The Fly (1958)

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Connections: The Fly

Scientist Andre Delambre becomes obsessed with his latest creation, a matter transporter. He has varying degrees of success with it. He eventually decides to use a human subject, himself, with tragic consequences. During the transference, his atoms become merged with a fly, which was accidentally let into the machine. He winds up with the fly's head and one of it's arms and the fly winds up with Andre's head and arm. Eventually, Andre's wife, Helene discovers his secret and must make a decision whether to let him continue to live like that or to do the unthinkable and euthanize him to end his suffering. --IMDb
Review by Crispy
Added: June 30, 2012
When people think of The Fly, they'll quickly imitate the "Help me!" scene, and then go right to Cronenberg's remake. Even so, the original has built up quite a strong reputation on its own merits, but it just didn't resonate with me.

Late one night, Francois gets a phone call from his hysteric sister-in-law, Helene. She tells him she just crushed her husband's, Francois' brother's, head in a hydraulic press. Obviously, the police are brought in, and Francois' friend, Inspector Charas takes the case. They're both stunned by the murder; by all accounts, their marriage was almost perfect. Sure, maybe Andre would involve himself in his work a bit too deeply sometimes, but the couple truly loved each other. Afterwards, Helene seems to have fallen into madness, mistaking her child for Francois' and freaking out every time she sees a fly. She's on the verge of being committed, but Francois sees through the ruse and is able to get the story out of her. After being down in his lab for weeks, Andre emerges with a victorious smile on his face. Taking his wife downstairs, he shows her the fruits of his unyielding labor. It seems as if he's mastered the art of teleportation! The machine is called the Disintegrater / Reintegrater, and works by breaking down a solid object into molecules, sending them to the other pod and putting them back together. He's sitting on a gold mine, until he decides to try it on himself that is. Unbeknownst to him, as he's settling into his pod to be disintegrated, a fly has snuck in with him.

I had high hopes for this one going in, but I was pretty damned disappointed by movie's end. The biggest thing that killed this film for me was that start at the end and then use the extended flashback method of storytelling. First of all, announcing the ending of the movie before the title card was the absolutely worst decision to make. Sure, it's been used effectively here and there, but that's because there's always some kind of perspective gained from watching the flashback that changes the context of the opening scenes. Not here, it's just a straight forward "here's how it ends". I know what they were trying to do: they wanted to milk the mystery of why she killed her husband a bit, but to the movie going public, that really wasn't a mystery at all. And as soon as Andre's transformed, he flat out tells her she needs to go Kevorkian on him if he can't fix himself. Well, everybody already knows it's futile, thanks for that. There's a reason people don't watch the last ten minutes of a movie before rewinding to the beginning.

Plus, there was not nearly enough focus on Andre. It took a long time before Helene even starts telling her tale, and a pretty good bit of time into that before Andre's accident. Even then, he hides his transformed self under a black hood except for one or two small scenes. Like the out-of-sync storyline, this was a terrible decision. Sure it makes sense from a storyline perspective, more sense than not wearing it to be honest, but it's still disappointing for us viewers. Especially since the fly-head actually looked pretty nice.

Patricia Owens was consistently great as Helene, and given the incredible range of emotions the character goes through, that's saying something. She handled the high-tension situations of both trying to take care of her fly husband and feigning madness after the fact beautifully. Hats off from start to finish. On the other side of the table, David Hedison was considerably below the bar she set. Fortunately, he only had a relatively small time in his role before he spends the rest of the flick hiding under a hood banging on the table. Then of course there's Vincent Price as Francois, I'm sure it goes without saying that I've no complaint about his performance.

Now with all my complaints, I do have to admit that most of these faults merely lies in zeitgeist. It's 2012, everybody knows exactly what the movie is about, but if one were to go into the film completely blind, it would have been quite effective. First the mystery of why she crushed her husband's head, and then the apprehension of waiting to see just what disgusting visage is underneath that cloak. Again, all of that is ruined once one knows the story, and the spoilage carries over to repeat viewings. I'm sure I'll hear my fair share of complaints for this, but in my opinion, it just doesn't hold up to the test of time too well. With all that said, that infamous "Help Me" scene IS an awesome scene; it's almost worth watching just for that. 5/10.
George Snow #1: George Snow - added 07/02/2012, 12:11 AM
Sorry, this movie is a classic. Completely original for its time.

Bill Wolford #2: Bill Wolford - added 07/02/2012, 04:40 AM
Indeed 9/10
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