The Fly (1958 film)
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kurt Neumann|
|Screenplay by||James Clavell|
|Based on||The Fly
1957 short story in Playboy
by George Langelaan
|Music by||Paul Sawtell|
|Edited by||Merrill G. White|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$3 million|
The Fly is a 1958 American DeLuxe Color science fiction-horror film in CinemaScope produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was written by James Clavell (his first), from the short story of the same name by George Langelaan. It tells a story of a scientist who mutates into a grotesque human fly after one accidentally flew into his transportation machine and mixes their atoms. It was followed by two sequels, Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly. It was remade in 1986 as a film of the same name by director David Cronenberg.
In Montreal, Canada, scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison) is found dead with his head and arm crushed in a hydraulic press. Although his wife Helene (Patricia Owens) confesses to the crime, she refuses to provide a motive, and begins acting strangely. In particular, she is obsessed with flies, including a supposedly white-headed fly. Andre's brother, Francois (Vincent Price), lies and says he caught the white-headed fly; and, thinking he knows the truth, Helene explains the circumstances surrounding Andre's death.
In flashback, Andre, Helene, and their son Philippe (Charles Herbert) are a happy family. Andre has been working on a matter transporter device called the disintegrator-integrator. He initially tests it only on small inanimate objects, but he eventually proceeds to living creatures, including the family's pet cat (which fails to reintegrate, but can be heard meowing somewhere) and a guinea pig. After he is satisfied that these tests are succeeding, he builds a man-sized pair of chambers. One day, Helene, worried because Andre has not come up from the basement lab for a couple of days, goes down to find Andre with a black cloth over his head and a strange deformity on his left hand. Communicating with typed notes only, Andre tells Helene that he tried to transport himself but that a fly was caught in the chamber with him, which resulted in the mixing of their atoms. Now, he has the head and left arm of a fly; and the fly has his miniature head and left arm, though he keeps his mind.
Andre needs Helene to capture the fly so he can reverse the process. Although she expends great effort in her search, she cannot find it and Andre's will begins to fade as the fly's instincts take over his brain. Time is running out, and while Andre can still think like a human, he smashes the equipment, burns his notes, and leads Helene to the factory. When they arrive, he sets the hydraulic press and motions for Helene to push the button. She activates the press twice - once to crush his head and once to crush his left arm.
Upon hearing this confession, the chief detective on the case, Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall), deems Helene insane and guilty of murder. As they are about to haul her away, Philippe tells Francois he's seen the fly trapped in a web in the back garden. Francois convinces the inspector to come and see for himself. The two men see the fly, trapped in the web, with both Andre's head and arm. It screams "Help me! Help me!" as a large brown spider advances on it. Just as the spider is about to devour the creature, Charas crushes them both with a rock. Knowing that nobody would believe the truth, he and Francois decide to declare Andre's death a suicide so that Helene isn't convicted of murder. In the end, Helene, Francois and Philippe resume their daily lives, with Francois explaining to Philippe that Andre died doing the most dangerous act for humanity, but also the most important: "the search for the truth".
- David Hedison (credited as Al Hedison) as Andre Delambre
- Patricia Owens as Helene Delambre
- Vincent Price as Francois Delambre
- Herbert Marshall as Inspector Charas
- Kathleen Freeman as Emma
- Betty Lou Gerson as Nurse Andersone
- Charles Herbert as Philippe Delambre
- Eugene Borden as Dr. Ejoute
- Torben Meyer as Gaston
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At least one source gives the film's budget as a parsimonious $350,000. In addition to 20th Century Fox's trademarked CinemaScope and Color by Deluxe, a $28,000 laboratory set was constructed from army surplus equipment.
David Hedison's costume featured a twenty-pound fly's head, about which he said: "Trying to act in it was like trying to play the piano with boxing gloves on."
There are notable differences in the film from the short story.
- Helene tells Francois and Charas about the circumstances leading to Andre's death rather than explaining it to Francois through a manuscript.
- When Andre goes through the transmitter at Helene's suggestion to reverse the transformation, he does not gain the atoms of the family cat.
- Helene commits suicide in the short story, but lives in the film.
- At the end of the short story, Francois gives Charas the manuscript, which they destroy. Francois then tells Charas that he buried a fly at Andre's grave site - a fly with a white head and arm. At the end of the movie, Francois and Charas find the fly with Andre's head and arm trapped in a web screaming for help about to be eaten by a spider. Charas uses a rock to crush them both and he and Francois agree to lie about what happened to Andre knowing that no one would believe the truth.
The Fly received positive recognition from both critics and audiences. It holds a 95% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The film has also received four out of five stars on Allmovie. The film was a commercial success, grossing $3 million at the domestic box office against a budget of less than $500,000. It earned $1.7 million in theatrical rentals.
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Help me! Help me!" - Nominated
Sequels and remake
The film spawned two sequels, Return of the Fly in 1959 and Curse of the Fly in 1965. There was also a remake of the same name in 1986 directed by David Cronenberg, which itself had a sequel, 1989's The Fly II.
- "THE FLY (X)". British Board of Film Classification. July 7, 1958. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p251
- Box Office Information for The Fly. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
- Vieira, Mark A. (2003). Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 173. ISBN 0-8109-4535-5.
- Vieira, p. 172
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p227
- Todd Lincoln Talks The Fly Remake That Almost Was; Practical Effects Aplenty!
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