Cinema Sunday: The Fly (1958)
Title: The Fly
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Writer: James Clavell (Screenplay), original story by George Langelaan
Director: Kurt Neumann
Producer: Kurt Neumann
Starring: Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall
Release: August 1958
OK, so, I know this film isn’t exactly in the same sub-genre as the three previous films I reviewed this month, BUT it does have a monster that kind of fits the bill. Oh, and it has Vincent Price, so it’s automatically worth watching. Even though Price isn’t the main character in this film, his presence is enough to vault this movie into the awesome category!
Without giving too much away, this film features a gruesome beginning, and then the rest is in flashback. A couple of twists at the ens definitely make this film one I’ll never forget. Well, at least the famous line from one particular scene! Alright, let us journey back in time to 1958…
The movie begins with a night watchman, as he’s making his rounds at an electronics factory. He hears a piece of equipment being operated, and heads in the general direction to investigate. As he opens a door, a young woman (Patricia Owens) looks at him, then dashes off through the back door. The man discovers that she was apparently operating an industrial press, and there’s a man squished underneath it! The next scene shows the same woman, making a phone call to the owner of the factory, Francois Delambre (Vincent Price), claiming that she’s killed her husband, who happens to be Francois’s brother. At first he thinks it’s a joke, but then she reiterates what she’s done, and he quickly calls an inspector friend of his, Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) to help him out of this situation.
The inspector shows up with the coroner and few other policemen. They see that Mrs. Delambre wasn’t just telling some crazy story, as we see a body, half squished under the press. Francois is shocked, and tells them that his brother had a big scar on his left leg, so they can identify the body (the head and left arm are underneath the press). The scar is found and Francois is grief-stricken. They then travel to the home of Mrs. Delambre, to question her about the nights events. She tells them that she activated the press, and exactly how she did it, showing that it very well could’ve been her. The Inspector asks her why she did it, and she tells him that she can’t answer that question. He asks another question, and again, she refuses to answer. He then tells Francois and the doctor to give them a moment alone. He questions her further on the events at the factory, but she’s still very mysterious about her motive. She does get rattled when a fly enters the room, and the inspector notices this immediately.
The inspector decides on the advice of the doctor, to let her rest, and see if her mind improves (they think her insane). He and Francois then check out his lab, and see that it has been wrecked for some reason. Francois can’t believe it, because his brother was always so careful with the equipment. The inspector then asks Francois if his brother ever used animals in his experiments, and Francois tells him no. He then asks about insects, and Francois pauses for a moment, then tells the inspector that his brother wouldn’t even hurt a fly.
A few days later, the police have sent in a “nurse” to keep an eye on Helene. Everything seems to be fine, until a fly enters the room. Helene is very agitated, and the nurse tells her to not worry, because she’ll kill it. Just as she swats it with a newspaper, Helene screams out in agony, and smashes her breakfast tray. She crumples to the floor, sobbing. The nurse puts her back in bed, and calls the doctor. They can’t understand the situation, and Francois wants to speak with her. The doctor asks Francois if he’s in love with Helene, and he says yes. he admits to loving her, but not interfering with his brother. The doctor tells Francois that he’ll recommend to the police that Helene is guilty, by reason of insanity. At dinner, Francois talks with Phillipe (Helene’s son), and the boy tells Francois that his mother was looking for a specific fly, one with a white head. The boy says that she asked him to look for it the day his father disappeared. Francois stiffens, and realizes that something rather heinous is afoot.
Francois then goes to Helene’s house to speak with her and after some prodding, she relents and tells him the story of what really happened to her husband…
The two men sit and listen to her story. She tells them that a few months ago, her husband, Andre (Al Hedison), was working on a secret project, but invited his wife into the lab to see the results of his latest experiment. He’s invented a molecular/matter displacement device, but not yet perfected it. He demonstrates it by using a plate with writing on the bottom of it. He turns on the machine, and it transfers the plate from one cabinet, across the room to another. Helene is fascinated but thinks it’s a trick. He assures her it isn’t, and they both are very excited. She looks at the bottom of the plate though, and the writing is backwards. He realizes this is a stumbling block, and immediately works on perfecting the process.
A few weeks later, he thinks he’s done just that, but wants to test something else, something living. He uses the family cat, but with varying results. The cat is placed in the cabinet, but doesn’t make it to the other one. He hears the cat crying out, but we never see where it ended up. Days later, Andre bursts out of his lab, claiming success. He takes Helene to the ballet to celebrate, then home to see his latest accomplishment. He puts some champagne in the machine, and transfers it to the other cabinet without any problems. Next, he uses the little boy’s pet guinea pig, and at first, Helene is upset, and doesn’t want him to do it. He convinces her it will be fine, and then he shows her it is, and transfers the animal. He does tell her about the cat, and she makes him promise to not use animals anymore.
A few weeks later, Francois is coming over for lunch, and Andre is ready to unveil his new invention. Helene and Francois head downstairs to the lab, but there’s a note on the door, saying that he wont be up for lunch. At that moment, Phillipe runs in and calls to his mother. He tells her that he’s caught a fly, and not just any fly, but one with a white head, and a white leg. She tells him to run along, not thinking anything of the boy’s exuberance. The boy then releases the fly, and walks away sad about the situation. Later, the maid tells Helene that Andre didn’t eat his supper, and Helene wonders why not. She goes downstairs to investigate, and calls to Andre. he doesn’t answer, and she’s perplexed. She sees a note that was slipped under the door, and reads that he’s had a terrible accident. He asks for some milk, and she gets it, and the note also says to leave the milk on his desk, but not to bother him. It says that he’s looking for a fly, but not just any fly, but one with a white head!
Will Andre be able to reverse the horror that he’s created? I hope you’re not in the mood for a happy ending…
OK, here are my thoughts:
If there’s anyone out there that hasn’t seen this flick yet, please, do yourself a favor and check this out. The three main players in this film are fantastic, and never waver in their performances. Of course, Price really commands the scenes he’s a part of, but he’s more of a secondary character in this one. You can’t honestly find anything wrong with this film. The acting, sets, music, everything, is top-notch here. The make-up is nothing short of brilliant for the 1950’s, and we have Ben Nye (RIP) to thank for that. Just incredible work by that man.
Even fans of newer films of this genre will appreciate this one.It would be impossible to not like this film, because of its simplicity, but over abundance of great moments that will never leave your mind after watching it. Do yourself a favor, check out Netflix or grab this one in a DVD bin at a Big Box store. it’s well worth whatever they’re asking, trust me! The fact that the film has a beautiful leading lady doesn’t hurt either!