Franchise Review: The Fly

A scientist has a horrific accident when he tries to use his newly invented teleportation device.

I’m looking forward to this franchise review so let’s get on with it!

Believe it or not “The Fly” originally appeared in a1957 issue of Playboy magazine, It was originally a short story that was later adapted for the big screen. Well everybody has to start somewhere, apparently back then this wasn’t an uncommon thing to happen either.

1950’s and Sci-Fi films are synonymous with each other, there are many great films from this era, they’re also admittedly pretty cheesy but I don’t say that as a bad thing as it doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining. Far from it actually, they’re still seen as beloved films, especially this one.

The film has a great cast but the true star here is Vincent Price who steals every scene he’s in, like he usually does (he wasn’t a Horror icon for nothing). Also I have to say that the characters are greatly written and this is something that I feel modern films are lacking, that character depth.

The film’s effects are, well they’re admittedly comical but hey this was the 50’s. For its time you have to give them the team the credit they’re due, they may be old but they do still look great on screen and fits the tone and time of the feature, in truth they’re a great reminder of a lost art.

“The Fly” is like a time capsule, perfectly capturing what films were like in the 50’s and how fun and entertaining they could be.

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

This became the biggest box-office hit of director Kurt Neumann’s career, but he never knew it. He died a month after the premiere and only a week before it went into general release.

Part of the laboratory set was Emerac, the computer from Fox’s production Desk Set (1957).

Although many people swear this film was broadcast in black and white, it never was. This might be the “Mandela Effect”, which is simply a false memory. It’s extremely common. The Fly was only ever filmed and shown in color. However, the sequels Return of the Fly (1959) and Curse of the Fly (1965) are in black and white. This is likely where the confusion comes from, or they might have watched it on a black & white television, which were common through the 1980s.

Michael Rennie was offered the title role but declined it because his head would be covered through most of the picture.

Betty Lou Gerson, who played the nurse, was also the voice of Cruella De Vil for Disney’s 101 Dalmatians (1961) and narrator of Walt Disney’s Cinderella (1950).

Charles Herbert, who plays the Delambre’s son Phillipe, was one of the busier child actors of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also had prominent roles opposite Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in Houseboat (1958), co-starred with Doris Day and David Niven in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960), and interacted with witches, goblins and ghouls in William Castle’s 13 Ghosts (1960).

The costuming in the film is a classic example of 50s sensibility. Andre and Helene relax around their home in semi-formal dress apparel: he lounges in the backyard wearing white shirt and tie, with black leather shoes and slacks. She wears a full complement of dresses, jewelry, set hair, and high heels.

Andre wears the same clothes in nearly every scene during the film, with the exception of the night he goes to the ballet.

In four of the five “Fly” movies (1958, 1959, 1986, & 1989) the lab is accessed by a large sliding metal door. Delambre’s lab in the fifties films, Seth Brundle’s loft apartment and lab in 1986, and Martin Brundle’s BartokCorp lab in 1989. Presumably, David Cronenberg decided to keep the motif as a nod to the original film and was repeated in the 1989 sequel.

The scene between Andre and Helene in the garden had to be redubbed because the birds were too loud. On the audio commentary, David Hedison admitted that as an actor he hated dubbing and put little effort into it noting how flat he sounds in the scene. He had rushed through it so he could get to a flight on time.

Uncredited producer Robert L. Lippert was able to make additional money from the success of this film. His own company, Regal Films, produced Space Master X-7 (1958) which 20th Century-Fox used as the co-feature for this film.

Included among the American Film Institute’s 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.

The short story “The Fly” by French-British writer George Langelaan was the basis of the movie. It was published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy magazine.

The ballet footage seen the night Mister and Mrs. de Lambre go out to celebrate was originally shot as test footage when the Cinema Scope process was still in development. This same footage also appears in several other Fox releases of the 1950s, among them An Affair to Remember (1957), released the previous year.

In the first scene where the night watchman walks through the factory, he stops for a moment in front of a generator and the camera zooms in on him slightly. The generator is marked with the letters O.C. 230 115V 400 AMP SP1O R, with a red handle covering the space between the O and the R in the phrase.

The typeface of the lettering used and the red handle placed where it is makes it look like the word SPIDER is printed on the generator that powered the press.

This was the first produced screenplay for writer James Clavell.

This was produced by Regal Films which normally supplied 20th Century-Fox with low budget, black and white, anamorphic widescreen (credited as “Regalscope) features that played at the bottom of a double feature with one of Fox’s CinemaScope releases. This film had a much larger budget, was filmed in color and was used as the main feature. It became a huge box office hit. One of Regal’s black and white widescreen quickies, Space Master X-7 (1958), was used as the bottom of the double feature.

The most famous scene of this movie, the “Help me! Help me!” scene, was not repeated in the reboot.

The portrait hanging on Francois’ office wall is “Girl with Braids” by Modigliani (1918).

The sound made by the teleportation machine is the same sound heard when the prototype disappears in The Time Machine (1960).

When the movie was released on DVD in New Zealand, the movie was given the Restricted 16 rating.

The film wasn’t released in Spain until 1963, and then in a limited release and only in a subtitled version.

The film was re-released in Spain twice: in 1988 in a limited release (subtitled version only) in Madrid by Artistic Metropol in 2014 and in Barcelona by Phenomena in 2016, also in a subtitled version.

David Hedison and Vincent Price both have another connections to Jeff Goldblum. Price appeared in The Ten Commandments (1956), while Goldblum voiced Aaron in The Prince of Egypt (1998). Producer Mel Brooks also lent his voice to that film. Hedison appeared in The Lost World (1960), while Goldblum appeared in two dinosaur films of his own: Jurassic Park (1993) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). Those films also featured Richard Attenborough, whose then daughter-in-law Jane Seymour appeared with Hedison in Live and Let Die (1973).

In the scene where the fly with Andre Delambre’s head and arm is caught in the spider’s web, a small animatronic figure with a moving head and arm was used in the spider web as a reference for actors Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall. Price later remembered that filming the scene required multiple takes because each time he and Marshall looked at the animatronic figure, with its human head and insect body, they would burst out laughing.

Patricia Owens has a real fear of insects. Director Kurt Neumann used this by not allowing her to see the makeup until the “unmasking” scene.

James Clavell’s first script was faithful to George Langelaan’s original story, but Fox executives demanded a happier ending. In the short story, Hélène commits suicide after having told her brother-in-law the whole story.

In the short story, when Hélène convinces André to go back through the teleporter without the fly, not only does it fail to return him to human form, it also infuses into his body some of the atoms from their pet cat that never re-integrated. At that point, he knows that it’s pointless to keep looking for the fly.

That is actually David Hedison, not a stuntman, inside the Fly makeup.

The teleportation that causes Andre and the fly to switch atoms is never seen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s