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arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

* THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)Mark Leeper
+- Re: THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)Ignatios Souvatzis
`- Re: THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)T987654321

THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)


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Subject: THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
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 by: Mark Leeper - Thu, 18 Nov 2021 14:13 UTC

THE FLY (1958) is a film that surprised even its producers. They
knew the story was a little silly and expected only a modest return
on the film from a mostly young audience. Even the film's name
stars, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall, could not take THE FLY
seriously. The audience, on the other hand, found that there was
much to respond to in the film. THE FLY cost $350,000 to make and
grossed $3,000,000 on its release, considerably outstripping any
expectation. Based on results of this film 20th Century Fox went
on to make several other science fiction films. I would contend
that the reason this film had the impact that it did is that it
really is very much an archetypal story, an "Oedipus Rex" for the
scientific age. It is the story of a man who has just about
anything a man could want and loses it all in a moment of hubris.
Helene and Andre Delambre, the major characters, have a warm and
loving relationship and they love life. Andre himself just follows
his curiosity as his profession, and that provides enough so they
live very well. And in one moment of pride and carelessness it was
all turned into horror. It is interesting to note that this is a
film with no human--or even non-human--villains. Essentially,
everybody wants the best for everybody else. It is basically
people after a disastrous mistake struggling to put things right
again. It is most unusual to have a horror film in which there is
no ill-will. People even are doing what they see as acting in
young Philippe's best interest when they so brazenly lie to him.
Today candor seems a little more in vogue.

The film was directed by Kurt Neumann, who counted among his films
several low-budget Tarzan movies, ROCKETSHIP X-M, and more recently
(for Fox) SHE DEVIL and KRONOS. With the possible exception of
KRONOS, there is not much there to suggest that he could have been
responsible for how well THE FLY resonated with audiences. More
likely it is the mythic elements from the story. THE FLY is based
on a short story by George Langelaan that appeared in Playboy

The original story took place in France, but here it was moved to
Montreal to explain the French names while placing it in an
environment that the audience could identify with. The plot starts
almost immediately with a strange mystery. Andre and Helene
Delambre (Al Hedison and Patricia Owens) seemed to be in love as
much as any married couple could be. Andre and his brother
Francois owned an extremely successful electronics research and
development company. Things seemed perfect for them and it. But
in the first moments of the plot the idyllic life of the Delambres
is over. The night watchman at Delambre Freres has found Helene
over the dead body of Andre. It seems he was killed in a factory
press. What makes this all seem even stranger is that Andre should
have known the press was coming down if it was. He would have had
to have been a most cooperative victim in his own murder. What is
more, Helene did not know how to operate the press. That just
does not make any kind of sense.

Francois is called almost immediately by Helene and he in turn
calls in Inspector Charas of the Surete to do the police work.
Helene admits to the killing, but refuses to give answer certain
questions so that the action still just does not add up. Helene is
free with some information, but other questions she insists that
she cannot answer. The one hole in this behavior is that she
seems to have developed a fixation on seeing flies--any fly that
can be caught. Francois finds out that Helene is looking for a
particular fly with a white head. In an attempt to find out what
really happened, he bluffs to Helene that he has the fly and
convinces her that he will destroy the fly as she wants if she will
explain why and how she killed Andre. She begins to tell her

In the flashback story Andre unveils to her the device that has
occupied much of his time recently. He has developed a matter
transmission machine. It disintegrates solid objects placed in a
transmission booth, transmits the matter to a receiving booth and
reintegrates the object. In demonstrating the machine it generally
works, but has occasional malfunctions--not surprisingly for a new
piece of technology. At first the machine creates a mirror image
of the object being transmitted. Then for an unknown reason it
fails to reintegrate just when the family cat Dandello is sent.
But eventually it seems to be reliable, transmitting a guinea pig
and allowing her to reintegrate. The machine seems to work and
Andre invites Francois to see the machine in action. But instead
of meeting his brother he leaves a note that he cannot see
Francois. At about the same time Philippe finds a white-headed
fly, but Helene makes him let it go. Andre refuses to leave the
lab or be seen. That night he passes another note out of the lab
saying he has had a problem. It seems he wants Helene to look for
a particular fly with a white head. She is allowed into the lab,
but Andre has a cloth over his head and his hand in his pocket.
When Helene tells Andre that she made Philippe release a fly with
the white head Andre is shocked enough to take what should be his
left hand out of his pocket, but instead of a hand there is a sort
of black claw. Andre can eat only liquids which he seems to
noisily slurp. It seems that Andre transmitted himself with a fly
in the box with him and the two had their atoms mixed. Now he
needs the fly to untangle the two. The next day Helene and
Philippe search for the white-headed fly. They succeed only in
unknowingly letting the very fly they want get out the window.

Andre loses heart when the fly is not found and finds he is losing
control of his head and hand. He knows he needs the fly to
unscramble the atoms but he allows himself to cooperate with
Helene. He transmits himself one more time in the absurd belief
that it will do some good. Helene, ever the optimist, pulls the
cloth from his head and finds herself looking at a human-sized fly
head. (Note: in the story it is a cat head with fly eyes, a side
effect of the loss of Dandello.) Andre sees Helene's screaming
face through compound eyes in one of the most horrific scenes of
any film ever. Helene faints and Andre trying to control his body
lays her out on a couch in safety. The horror gives way to tragedy
as Andre tries to kiss Helene and realizes that he is no longer
physically capable of kissing or caressing her. In angry
frustration he destroys his laboratory and burns his notes.
Pulling the cloth back over his head he writes on the blackboard
asking Helene for help in destroying himself. More and more the
fly hand seems to be following orders of its own, his last humanity
is being lost. Andre takes Helene to the room with the press and
with her help he manages to commit suicide, being crushed in the
press to destroy all evidence of what happened to him.

Back in the present Francois and Inspector Charas cannot believe
the story. The inspector is going to have Helene arrested. He
returns with a warrant for murder against her. Helene is expecting that having told the story her trouble are over and remains
confident until she finds out that Francois did not have the white-
headed fly. Helene is terrified that Philippe will see her being
arrested and asks Francois to take him away. Francois and Philippe
make small talk and Philippe, not realizing the significance, says
that he has seen the fly in a web. Francois is dumb-struck and
runs to Charas insisting that he come and see. Charas follows
reluctantly and is shocked to see a human-headed fly in the web
just as a spider attacks it. Charas takes a rock and destroys the
spider and the fly. Then, admitting to as much of a murder as
Helene has committed, he and Francois concoct a story to cover up
Helene's crime.

The only really familiar actors in the film at the time were
Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall. Both thought the film
hilarious, particularly the scene of the fly in the web, and
luckily they were relegated to what were actually very secondary
parts. Patricia Owens is really the main character and deserved
top billing with secondary credit going to Al "David" Hedison.
Ironically and luckily both give better performances than Price.
David Hedison went on to co-star in THE LOST WORLD and then to have
a long run on television in VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, all
for 20th Century Fox.

There is genuine suspense in the film's mystery. Helene's actions
seem to be so out of character for her. Every conventional
explanation has a good reason why it does not explain the facts.
Andre had to have, at some level, cooperated with Helene, even if
only to the extent to show Helene how to run the press. Yet Andre
should have been able to commit suicide by himself had he wanted.
Clearly they both must have suddenly wanted Andre dead. And that
seems to make no sense. Then James Clavell adapted the George
Langelaan story into a screenplay. Clavell is, of course, known
best for a series of best-selling novels set in the Far East
including SHOGUN. Clavell also wrote the screenplay for THE SATAN
BUG, taking some liberties with the original story. In this case,
however, he maintained the original story very accurately. In so
many other films, even the remake, the transformed human is
dangerous and kills. While Andre is transformed, he never becomes
a monster, in spite of being a horrifying sight. Andre loses his
features and toward the end he loses control of himself, but he
never loses his humanity. Kurt Neumann seems to have risen to
match his script with high production values. The film has the
very good look of a careful and high-quality production. It was
shot in wide-screen and Technicolor.

Click here to read the complete article
Re: THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)


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From: (Ignatios Souvatzis)
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Subject: Re: THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
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 by: Ignatios Souvatzis - Wed, 24 Nov 2021 18:14 UTC

Mark Leeper wrote:
> THE FLY (1958) [...]

I've watched it as a teen in German television (dubbed).
Very impressive.

A medium apple... weighs 182 grams, yields 95 kcal, and contains no
caffeine, thus making it unsuitable for sysadmins. - Brian Kantor

Re: THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)


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 by: T987654321 - Fri, 3 Dec 2021 19:27 UTC

The head really did look like ascalled up fly; just gross.

arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / THE FLY (1958) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)


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