Film Review- Natalie Urwin
Director: Kurt Neumann
Writer: James Clavell, George Langelaan
Stars: David Hendison, Patricia Owens, Herbert Marshall, Vincent Price, Kathleen Freeman, Betty Lou Gerson, Charles Herbert
Length: 89 Minutes
The main storyline of this film consists of, a scientist (David Hendison as Andre Delambre) in the 50’s invents a teleportation device and within his thirst for development puts a number of live animals in the device (cat, guinea pig), with each fault he changes the calculations. When he thinks he has the device perfected he teleports himself as a test dummy. The first time he does this he comes out fine, the second time he fails to see a fly has flown into the pod with him and thus comes out of the opposite pod with a fly head and one arm instead of his own.
The scientists wife (Patricia Owens as Helene Delambre)is notified by himself via notes he writes on a typewriter in his lab and slides under the door to her (he cannot speak with this fly head). There is a way to try a reversal of these effects, the wife and son must find the fly with a white head that escaped from the pod after the teleportation.
The story then goes on to hint at characteristics of a fly such as eating mannerisms and an aggressive lack of care for anything but himself. At this stage, if the fly doesn't get found soon the mannerisms start to become unbearable. When these fly mannerisms become more severe the fly in him tries to harm his wife so he makes a decision to exterminate himself but needs his wife’s assistance.
They go to a different part of the building which is a factory set-up. There is a large metal press in the middle of the scene. The scientist arranges all of the machinery settings and then places the fly parts of his body underneath the press and signals to his wife to press the button. Not surprisingly he gets squashed.
The plot overall seemed quite odd in my opinion. The scientific side of this I think is quite an interesting idea but the spin of this film with the scientist’s brother being in love with his wife and after all of the incredibly disturbing events that happened to this family the film ending on the wife, the son (Charles Herbert as Philippe Delambre) and the man’s brother (Vincent Price as Francois Delambre) playing happy families. There doesn’t look as if there is any grieving or traumatic response to what had happened, maybe this is how people reacted in the 1950’s but watching it 52 years on it has quite a strange feel. I know 'feel good happy endings' are how most films end and this one certainly showed a 'get over it and carry on' approach but to me this particular path of writing feels morally misplaced.
The timeline in this film starts with Helene Delambre phoning Francois Delambre (the brother in law) saying she just killed her husband (his brother).
After a while in this time most of the film is taken up when the timeline 'shifts back in time to show us how this came to be.' (quoted by Brian Webster in his Apollo Movie Guide's Review). This is indicated by a 'dream like' section of ripples in water footage.
When she has finished telling her story she has caught up to present time. The detective thinks she is mentally insane so orders her to be taken away.
While she is being prepared for the hospital the inspector and the brother find the fly with the scientist's face as the fly's head screaming for help on a spider's web and witness the spider kill the 'fly with his head and a rather useless human arm.' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/21/fly1958_review.shtml -author unknown).
After all this, the time skips to a short while after these events and they play happy families.
The special effects make-up wasn't anything spectacular but for its time i'm sure it gave the audience a great horror feel. The acting was quite slow at times, I think the best reactions (or the funniest) were of the little boy, the script writing for his part were brilliant. Adult conversation coming from a child. The audience I sat with found these sections quite humorous.
There was a general selection of camera angles, from close-ups to mid-far shots. The lighting was used to its advantage, showing a grimy looking laboratory and cold feeling industrial block after the transformation had occurred and the family settings and homely settings looked warm and safe.
I have also included a podcast from 'Filmsack' on this film