The Fly (1958)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-fi
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens, and Vincent Price
Plot: A scientist has a horrific accident when he tries to use his newly invented teleportation device.
Movie Trivia: This became this biggest box-office of director Kurt Neumann’s career, but he never knew it. He died a month after the premier, and only a week before it went into general release.
The opening credits seem to be rolling over technicolor images of dead bugs and fly swatters, which seems fitting. The music seems more romantic that I would expect, but the added buzz of a fly and cymbals do make for an effective, if short, opening credits.
The movie opens with a man coming in to work a graveyard shift at a factory, but he hears machinery running. He goes to investigate and finds a lovely woman, Helene, operating a large hydraulic press. She runs away at the sight of him, and upon closer inspection, he sees that she was using the machine as a weapon of murder. The workers scream becoming the ring of the telephone is very Hitchcock-esque. We cut away to Helene at home making a phone call to her brother-in-law (Vincent Price), stating that she killed Andre, her husband, and needs help. As she hangs up on him he receives a panicked phone call from the worker who stumbled upon the murder. Andre is his brother and he was killed in one of his own factories. Francois makes a frantic call to an inspector and explains the situation in full honesty.
Francois and Inspector Chares arrive back at the scene of the crime. The blood is so very red, almost like paint that as set a little. Red and sticky looking. The scene f the investigation feels pretty standard. We learn that she did kill him, though she claims it was not murder. But she refuses to say why it happened, only how. In the middle of the conversation, a fly begins to buzz through the room and she is immediately entranced, like a cat. She follows it to a lampshade and swats it away, almost as if she is disappointed.
Inspector Chares leaves her abruptly and asks to be shown Andre’s laboratory. It looks destroyed. They discuss the possibilities of what all will happen. One cannot help but notice the occasional buzzing in the background, keeping the title of the film constantly in mind. This is especially noticeable when Vincent Price ends the scene with the line about Andre and Helene not even hurting a fly.
The next scene shows Helene in bed being served breakfast by a nurse. During the conversation it is made known that she does not remember being a mother. Now, this could be an ill played joke or serious, but it seems for the moment like it is left for the viewer to decide. As she begins to eat, a fly begins to buzz around the room and much like before, her attention is caught, almost like a cat. The nurse notices as well and begins to swat at it. Despite all Helene’s pleading she swats the fly down with a rolled newspaper. She breaks down into uncontrollable sobs and is placed back in bed by the nurse.
Through the next scene as Francois and Inspector Chares discuss Helene’s condition, we learn that she indeed does not claim Phillipe as her child and, even more shockingly, that Francois is in love with her but did not marry her because of his brother. The next day a warrant is to be drawn up for Helene’s arrest. Over all, it is not looking too good for Helene. As the next scene unfolds we learn that poor Phillipe does not know of his father’s death. It seems Francois is keeping him in the dark to protect him. Phillipe says that he saw the fly is mother is looking for in Francois’ office. He explains that it is bigger than the last time he saw it and it has a white head instead of black and a funny sort of leg. Francois retire to his office at once to make a call to Inspector Chares, but hangs up as soon as the line connects.
Francois then goes to Helene’s home, lying his way past the nurse and into Helene’s room. He tells Helene that he has trapped the fly in his desk and demands answers from her or else he will turn the fly over to Inspector Chares. She makes him promise that he has it before she will continue. She explains that she was pretending to be mad for Phillipe’s sake and that the fly must be destroyed. She request that Inspector Chares comes to hear the story as well and then we begin the flashback.
Andre comes home excited and pulls Helene down to the lab to show her his newest experiment. He presents a plate that was given to them by and aunt and places it in a chamber on on side of the room. After some scientific knob twirling and button pushing, the plate disappears from the chamber and appears in a chamber on the other side of a door in another room. Andre explains that he transports the atoms through space from one space to another, which immediately brings my mind to Willy Wonka and the giant chocolate bars. All seems to be going well until Helene flips the plate over to show that the Made in Japan stamp has been reversed. Andre immediately goes to work to find out what went wrong, much to Helene’s confusion.
After running through everything and finding it all to be in working order, he decides to try again, this time with a newspaper. It goes perfectly, which gives him a scary new idea to try it with the family cat, putting a saucer of milk in there along with the cat. IT never makes a reappearance, but a ghostly meow and can be heard floating toward the distance. Lesson learned, I do hope. Weeks later he is still trying to work it out. Even taking his wife out has a little distraction in the form of math equations on the ballet program. That evening at home though, he entertains Helene by sending a Champagne set up through the invention, results are perfect yet again. Then he takes a guinea pig to show the next step in his progress. Helene begs him not to, but he assures her it will be fine and sends the pet on through. It works perfectly again. He says that he plans to observe the pet for any ill effects after after that he can determine the experiment a success.
Helene is suddenly overcome with panic about the speed with which technology is being developed. She would be petrified to see where we are today, but I do feel like this is going to be a running theme of the film. As time goes on we see that the pig is doing well, so Andre decides to invite Francois over to show off his neat feat of science. When Francois arrives, he and Helene find a note on the lab door saying that Andre is not to be disturbed. He never comes up, so that evening Helene goes to check on him, finding a note giving her specific instructions to get a bowl of milk laced with rum. She does as she is told and bring it to Andre. His face is covered and he keeps his hand inside his robe. She look for a fly as the note bids her and admits to him that their son, Phillipe, had the fly earlier but Helene forced him to let it go. In a panic, he reveals his misshapen hand that he had kept previously hidden. It is now hairy and slightly shiny and it looks like a claw of some kind. This cause Helene to run from the room screaming. Once she calms down, they decide to resume the search tomorrow after they have both had sleep. Andre also promises to explain.
The next day Andre has a letter typed out for Helene explaining that he was sending himself through the experiment and a fly got into the chamber with him. They swapped atoms and now his only hope is to find the fly and go back through the chamber or he will have to destroy himself. Helene, fearful for her husbands life, promises to help him however she can as long as he stops talking about killing himself. The following scene shows Helene’s apparent decent into madness as she orders all the flies to be caught and sending Phillipe out into the yard to hunt out there. He comes home unsuccessful, but then she spots the white-headed fly she needs. The trap she concocts doesn’t work and the fly escapes through a hole in the window and out into the world. It seems hopeless now.
Andre feels the same but agrees to one last attempt at going through the chamber to reverse the process. Though once he steps out he seems to have no to little will of his own left. He resist the urge to kill her and uses the energy to destroy his lab instead. When she wakes up, Andre convinces her to help him end it. She follows him to the factory where the press is and Andre sets it up to the setting it needs to be at and instructs Helene to stand at the ready. He lays onto the press and silently begs Helene to push the button. She does, and then presses the button again to crush his hand.
Back to the present, Francois seems convinced by her story while Inspector Chares believe this to be proof of her insanity. The next day while on a walk, Francois stops at a bench where a spider has strung its nest. As a bell begins to toll a large fly smacks into the web and you can hear a tiny voice crying for help. As serious as it is meant to be, I could not help but find some humor in the scene. The ambulance arrives to take Helene away, but Phillipe runs up just in time to inform Francois that he found the fly in a spiders web in the garden. Francois grabs Inspector Chares and runs with him to the garden where they see a fly with a mans head. Inspector Chares grabs a rock and smashed both the man-fly and the spider. Francois notes the similarities between the crime he just committed and the one Helene is being charged of. The come up with a plan for it to be seen as suicide and the movie ends with Helene, Francois and Phillipe playing a happy, family game in the yard.
For my first classic creature film, this was not too bad. I am still not a fan of the genre but I would like to see the remake of this with Jeff Goldblum to see what changes were made. I give this film a 3/5 and see myself watching this around Halloween for some classic fun.