Friday, October 10, 2014

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Fly (1958)

Based on the short story of the same name by George Langelaan, The Fly is a science-fiction horror movie directed by Kurt Neumann. After her husband is crushed to death by a mechanical press, Helene Delambre tells his brother and a police inspector the unfortunate events that led to his demise. While experimenting with a teleportation device, Helene's husband Andre accidentally spliced his DNA with a fly who also happened to be in the same chamber.

When most people think about The Fly, they probably think about David Cronenberg's 1986 remake. While that movie is excellent and proof that not all remakes are inherently terrible, I feel sad that so many people have forgotten about the original or have written it off as just another cheesy monster movie from the 50's. Yes, The Fly has some downright silly moments, but they are few and far between. This film manages to tell a great story, contains some great performances, and I feel deserves the same attention as its remake.

While both films build their story around the classic trope of a scientist whose ambition leads to his downfall, Neumann's film utilizes a very different approach. Instead of focusing on the horror of the human body slowly transforming into a hideous monster, the original chooses to focus on the inherent tragedy of the situation. Andre was a scientist who just wanted to create something that would change the world, but his ambition got the better of him, causing him to push too far too fast. After the accident, Andre tries to resist these strange urges invading his mind, wanting to retain at least a small shred of his humanity. Unfortunately, fate has other plans. The Fly does an excellent job telling this story and remains effective to this day.

The performances are also stellar. David Hedison is fantastic as Andre Delambre, perfectly capturing a scientist trying to push the boundaries of what is possible while also attempting to be a good father and husband. Patricia Owens is just as good, playing a woman who is seeing the love of her life slowly disappearing and willing to do anything she can to help beautifully. Vincent Price is also fantastic, but that goes without saying.

Although The Fly is an excellent movie, it does have its faults. Probably the biggest is that it occasionally tells us whats happening instead of showing us. For example, we don't see the accident that leads to Andre's predicament. We're just told about it through Helene reading a note from him about it. Film's a visual medium, meaning its almost always better to show us the story instead of just telling us. Also, The Fly's pacing can be a little slow at times. While I had no problem with it, viewers who prefer their films to move at a faster pace might.

The Fly is still a great film and deserves the same level of recognition that its remake receives. If you enjoy classic horror cinema and like stories that prioritize tragedy and drama, you will most likely enjoy The Fly.