Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FLY, THE (1958)

Perhaps the greatest challenge about watching the original version of THE FLY, or any other classic film in which the remake was far superior, is trying to keep the open mind necessary to appreciate the original film's impact on audiences "back in the day". That in mind, it becomes necessary to put David Cronenberg and Jeff Goldblum completely out of your memeory for the purposes of true film appreciation of THE FLY. Give it a try, why don't you.

The decade of the 1950s is probably the greatest "mixed bag" of films you're likely to experience (or remember, depending on your age). You had big, lavish musicals, spectacular epics, film noir, cheap drive-in "B" pictures and science fiction/horror. Strangeley enough, though, many of the monster or alien invasion films that were released seemed Hell-bent on trying to make a scientific point or offer a lesson in scientific progress and technology to the audience watching it. So even before Canadian scientist and family man Andre Delambre (played by David Hedison, the only actor to play Felix Lighter in more than one James Bond film, by the way) experiences the horrible accident that switches his head with that of an ordinary housefly after sendng himself through his own transporter device, he makes several key points on the fascinating visions and wonders of science that audiences were meant to take to heart. Because, even by 1958, the fast pace of television, automobiles, rockets and satellites were a whole lot to absorb in ordinary life. For some, it was exhilerating. For others, there was fear and paranoia.

While Andre's transformation is certainly a dated effect as compared to the 1986's gory remake and especially by today's over-the-top CGI effects, it becomes essential for anyone watching the original version of THE FLY to get inside the audience's mind and experience the shock and horror they must have felt when Andre's wife removes the black hood from his head and exposes the head of the fly that has taken over his body. Look at it with real studying eyes and tell me those two humongous eyes and that twitching nose don't freak you out just a little. Tell me the thought of Andre's wife Helene (played by Patricia Owens) assisting with his own suicide by crushing his big fly head and fly arm with a hydraulic press don't give you the shivers just a little. Tell me that listening to that tiny little fly with the human head of Andre screaming, "Help m-e-e-e! Help m-e-e-e!" didn't bring out the "heebee jeebees" just a little. Tell me you can't imagine Saturday afternoon matinee moviegoers in 1958 experiencing what could only have been considered true horror of its day. And hey, having Vincent Price in the film certainly couldn't have hurt, either.

Now here's a personal memory for you. Those of you who grew up in the eastern tri-state area of the United States may recall a television broadcast in the 1970s and early 1980s called "The 4:30 Movie" on ABC, which more often consisted of rather cheap horror films five days a week. Every once in a while, though, ABC would feature special themes like "Planet of the Apes week" or "Vincent Price week". It was during the latter that I can first recall seeing bits and pieces of THE FLY. I'm sure seeing that fly head for the first time as a kid must have left me thinking, "Whoah, that's freaky, and that's cool!" Take a look...

Favorite line or dialogue:

Fran├žois Delambre: "You've commited murder just as much as Helene did. You killed a fly with a human head. She killed a human with a fly head."

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