Release Date(s)1958 (September 10, 2013)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
In the 1950s, Hollywood decided that the scariest things in the world weren’t vampires, werewolves or monsters. No, the scariest things in the world were insects, especially once scientists started tinkering around with their big brains and atomic energies and such. We had giant ants, giant spiders and even a deadly mantis. Most of these movies didn’t aspire to be much more than goofy fun and several didn’t even achieve that modest goal. But Kurt Neumann’s The Fly aimed a little higher and it remains one of the best horror/sci-fi movies of the decade.
Odds are you already know the basic story, either from this or from David Cronenberg’s remake. Scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison) invents a revolutionary teleportation device (although the word “teleportation” is never uttered... it’s a “disintegration/re-integrataion machine”). But in a freak accident, Andre’s atoms are mixed with those of a housefly, leaving him with a fly’s head and arm while the fly buzzes off with Andre’s parts. Will his wife (Patricia Owens) be able to capture the fly and send them back through the disintegrator/re-integrator in time? The answer to that would be no and that isn’t a spoiler because we find that out in the first five minutes. The movie is structured as a flashback.
In fact, the film’s narrative structure goes a long way toward preventing the movie from veering into camp ridiculousness. It starts as a murder mystery, with police inspector Herbert Marshall and Andre’s brother (Vincent Price in one of his most memorable sympathetic roles) trying to find a motive for Owens’ messy killing of her husband, not to mention her erratic behavior whenever there’s a fly in the room. Of course, the movie can’t entirely sustain this mood, especially once Hedison’s half-fly look is revealed. But the cast plays it all straight. The fine performances coupled with some inventive visual flourishes by Neumann and cinematographer Karl Struss go a long way toward elevating The Fly above most of its contemporaries.
Released under the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics banner, the CinemaScope picture looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Colors are vibrant and really pop from the screen. The DTS-HD audio preserves the original 4.0 stereo mix and it sounds terrific. The Fly boasts some dynamic audio effects and the disc serves them well. Extras are all carry-overs from the DVD, including a nice commentary by Hedison and film historian David Del Valle, an excellent episode of A&E’s Biography focusing on Price, a too-short featurette on the making of the film that also touches on its two sequels, a Fox Movietone News piece on the San Francisco premiere, and the trailer.
Cronenberg’s 1986 version, along with John Carpenter’s The Thing, is frequently cited as the gold standard of remakes. And it’s hard to argue that Cronenberg didn’t improve on the original. But that doesn’t mean that Neumann’s version should be dismissed out of hand. It’s still an extremely entertaining monster movie with some of the most unforgettable moments in horror history.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke
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