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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...
For more about The Fly and the The Fly Blu-ray release, see the The Fly Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: David Hedison, Vincent Price, Patricia Owens, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman, Betty Lou Gerson
Director: Kurt Neumann
» See full cast & crew
The Fly Blu-ray Review
Don't swat this fly away.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 11, 2013
Horror films have often been the poor stepchildren of the film industry, relegated to B-movies or less than stellar production quality, including often less than A-list talent both in front of and behind the camera. Universal may have built much of its early empire on horror flicks like Frankenstein and Dracula, but at the time of those films' releases, neither Karloff nor Lugosi were confirmed box office stars, and the films themselves, while hugely successful, were hardly considered prestige releases. Universal itself consigned both of these characters to more and more B-films as the years rolled on, and other major studios, many of whom were loathe to tread into this supposedly questionable genre, often tended to do so only if their bottom lines were marginally affected, meaning much reduced budgets, lesser known casts, writers and directors, and quite frequently pretty schlocky end results. Fox was especially shy about exploiting the horror genre, and indeed a cursory search of IMDb finds only a handful of putative "horror" titles released by Fox between the years of 1931, when Universal first made its big one two punch, and 1960, by which time such competitive houses as Hammer had taken up the horror mantle. Several of these films, including a slew of Charlie Chan entries, would hardly be classified as horror by contemporary fans, but a few of them, notably The Gorilla, The Lodger and perhaps even Hangover Square prove that when Fox did decide to enter the horror sweepstakes, they at least did so with a modicum of class and style. By the 1950s, Fox had started to imbue its few horror offerings with then popular science fiction subtexts, and so entries like Invaders from Mars, Kronos and She Devil started appearing. Arguably the best, and probably the glossiest, of these genre mash ups from 1950s' era Fox was 1958's The Fly, a film that was not really expected to do much business, despite a rather high budget and a CinemaScope framing, but which ended up being one of the year's box office standouts, and which went on to haunt any number of baby boomers' nightmares when it became regular television fodder in the 1960s and 1970s.
If you, your father or even your grandfather were among those who "only read Playboy for the articles", one of those might have been George Langelaan's short story "The Fly", which appeared in Hef's June 1957 issue. According to the great commentary included on this Blu-ray, the story was almost immediately optioned by Fox for film treatment, and perhaps rather incredibly James Clavell ( The Great Escape, Shogun) was hired to write the screenplay. Clavell ha some serious issues to confront, including an unwieldy structure where the gist of the story was told in flashback and the suicide of the heroine while incarcerated in a mental institution.
Clavell wisely jettisoned the suicide angle, and only kept the threat of institutionalization as a motivating factor to get Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) to spill the beans about why she, according to her own confession to her brother- in- law Francois (Vincent Price), killed her scientist husband (and Francois' brother) Andre (David Hedison, then still billed as Al Hedison). The Fly still has a rather unwieldy structure—at least by current day horror film standards—with a rather slowly unfolding tale that doesn't even get into the main flashback sequence until around the half hour mark.
Helene at that point launches into a story both for Francois and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall), the policeman called to investigate the case. The flashback recounts the efforts of Andre to create a transporter device that can dissolve the atoms of objects and then reassemble in a new location (think "Beam me up, Scotty", though considerably more retro, this being 1958 and all). Andre starts with inanimate objects but soon graduates to animals, including the family cat, with at least some of his experiments not going exactly the way he had hoped. But when he is finally convinced that the technology is safe, he enlarges the units to two chambers resembling phone booths and decides to try transporting himself. Unfortunately a common house fly invades the chamber at the same time as Andre and the two species' atoms are interwoven, leaving David with the head and arm of a fly and the tiny fly receiving Andre's in return.
What may strike younger horror fans as odd about The Fly is how deliberately slow and measured it is. Even after the flashback begins at around the half hour mark, it well over another half hour until the fly is revealed, and then what turns out to be the most disturbing image of the entire film doesn't come into play until the very closing moments. This is obviously a manifestly different technique than current day horror offerings, which tend to exploit big scares right out of the gate and then continue to offer (often manufactured) frights every few minutes for the rest of the film's running time. The Fly may therefore strike some as weirdly "calm" for a putative horror outing, but that ignores the very palpable sense of dread which accrues once Andre initially refuses to let his wife or brother see him, and who upon relenting (to his wife, anyway) shrouds his head under a cloth and keeps his hand buried in his overcoat, Napoleon style.
The film is bolstered by some excellent performances. Both Price and Marshall bring a bit of old school gravitas to this outing (this was several years before Price became more fully associated with the horror genre). Hedison also does a really remarkable job in the last third or so of the film, where he's consigned to emoting only with his body, with his head completely hidden under a black cloth. But the film really belongs to Patricia Owens. Owens never really got her full due as an actress, despite having made scores of motion pictures and many television appearances. Though her role here is firmly in the "June Cleaver" mold of the perfect wife and mother, always clad in a stylish dress and usually with a string of pearls adorning her neck, she brings a very believable intensity to the part. Helene wavers back and forth between hysteria and determination, and Owens captures it all in one of the most winning performances in fifties horror.
The Fly Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Fly is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. Fox has continually been one of the leaders in maintaining and restoring their deep catalog in high definition, and that trend continues with this largely impeccable presentation of a CinemaScope classic. It's a bit odd that Fox continues to license some of its pre-existing HD masters when it's obviously able to bring these titles out so well themselves, usually with some nice bonus features accompanying the main film as well. Just a cursory glance at the clips from The Fly included on the older Fly Trap supplemental feature shows just how nicely the elements have been spruced up for this release. Though Deluxe Color isn't known for its ability to withstand the rigors of age, the palette here is quite nicely saturated and overall very accurate looking. I personally would have liked the greens boosted just a bit, but reds, purples and flesh tones are largely exemplary. There's no overly obvious damage to report here, either, and contrast and black levels are both strong and consistent throughout this presentation. As should be expected, the optical effects (see screenshot 12 for one of the most iconic effects not just from this film, but in the entire annals of cinema) look a bit degraded, with additional dirt, grain and softness. Some midrange shots look just slightly fuzzy in comparison to the bulk of the film, and once or twice colors don't appear quite as robust as the rest of the film (see screenshot 5 for an example of this slight but noticeable anomaly). A high bit rate and a roomy BD-50 provide ample space and streaming to offer an artifact free presentation. By and large this is a stellar transfer that should easily delight the film's many fans.
The Fly Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Fly's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 mix is similarly excellent, boasting at times really inventive separation and offering excellent fidelity and some surprisingly wide dynamic range. Dialogue is cleanly presented and is often quite directional, and the film's great foley effects and score are also represented very well. There are a number of fantastic little moments here, including the "disappearance" of the family cat, and, late in the film, that high frequency squeal for help that is unforgettable once it's been heard.
The Fly Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Fly Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As David Del Valle mentions in the excellent commentary, he (as an 8 year old) went to The Fly expecting the "latest monster movie", and got something else entirely. The Fly may in fact strike some as too relentlessly low key to build much horror, and while it's true this isn't an overly bloody or gruesome affair, its mood is palpable and brooding sense of doom it creates, especially as things wend their way toward the devastating climax, is remarkable. This Blu-ray is yet another fantastic presentation of a catalog title by Fox, and it comes Highly recommended.
The Fly: Other Editions
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The Fly Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Fly - September 9, 2013
Blu-ray.com and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are offering two members a chance to win a copy of The Fly. This classic 1958 horror film stars Vincent Price and David Hedison in a tale of a science experiment gone horribly awry. The Fly streets on ...
• The Fly (1958) Detailed - August 14, 2013
Twentieth Century Fox has detailed its upcoming Blu-ray release of director Kurt Neumann's The Fly (1958), starring Vincent Price, David Hedison, Patricia Owens, and Herbert Marshall. The release is set to arrive on the U.S. market on September 10th.
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