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Film / The Fly (1958)

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The Fly is a 1958 Sci-Fi Horror movie directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Vincent Price (who, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t play the ill-fated protagonist), David Hedisonnote  (who does), Patricia Owens, and Herbert Marshall. It has come to be regarded as a Cult Classic.

In Montreal, scientist André Delambre (Hedison) invents a teleportation device. Unfortunately, when he tests it, a housefly happens to be in the chamber with him. Their molecules intermingle and André winds up with the head and arm of the fly, much to the chagrin of his wife Hélène (Owens) and his brother François (Price). Now the family must locate the fly, which has André's head and arm, so that he can properly switch them back before it's too late.

Return of the Fly (1959) and Curse of the Fly (1965) are direct sequels. The first film was remade in 1986 by director David Cronenberg.

James Clavell, who adapted the screenplay from George Langelaan's short story "The Fly", would later become famous for writing the "Asian Saga" series of novels, such as Shogun and Tai-Pan. This film also began the transition of Vincent Price from character actor to horror movie star, even though he plays André's sympathetic and quietly lovelorn brother François and not André himself, as he surely would have if this movie had been made later in his career.

This film provides examples of:

  • Another Dimension: The presumptive fate of Dandelo the cat. André transports the cat, which disappears...only for André to hear a ghostly "meow" from somewhere he can't see.
  • Artistic License – Military: André does research work for Canada's non-existent Air Ministry. This is an artifact from the original short story in which he worked for France's Air Ministry, the department which oversaw the French Air Force from 1928 up to a decade before the story was released.
  • Bittersweet Ending: André the scientist is forced to commit suicide because his fly components are degrading his human mind and they can't find the fly with human components. At the climax of the movie, the inspector sees and gives a Mercy Kill to the fly-human just as it is about to be devoured by the spider. However, this convinces him that the scientist's wife is not a murderer and, with François the brother-in-law, he is able to concoct a plea-bargain that lets her avoid being hanged or condemned to the insane asylum. At the very end of the movie, the mother and son are moving on from the traumatic loss of the scientist, and it is implied that she is falling in love with François, who had always loved her from afar.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: During The Reveal in which his wife pulls off his hood, André's POV is briefly shown, and he sees dozens of simultaneous images of her screaming face through his fly-head's compound eyes.
  • Canada, Eh?: The setting is changed from France to Montreal.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: François is the Casanova type at the beginning of the film.
  • Evil Hand: The fly's appendage that replaces the scientist's hand becomes increasingly rebellious as his intellect frays.
  • How We Got Here: The first part of the movie is Hélène murdering André and what follows. Then there's an extended flashback where the movie explains how things came to this.
  • Merging Machine: André's teleporter becomes this, much to his regret.
  • No Antagonist: Unusually for sci-fi/horror films of the era, the failed experiment doesn't immediately turn the fly-headed André into a murderous monster. In fact, most of the plot involves trying to reverse the experiment before André's slowly deteriorating intellect causes that to happen.
  • Only Flesh Is Safe: The teleportation device only worked on non-living things — until the protagonist made a breakthrough.
  • Physical Attribute Swap: The accident results in André and a fly swapping their heads and arms.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: André winds up sending himself through the machine. Bad idea.
  • Resized Vocals: At the climax, the transformed fly with a human head has an extremely high-pitched voice as it screams for help. Of course, Artistic License – Biology comes into play as the fly's head may have been a human's, but the fly's body didn't have the type of lungs that would move air over the human vocal cords. Then again, the fact that it was trapped in a spiderweb and about to be eaten by the spider probably provided a lot of motivation for him to defy biology.
  • The Reveal: André hides his fly-head from everyone (the audience included) under a hood, until his frustrated wife pulls it off during an argument.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: André's wife Hélène commits suicide in the original short story, while in the film, she gets better from her guilt (though she subsequently undergoes Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome in Return of the Fly).
  • The Speechless: After his botched teleportation, André is unable to speak through his fly head. He communicates by typing, writing on a chalkboard, and knocking on tables.
  • Taking You with Me: When Hélène activates the hydraulic press, she goes to take one last look at André and he grabs her and pulls her in with him. Thankfully she manages to get away in time.
  • Teleporter Accident: It's not like André didn't have some warnings. The ashtray comes back with the "Made in Japan" label reversed, and the cat disappears. But he thinks he's got that all fixed, so he gets into the transporter...along with a fly.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: What André is trying to make. His experiment goes horribly wrong.
  • That Poor Cat: The first test is unsuccessful. In the original short story, when the scientist, at his wife's urging, goes through the machine a second time in a futile attempt to unscramble things, bits of the cat get mixed in too (though a fly head with a cat nose and ears would've probably seemed more ludicrous than horrible).