The Fly (1958) / Return Of The Fly (1959) Review
THE FLY (1958)
Forget the gory Cronenberg remake, The Fly was first released as a film in 1958, starring amongst others Vincent Price. As long as you suspend your disbelief, The Fly is a classic fifties science-fiction B-Movie in the best possible tradition.
Plot-wise, The Fly is already legendary - Scientist Andre Delambre's (Al Hedison) dead body has been found at his factory; his arm and head crushed by a hydraulic press. His wife Helene (Patricia Owens) readily admits operating the press, but the police think she's mad, as she bizarrely refuses to reveal why she killed her husband. Andre’s brother Francois (Vincent Price), who is extremely close to the couple, persists in his quest for the truth and manages to force Helene to reveal what actually happened. Helene revealed that Andre had been experimenting with a matter teleportation device that could transport living objects to another destination instantly. Unfortunately for Andre, a freak accident occurred whilst testing the device on himself, and his DNA has been spliced with that of a stray fly that had stumbled into the transportation device. While Andre slowly loses his grip on humanity, Helene must race against time to capture the fly that contains half of Andre's DNA.
The plot is great and yet deeply flawed if you apply simple science. Without wishing to enter into the debate on the disregards for nature the film has, one simply must criticise the notion that both the mishmashed Andre and the mishmashed fly seem to have David's identity and persona. This was more successfully tackled in Cronenberg's remake, in which the splicing together of DNA between the fly and the protagonist resulted in one combined being. Even so, scientists have launched many criticisms at the film for failing to understand the natural habits of a fly. This doesn't really matter, as the film works fantastically well on the schlock level it aims for. It's arguably one of the best science-fiction films of the nineteen fifties, rivalling Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet and War Of The Worlds. The special effects are fantastic considering the film's age, and the film should be respected for not shirking away when it comes to showing us the hideous results of Andre's fly-mashed body. Indeed, what is so funny about the film is the fact that it ultimately remains a familial drama, as opposed to a science-fiction horror, and that is why The Fly works so effectively.
The two lead performances are quite acceptable; Al Hedison is convincing as obsessed scientist Andre, even if he only has to properly act in the first half of the film. Patricia Owens is wonderfully neurotic in the best fifties sense, content to take pills and scream hysterically whenever situations call for it. It's interesting that Vincent Price was given the serious role, as opposed to playing Andre. Price as Francois is very compelling to watch, and there is no reason why The Fly cannot be considered one of his best career moments. There's always a sense of distrust when watching Price in full swing, even if the actor manages to convey a perfect likeable quality nonetheless.
The directing by Kurt Neumann is very rigid and mechanical, almost as if he doesn't actually know what type of film he is directing. It's no wonder that Cronenberg chose to update the film, as The Fly as a premise is almost begging for visual indulgence. Despite this, Neumann has turned in a fine film that has outlived some of the worthier contemporary movies.
The Fly is a classic in the best sense of wacky fifties science-fiction, and is a deserved and enjoyable must-see movie from an a relatively mundane era.
Presented in widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1, the transfer is mostly fine but does exhibit extremely dated colour tones and muted contrast. Some slight grain can be noticed, but the transfer is free of any artefacts. Even so, it's refreshing to see the film in it's original aspect ratio for a change, and it's doubtful if this transfer can be bettered.
Claimed on the packaging to have been presented in Dolby 4.0 Surround, the sound mix feels more like a 2.0 surround mix, with no rear sound action and a few surround events noticeable at the front channels. Even so, the sound track is heavily audible and contains a few spatial sound channellings.
Menu: A static and dull-coloured menu with a few painted images reflecting the tone of the film.
Packaging: A different cover artwork to the Region 1 version, and a better packaged DVD, as the two film's are spread over two discs as opposed to occupying two sides of a disc on Region 1. The second disc is housed on a slot that attached to the single transparent amaray, and chapter listings are printed on the reverse of the inlay.
Original Theatrical Trailer: An excellent and collectible 1958 trailer for the film, showing Vincent Price talking directly to the audience. The trailer doesn't reveal much of the film, but is still enticing enough.
An classic science-fiction B-Movie that deserves a viewing no matter what your taste in films, given a good picture and sound presentation. It is a pity that the only extra is the trailer; The Region 1 version contained trailers for other Fox science-fiction films.
RETURN OF THE FLY (1959)
Sequels are often obligatory if the original film makes any money, and this is particularly evident if the original belonged to either the science-fiction or horror genres. A year after The Fly was released, a cheaper, inferior sequel was produced, and maintained Vincent Price yet dropped any of the other cast participants. The sequel was even shot in black-and-white, which is quite an odd decision considering The Fly was shot in colour.
Set years after the horrific events of the first film, Return Of The Fly tells the story of Andre and Helene's son Phillipe (Brett Halsey) who has been forever determined to follow in his father's footsteps. Under the watchful guidance of uncle Francois (Vincent Price) and best friend Ron (David Frankham), Phillipe aims to carry on the research that proved fatal to his father. However, someone is putting a spanner in the works, and it isn't long before history is repeating itself all over again.
Return Of The Fly is a film you'd expect The Fly to be like - cheap, tacky and devoid of any decent plot structure. It's essentially a rehash of the original's plot, with a few scenes featuring Vincent Price in an effort to give the film a sense of continuation from the original. The film only lasts for an hour and fifteen minutes, and yet is plodding and too lengthy for the most part. The production design is more ambitious, and the stark black-and-white imagery seems to have dated less than the original's colour tones, but this appears to be the only thing going for Return Of The Fly.
Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, this black-and-white print had dated far less than the original colour film, and images are vivid with a good white tone and pleasing contrast.
Presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround, the sound track is essentially mono other than a few musical cues, which are given left/right stereo and a few ambient noises such as rain falling, and cars driving by.
Menu: A static and slightly brighter coloured menu with a few painted images reflecting the tone of the film.
Packaging: See description of The Fly.
Original Theatrical Trailer: A boring exploitative trailer cashing in on the first film's success and content to just show the audience all of the best portions of the film to let them know what they were getting.
Return Of The Fly is at best a watchable sequel to a classic original film. It lacks any important dramatic qualities, and isn't even fun to watch as a bad movie, a somewhat prerequisite characteristic of any film in the genre.
The best way to approach this DVD is to see it like you are buying it for the fantastic original and that you get the sequel banded with it as an extra. The picture and sound qualities of the films are very good, and at least the two films each have their own disc unlike the Region 1. The RRP is quite cheap as well, ensuring that if you love fifties/sixties science-fiction then this package might be an excellent choice to add to your collection.
Last updated: 14/05/2018 15:51:36