The Fly, Dir. Kurt Neumann, 1958
Film Review- Natalie Urwin
Director: Kurt Neumann
Writer: James Clavell, George Langelaan
Stars: Al Hendison, Patricia Owens, Herbert Marshall, Vincent Price, Kathleen Freeman, Betty Lou Gerson, Charles Herbert
Length: 89 Minutes
The main storyline of this film involves a scientist inventing a teleportation device in which he tests on himself and accidentally, a fly ‘joins him for the ride’ ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/21/fly1958_review.shtml, august 2007) and then comes out with the head and arm of a fly. Inevitably ending with his wife assisting in the suicide of this man-fly.
Although this is considered as a B-movie with the obvious characteristics such as ‘bad acting and wonky special effects’ there are plenty of other points to look at within this film. Many points have been made that the moral of the story is ‘about the dangers of tampering with nature.' Although I did have a query about the transformation, I wasn’t sure if it was theriocephaly or if it was supposed to be therianthropy but as it was a small budget that was the best they could do, with the later propagation of the fly’s primal behavior.
I find the chosen species for this film quite ironic. Here you have the idealogical example of a perfect 1950s bread winner; quite handsome, intelligent - hence being a genius scientist, a loving husband and father and yet he doesn’t seem to feel this is enough, he finds the lust to tamper with nature. The irony I find is that although it is accidental, the species he is altered with is one of the lowest of the low species. In fact many people wonder what flies are actually good for. So you have a man who is considered as quite high on the human spectrum of ‘being somebody’ yet this tiny insect that most people try to squat because they spread germs and eat excrement becomes mixed up genetically with this man and he has now become a freak. Something to be ashamed of and be in hiding because of. This represents not only a physical transformation but a social, behavioral and neurological change too. Some physical and behavioral changes such as the highly obvious head and arm of a fly in place of his own, and his inability to speak or eat as a human are apparent from very early in the story but other behavioral and neurological changes, the growing urge of aggression for example, are shown as the story perseveres.
The most comical moment of the film, which I understand older generations of people who were young when this film was released find a bit spine chilling, was ‘When Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall find the fly with Andre’s head stuck in the spider web crying out “help me”, “help me”’(Alan Bacchus, 27th June 2007, http://www.dailyfilmdose.com/2007/06/fly.html). I believe this to be a great depiction of the progression of awareness and yet at same time, the coldness that has become of generations.
Personally I would have preferred to watch the film in black and white. I find that old films with dull colour don’t capture my attention as much as vibrant more current films do, so I feel that if I had seen a black and white version I would have payed more attention to the contrast, the emotion that was trying to be portrayed in the film, the use of light perhaps but this film, although it did give our particular audience a giggle now and then didn’t keep me very entertained. Also, the ending bothered me slightly, I know because it was in the 50’s and Hollywood it had to have a happy ending but for me that ruined an all right film by ‘playing happy families’ after such an ordeal without an apparent show of anguish or grief. However, interestingly to my point, ‘James Clavell's first script was faithful to George Langelaan's original story, but Fox executives demanded a happier ending. ‘ (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051622/trivia)