Curse of the Fly Review

Curse of the Fly opens in beguiling fashion. In slow motion, black and white and Cinemascope we witness a young woman escape a mental hospital in nothing but her underwear. It’s a strangely dreamlike image, undoubtedly odd and perhaps even a little risqué. More pertinently it’s not what we’d expect from a second sequel to a moderately budgeted sci-fi/horror flick. Curse of the Fly should be no better, nor any more polished, than a standard Bert I Gordon venture from around the same period. And yet it’s far more interesting than that, full as it is of strange developments occurring on both sides of the camera.

Besides the perhaps unexpected decision to shoot the film in ’scope, we also discover a largely British bent to proceedings. Don Sharp, at this point in his career best known for a pair of fine Fu Manchu yarns with Christopher Lee, was roped in to direct; the whole enterprise was shot at Shepperton Studios, in spite of (or perhaps explaining) the Canadian setting; and a number of British character actors, including such reliably recognisable faces as George Baker and Burt Kwouk, make up the cast list. Futhermore, the backing from 20th Century Fox allows the film to have that extra gleam not available to the UK’s own sci-fi/horror efforts at the time. Certainly, the SFX are, on the whole, a little on the cheap side relatively speaking, but not in the expected B-movie sense; here we find a respectable gloss courtesy of the major studio connections.

That said, the plotting is as wilful and ramshackle as any of its contemporary B pictures. There’s certainly no equivalent ironing out of the creases here, but what feels like a dozen different narratives each vying for attention. Firstly it’s worth mentioning that flies have no direct connection to what is going on. Rather we have familial connections to the Delambres who populated the previous instalments (1958’s The Fly and its first sequel The Return of the Fly from 1959) and further efforts to perfect a transportation device. Indeed, you could argue that it’s this lack of any explicit referencing to insects which has led the plotting to become so wayward – perhaps its creators tried too hard to find a suitable alternative and so ended up with the grab bag of ideas which appears before us. Not that this should necessarily be seen as a disadvantage, however, for there’s more than enough on display to occupy our attentions during Curse of the Fly’s briefest of running times. Not only do we the usual mad scientist shenanigans (“Look at your body! Do you call that success?”), but also overwrought family tensions between the different generations of lab coats (“I wanna life of my own!”), the aforementioned poshly-spoken and piano-playing escapee mental patient (“Her parents are dead. She has no friends.”), an imprisoned mutant ex-wife and exchange student (“They’re no longer humans… they’re just suffering animals!”), and, oddest of all, a number of overly liberal steals from Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca replete with Sapphic overtones. As said, Curse of the Fly isn’t exactly what you’d expect of it, but whilst no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it does at least make for strangely fascinating viewing.

The Disc

Released in the UK as a stand alone disc (in the US the film came as part of a triple-pack with the other two pre-Cronenberg instalments), Curse of the Fly DVD incarnation as it stands here is somewhat underwhelming. In terms of the presentation we get the film in its original ’scope ratio, anamorphically enhanced of course, but sadly the print is showing signs of age. Whilst the contrast levels are fine and the clarity similarly acceptable, there is a certain graininess to the image and a moderate flicker on occasion. Certainly it’s more than acceptable, but given Fox’s standards, no matter what the age or perceived quality of the film, this may strike some as a little disappointing. Similarly, the soundtrack is more than adequate in its DD2.0 form, but then this isn’t the 4.0 option which should be available given that Curse of the Fly is a Cinemascope picture. Furthermore, the extras are so thin so as to be almost non-existent: a pair of weblinks, for DVD-ROM enabled viewers, to Fox’s British and Australian websites.

6 out of 10
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Last updated: 19/04/2018 04:44:51

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