Review of “The Fly” (1958)

from YouTube

We borrowed this week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering from the library.

Plot:

This 1958 color horror film is based on a short story by George Langelaan, first published in June 1957 in Playboy—yes, that Playboy. I guess someone read the articles.

The movie opens with Gaston (an uncredited Torben Meyer), night watchman at Delambre Frères Electronics in Montreal, making his rounds. An alarm bell rings, and the sounds of a hydraulic press working follow, neither of which Gaston expects from a factory closed for the day. He hurries to the press. A well-heeled woman (Patricia Owens) sees him and flees. To his horror, he realizes blood is running down the sides of the press, and human remains lie to one side of it.

The scene then cuts to a ringing phone on a desk. A man (Vincent Price) answers it. He’s delighted to hear from Helene.

Calling him is the well-heeled woman who ran from the press. “Francois, I’ve killed Andre. I need your help.”

“Now look, I love you both,” he tells her, “but it’s late.”

He starts to take it a bit more seriously when she says, “Call the police and come quickly.”

He does as she asks. Things take an even graver turn when Gaston calls him to report a murder. Francois calls an acquaintance, Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall), at the club where they’re both members.

Helene Delambre is polite and calm, talking to Inspector Charas as she admits to killing her husband Andre (David Hedison). She declines to tell him why she did such a thing but offers him coffee. However, the killing was not murder, for it was in accordance with Andre’s last wishes.

The Inspector asks to see Andre Delambre’s home laboratory only to find it in shambles. He arranges for a nurse for Helene. Helene nearly melts down when the nurse swats a fly. Once she knows it’s only a regular fly, she is relieved.

Thoughts:

Helene finally reveals what is bothering her and how she came to kill her beloved husband, telling her story in flashback. Her scientist husband, Andre, built a matter transporter machine. Everything goes wells; a plate they received as a wedding present transfers from one box to another in a separate room. However, the legend “Made in Japan” is reversed. Later, Delambre thinks he has solved the problem and (the bastard) entices the family cat, Dandelo, into the box with the saucer of milk. The saucer comes out fine. All that’s left of the cat is haunting little meow.

Who gets to explain to their son Phillipe (Charles Herbert) that Dandelo isn’t coming back?

What makes this all the more poignant is Francois’ declarations to the Inspector that his brother Andre and sister-in-law believe in the sanctity of life. They wouldn’t hurt anything, not even a fly.

Without laying too great a burden on the film, I will say that the idea of the sanctity of life arises–not in the sense of exacting a karmic debt, but posing a question about preserving life in the face of unbearable suffering.

The special effects are hokey from the vantage point of 2021 (nearly *GULP* 2022), but the flashing lights/neon/black routine while the transporter is up and running is impressive. I imagine watching that light show in a dark theater would be all the more so.

The acting, particularly of Vincent Price and Patricia Owens, is engaging and believable. I think the story itself would be more compelling if told linearly rather than in flashback. Nevertheless, this film is full of striking scenes, such as the multiple images of Helene’s screaming to simulate the Fly’s compound eye.

According to the IMDB, The Fly was nominated for a Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation in 1959. The screenplay was written by James Clavell, who also wrote the screenplay for The Great Escape (1963), the 1975 novel Shogun, and many other things. The author of the original story the movie was based on, George Langelaan, wrote a memoir, The Masks of War (1959), describing his time as a spy for the Allies. He parachuted into occupied France to make contact with the resistance but was captured, imprisoned, sentenced to death. He escaped and returned to England and later participated in the D-Day invasion. He received the French Croix de Guerre.

The Fly was remade in 1986. Both films have strengths and weaknesses. I like this for what it is.

I could not immediately find a copy of this available for download for free.


Title: The Fly (1958)

Directed by
Kurt Neumann

Writing Credits
James Clavell…(screenplay)
George Langelaan…(based on a story by)

Cast (in credits order)
David Hedison…Andre Delambre (as Al Hedison)
Patricia Owens…Helene Delambre
Vincent Price…François Delambre
Herbert Marshall…Insp. Charas
Kathleen Freeman…Emma

Released: 1958
Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

12 thoughts on “Review of “The Fly” (1958)

  1. Hey, I used to read the articles in Playboy!

    How do you think I know that Anson Mount (the columnist at Playboy) is the father of actor Anson Mount. Jr. (Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds)?

    Of COURSE, I looked at the pictures! But I used to read the reviews (that’s how I found about Stephen King’s IT and Oliver Stone’s Platoon). And the fiction was good, too!

      1. Cool. I so want to submit to Marian Zimmer Bradley’s magazine. I had three or four stories I thought might work, but I could never quite get up the courage. Then the news came out about how she and her husband had abused their children and I just couldn’t. They were both deceased at that time, but I still couldn’t.

  2. I saw this when I was younger. It didn’t scare me, but the part when you see his fly head near the end was shocking. I did find the last bit disturbing, the part where the fly with the human head is screaming for help from the spider and the man has to crush them

Leave a Reply to Alex Diaz-Granados Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: