MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Al Hedison as ANDRE DELAMBRE
Patricia Owens as HELENE DELAMBRE
Vincent Price as FRANÇOIS DELAMBRE
Herbert Marshall as INSPECTOR CHARAS
Kathleen Freeman as EMMA
Betty Lou Gerson as NURSE ANDERSONE
Charles Herbert as PHILIPPE DELAMBRE
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Kurt Neumann
BY KEVIN CARR
I grew up in the 1980s, so it’s not a surprise that David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” was the first version I saw of this classic story. Of course, since that film’s release, it has been heralded as one of the best horror/sci-fi remakes of all time, and I do love the film.
However, there’s a lot to be said about the original, and thanks to Vincent Price’s legendary performance and the shocking images (at least for the 1950s), the original “The Fly” will never be forgotten. Now, it’s available on Blu-ray as part of 20th Century Fox’s Studio Classics collection.
The story starts at the end, with Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) being questioned in the murder of her husband Andre (Al Hedison). Her brother-in-law François (Vincent Price) is brought in to help get to the bottom of things. Soon, a very calm Helene describes the events of the past several days, in which her husband was working on a teleportation device. However, something went wrong in one of the tests, leaving him morphed with a housefly.
Even though it’s been a while since I’ve seen “The Fly,” it’s hard to escape the imagery the film presented. It’s not much by today’s standards, but the sight of a man whose head and arm have been turned into that of a fly is pretty bold for a film of this era. Even more unsettling are the shots leading up to the reveal, which features Andre hiding his new deformity under a sheet, because in movies of this kind, what you don’t see is the scariest thing.
Because movies in the 50s couldn’t have the extravagant effects of movies in the 80s (let alone the massive CGI fantasy creation of today’s cinema), a film like this one had to rely on suspense, mystery and characters, keeping the big reveals and money shots to a minimum. It’s not that “The Fly” is a lickety-split, fast-moving character burn. Instead, it’s a mystery for the characters in the film.
Oddly enough, the mystery is blown for pretty much anyone who saw this film once it left theaters. The human-fly hybrid moments are such a part of our popular culture now that there’s no surprise at all. Everyone knows what’s under Andre Delambre’s sheet. Everyone knows where we will finally see him in the end. The beauty of this film is that it manages to be entirely watchable and engaging even with this knowledge.
Not to downplay Patricia Owens’ contribution to this film, because her mix of naivete and matter-of-fact guilt is something you don’t see often in a film, but it’s the charisma of Vincent Price that really drives this movie and makes it a classic even today.
The new Blu-ray comes with a commentary by actor David Hedison (credited in the film as Al) and film historian David Del Valle. It’s nice to have one of the original participants of the film involved in a classic commentary like this, rather than just the historian (which can lean towards stuffy for some). Additional featurettes include “Fly Trap: Catching a Classic” and “Fox Movietone News” for the film’s premiere. However, the best item in the special features menu is the hour-long episode of “Biography: Vincent Price,” which gives a comprehensive look at the horror icon’s life on film.