The Fly

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Montreal, Quebec, scientist Andre Delambre is found dead with his head and arm crushed in a hydraulic press. Although his wife Helene confesses to the crime, she refuses to provide a motive and exhibits a number of strange behaviors. In particular, she is obsessed with flies, including a supposedly white-headed fly. Andre’s brother, Francois, lies and says he caught the white-headed fly and, thinking he knows the truth, Helene explains the circumstances surrounding Andre’s death.

In flashback, Andre, Helene, and their son Philippe are a happy family. Andre has been working on a matter transporter device called the disintegrator-integrator. He initially tests it only on small inanimate objects, but eventually proceeds to living creatures, including the family’s pet cat (which fails to reintegrate, but can be heard meowing somewhere) and a guinea pig. After he is satisfied that these tests are succeeding, he builds a man-sized pair of chambers. One day, Helene, worried since Andre has not come up from the basement lab for a couple of days, goes down to find Andre with a black cloth over his head and a strange deformity on his left hand. Communicating with typed notes only, Andre tells Helene that he tried to transport himself, but a fly got caught in the chamber with him, which resulted in the mixing of their atoms. Now he has the head and left arm of a fly, and the fly has his miniature head and left arm, though he keeps his mind.

Andre needs Helene to capture the fly so he can reverse the process. Although she expends great effort in her search, she cannot find it and Andre’s will begins to fade as the fly’s instincts take over his brain. Time is running out, and while Andre can still think like a human, he smashes the equipment, burns his notes, and leads Helene to the factory. When they arrive, he sets the hydraulic press and motions for Helene to push the button. She activates the press twice – once to crush his head and once to crush his left arm.

The police, hearing this confession, deem Helene insane and guilty of murder. As they are about to haul her away, Andre’s son Philippe tells Francois he’s seen the fly trapped in a web in the back garden. Francois convinces the inspector to come and see for himself. The two men see the fly, trapped in the web, with both Andre’s head and arm, looking terrified. It screams “Help me! Help me!” as a large brown spider advances on the creature. Just as the fly is about to be devoured by the spider, the inspector smashes them both with a rock. Thinking nobody would believe the truth, he and Francois decide to lie about the facts of the case so that Helene isn’t convicted of murder. In the end, Helene, Francois and Philippe resume their daily lives, with Francois explaining to Philippe that Andre died doing the most dangerous act to humanity, but also the most beneficial: “the search for the truth”.

REVIEW:

Have you ever picked a film to watch, thinking that it is the same thing you saw in your childhood, only to find out when you hit play that it isn’t? Well, that is what I just went through with The Fly. When I was little, and my family would take the motor home camping, my dad rented some old movies to watch on the brand new portable VCR (mid-80s, man!) One of these was Return of the Fly. Someday, I’ll watch this again, but for now let’s focus on what I just watched.

What is this about?

Scientist André Delambre (David Hedison) has invented a matter transporter. To perfect his machine, he decides to test the device on a human subject — himself. He steps into the chamber unaware that an ordinary housefly has accompanied him. His head and arm become horrifically switched with those of the fly. Now Delambre and his wife (Patricia Owens) are faced with a gruesome dilemma in this classic sci-fi horror co-starring Vincent Price.

What did I like?

Happiness. In case you didn’t know, this is a tragic story that doesn’t have a happy ending. No spoilers, though. Having said that, you can’t have tragedy without developing happiness. The happy couple of Andre and Helene is shown through their interactions, a date night, and even his excitement at showing her his new invention. You really get a feel at how happy these people are, that it really is a shame to know what is going to happen not long into the picture.

Suspense. In order to really make something special, it needs to be built up. Tease the audience, if you will. Once Andrea has had his accident, we don’t seem his face because it is covered with a towel, he doesn’t speak, other than notes through a typewriter, and his right hand is kept in his pocket. A couple of times we see what has happened to his hand, but the big reveal doesn’t come until later, when Helene takes the towel off his head and lets out a blood curdling scream. Why is this effective? Because the suspense was built up and there was no need for instant gratification. Something that today’s horror films lack.

Descent into madness. I was thinking, just about the time that they brought this up, how is it that Andre kept his intellect with a fly head, and yet can’t speak? As it turns out, it diminished over time to the point that it was gone and he had gone mad. This little bit of explanation makes a huge difference and shows that the filmmakers know that the audience would want an answer.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. For being a 93 minute movie, it sure does take its time getting to the good stuff. The film opens after a certain crime has happened. From there, one would think we would get a flashback describing what happened, but no! We are forced to sit through a good 20-40 minutes of needless exposition before Helene finally decides to tell her story to the inspector. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more build up of the fly, perhaps more rampage, anything other than sitting through an hour of talking about stuff that really bears no importance or relevance to the plot, save for some murder conspiracies.

Flashback. I have no issue with the flashback, really, just how it was used. As I just said, it seemed like forever and a day before we finally got to the flashback scene and I was almost dozing at the point. This needed to be earlier in the film. What is my exact issue with the flashback, then? It seemed to be done as way for the writers to get out of the corner they had written themselves into, rather than something that was meant to move the story along.

Here, Kitty. Why did he have to experiment on a poor, cute, defenseless kitty? Couldn’t this have been some evil hell-hound whose atoms were scattered into the vastness of neverwhere? This is just more bias against cats!

While not the film I expected to watch this afternoon, The Fly did leave me with the feeling of watching a real classic. I don’t have much to say about this film (and the power seems like it is about to go out any second) other than it is worth a viewing if you get the chance, so check it out!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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