Friday, September 21, 2012

The Fly (1958) Review

The Fly posterDirector: Kurt Neumann
Stars: David Hedison, Vincent Price
Genre: Mystery, Science fiction, Horror

Awwwwwwwwwwwww... Worst ending ever. I won't spoil anything just yet (and when I do you'll be forewarned) but this really is a great film for the most part, near perfect I'd say. Let's review, shall we?

First off I'd like to note that this was actually based off of a short story by George Langelaan, which was originally published, oddly enough, in a 1957 issue of Playboy. Yes, that's right, this story has its origins in a pornographic magazine, and actually won the magazine's award for best fiction that year. I haven't read the short story being that I couldn't find the actual text or anywhere to purchase it, but there is a Wikipedia page that has a summary of it. Most of it checks out with the film, a few differences though, most notably in the short story it says he was combined with both a cat and a fly; also in the short story the wife kills herself. But for the most part it's pretty consistent, though it seems like the short story is a bit superior (when isn't it).

The first thirty minutes of the film effectively play out as a mystery. You're thrown right in, knowing nothing, and are forced to slowly figure out what happened as the film progresses. At the start, the very start actually (which is actually the end), we learn that the wife killed her husband. We don't know why though, we don't if he wanted her to, and you may even doubt that she even did it at all. She refuses to answer when questioned and many factors are introduced to make you think. She killed her husband with a hydraulic press machine, but it is said that she didn't know how to operate one, which means someone must have told her how or done it for her. It also lets us know that the machine was pressed down twice. Why would she crush her husband, whom she loved, twice? All these factors, and more, build up to a great mystery.

The use of a buzzing fly in the beginning was also cool, because we obviously know the film has something to do with a fly, see the title of the film. So occasionally you'll here a fly buzzing about or see someone swatting one away. They make it pretty obvious, and it may have benefited from a bit more subtlety, but cool nonetheless. Then we see the wife get hysteric when the maid swats a fly, which only deepens the mystery. This film really is a mystery when it comes down to it.

The Fly review

She eventually agrees to explain what happened to her brother-in-law and a detective. This triggers a flashback and is where the plot starts to come into focus. We finally meet the husband and learn he is a scientist. He invents a teleport machine thing, blah, blah, I think most know the story of The Fly. He eventually tries to teleport himself but a housefly gets caught in the machine and they are fused together.

From here the mystery picks up. We know the husband has changed into something, and we pretty much know it's a fly, but the entire time he wears a bag over his face so you can't see his actually face. This just builds-up to the moment when we do get to see his face. And man the build-up is great, along with some of the best pacing I've ever seen.

The Fly review

We learn that he must find the fly that he got fused with so he can try and reverse the transformation. This leads to some of the most thrilling and intense scenes of someone trying to catch a fly ever. Seriously, you will be thrilled by someone trying to catch a fly. It's amazing. Perhaps the only thing that even comes half close to being as good of a fly catching scene is in AMC's Breaking Bad.

I won't ruin anything but when we finally do get to see his face sure it's nothing amazing but it's surprisingly not cheesy like you may expect. It's not super realistic or anything but it serves its purpose. It actually looks pretty cool. Come to think of it, none of this film is cheesy or so-bad-it's-good, and it has very little camp. Even the laboratory was pretty believable, a rarity at the time. This is a genuinely good film.

Things happens which I won't spoil. All the characters are very easy to sympathize with, a rare thing for films. Seriously, you can sympathize with the wife, the brother-in-law, the husband, the fly, the cat, the kid, even the detective in a way. Something that is hard for films to pull off.

[The following paragraph contains spoilers.] Had the film ended ten minutes earlier it would have been one of my favorites ever. If it ended with the wife going to the mental hospital it would have left it open for debate whether or not her story was true or if she really was insane. After all the only evidence she had to support her story was her words. Even the maid said she didn't see the fly. It would have furthered the mystery and would have really made you wonder whether she was just crazy or telling the truth. She certainly showed signs of insanity. Instead the brother-in-law and detective go out into the garden and see the fly with a human's head (the fly that got fused with the man) and they see it get eaten by a spider. This was the only scene that had mediocre effects and seems to only be here to provide a somewhat happy ending. I really wished it left it open for interpretation.

The Fly review

So, I'll just delude myself and pretend the last ten minutes never happened, because that really is the only bad part. So I wish the film had a better ending, maybe stuck a little closer to the source material, but that's really it. Other than that it really is, in my opinion of course, a perfect film. AH THAT ENDING. WHY!? Sigh.

Overall worth the watch, still one of my favorites. Great pacing, great story, great characters, great everything. If you stop the film ten minutes early, like I'll do next time, then it's great. A highly overlooked film, with most attention for the story going to the 1986 remake, which I will be reviewing soon and then doing a comparison the the original.

I will also soon be doing reviews for this films two sequels: Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly. And perhaps even the remake's sequel, The Fly II. Stay tuned.

It falls just short of a perfect 5, but I'll be a bit generous and give it a 4.8/5, rounding up to 5.

5 stars
+Mysterious and engaging plot
+Good use of build-up
+Good plot structure
+Great characters and acting
-Cheesy ending

Remakes: The Fly (1986), The Fly II

Purchase The Fly on Amazon: DVD - VHS

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