transport living material, and he’ll let her record the process so that she can do more than just write a measly article about it.  They try to teleport a baboon, but it gets turned inside out and was none too happy about it.  Brundle and Veronica start developing a relationship, probably to make up for the relationship he just lost with the baboon.  Over pillow talk, Veronica says something that helps Brundle figure out how to transport living material, and he successfully does so.  When something leads Veronica to go talk to her editor and former lover, Stathis Borans (John Getz), Brundle starts to get jealous and drunk simultaneously.  In his inebriation, he decides it’s time to try this mamma jamma out on himself.  Unbeknownst to him, a fly gets into the telepod with him, but doesn’t get out the other side when he does.  He starts to notice changes in himself after this, all of them positive at first.  He concludes that the machine purified him of any imperfections, but Veronica starts to think something else is going on.

This was a pretty cool movie, and I think it holds up pretty well.  The story is a cool idea, though I think they took the main part of it from the original movie.  The basic premise of the teleporter mashing up a guy with a fly was taken from the original, but I’m fairly sure the bulk of the movie was original.  At first, the story comes off like they’re remaking Spiderman and telling his origin story.  He becomes stronger and more agile, and even gets more virile in the bedroom.  So what if he has a couple of gross hairs growing out of his back?  This guy fucks like a champ!  I got confused by some of this stuff because it’s not something I’d normally associate with a common household fly.  I know that they digest their food by vomiting on it and drinking the liquid.  I don’t know that the stuff could melt through a human hand in a matter of seconds, but it’s based enough in logic for me.  And they can also climb walls.  I’ve seen them do that.  I guess you could even call them agile because they fly.  But what makes them super strong and really good at fucking?  Every time I’ve watched flies have sex (and it’s happened more than once), it’s usually over pretty quickly.  And why does he never develop wings and nothing ever comes from his eyes being split into sections?  I think it’s arguable that flies are super strong, but I’m pretty sure it’s inarguable that flies can fly.  But then it starts turning sour as he starts resenting that Veronica won’t go through the machine and become more awesome like him, and his transformation starts getting worse and worse.  I found myself wondering how he wasn’t able to fix himself when he finally decided that he wanted to.  He was able to get the machine to tell him that he was combined with a fly, and it seemed to know which one was which.  I don’t know why he couldn’t just tell the computer to remember what Brundle was and what the fly was and just reassemble me with slightly less fly.  Though it takes some time to get there, the movie turns into a pretty good horror and science fiction movie by the end.  I thought it was weird that they kept throwing in new plot twists up until about 10 minutes from the end of the movie.  Usually you get all of that stuff out of the way by act two and then act three is all wrap up, but it worked out okay.  The look really holds up in this movie too, which made me even more surprised to see that it came out in 1986.  The teleportation effects were cool, the fly transformation was icky but convincing, and even the computer stuff was not horribly dated.  I had a couple more thoughts, but they require  ::SPOILER ALERT::  I did, however, take issue with the fact that Veronica was actually unsure about getting an abortion.  Fer reals?  You’re seriously thinking about giving birth to something with fly DNA?  How are you going to explain that to people?  I understand that abortion is a big issue and some people are completely against it, but I feel like those same people would be more malleable if the baby would most likely not be human.  And how does Brundle reach the conclusion that the best solution for everyone’s troubles is to fuse himself with Veronica and his unborn child?  Fusing has not worked out very well for you so far and, if their consciousness remains at all, I’m pretty sure one of the worst things you could do with yourself is force a woman to do something that means she’ll be able to nag you from inside your brain for the rest of your ungodly life.  ::END SPOILERS::

I liked pretty much every performance in this movie, which was easy because there are really only three people with significant enough parts to warrant a mention.  Jeff Goldblum was pretty great.  He starts off the movie acting like … well … like Jeff Goldblum.  You know the way.  The way he acts in almost every movie.  But his performance does change pretty drastically as he starts turning into Brundlefly.  At first it makes him a dick, then it makes him a little bit scary, then it makes him frail, and then he ends up a lotta bit scary.  Geena Davis did a fine job, but didn’t really blow my mind or anything.  John Getz sets himself as a super scummy dude really quickly and I hated him for the first 90% of the movie, but then he takes a strange turn to be almost heroic in the end of the movie.  I guess that could be held in contrast to Goldblum’s character.

Though I was late in doing so, I was happy to finally get to The Fly.  I really liked the story, I thought it made a pretty interesting horror and sci-fi movie, it looked much better than I would’ve expected from the time, and I liked the greater majority of the performances.  It’s definitely a cool enough movie that everyone should give it a shot.  Especially since you can stream it on Netflix right now.  The Fly gets “Are you some sort of magician?” out of “The medicine cabinet is now the Brundle Museum of Natural History.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.