Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Fly

The first time, sure. Not the last.
"What kind of movie do you want to watch tonight?" I asked my boyfriend. "Horror", he said, ominously. Given that request, it seemed the right thing to do to watch the original The Fly (1958). Horror is a pretty loose term for this one, mind you (sorry, Netflix), as the Science Fiction classic keeps the creep factor to a minimum. That said, while not actually scary, I was pleased to find that The Fly was at least consistently entertaining.

Freshly squeezed.
Early on in The Fly, we're shown the most graphic image of the film: a man's bloody corpse squished by a factory's mechanical press. That corpse belongs to Andre Delambre (Al David Hedison) co-owner of the factory, and the one who squashed him was none other than his wife Helene (Patricia Owens). She calls up Andre's brother and co-owner of the factory François (Vincent Price) and tells him to bring the police, which he does in the form of Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall). Once they arrive on the scene, a calm and collected Helena confesses to killing her husband, but refuses to offer up a motive or anything else. In fact, she seems pretty out to lunch, so Charas holds off on charging her with murder and lets her have bed rest.

Who knew all I had to do was kill a dude for some downtime?
François is baffled by his brother's death, as Helene and Andre seemed very much in love. If those names sound very French to you, congratulations, you're very clever. The film is pointlessly set in Montreal, where apparently no one (except for one security guard) speaks a word of French or has an accent. Anyway, François doesn't think Helene could have murdered his brother, she's just not that kind of girl. For her part, Helene is acting a little wackadoodle, pretending not to recognize her own son, Philippe (Charles Herbert) and chasing flies around her bedroom. So you know, maybe she's gone mad and that's why she killed him. The flies thing seems particularly odd to François, especially since Philippe mentioned seeing the extra-special white-headed fly that his mom is looking for. François decides to pretend to have caught that specific fly, and asks Helene about its importance. This is when she decides to tell the real story to her brother-in-law and Inspector Charas, because she's not crazy after all, she just wanted them to think that until she could prove her story with the fly!
Spending all your time sciencing, don't even notice my hot nightie.
See Andre was a brilliant scientist, as well as owning a factory. He kept an elaborate lab in the basement, and would spend days and weeks down there working on projects. His latest, which he shared with his wife, was a "disintegrator-integrator" aka a teleportation machine. First, he worked on solid objects, like an ashtray.

Last meal.
Soon though, Andre decided to try out more complex items in his machine. Unbeknownst to Helene, he tried teleporting the family cat, Dandelo. Poor Dandelo ended up a mess of cat-atoms in space, still able meow for some bizarre reason. After some tweaking though, Andre succeeded in teleporting a guinea pig, to whom no one had any emotional attachment (oh thanks). Things seemed to be going just dandy for Andre and his experiments. Just dandy indeed.

What's wrong honey? Do you have a zit?
Eventually thinking it's weird when Andre refuses to come out of his laboratory all day, Helene ventured downstairs, and through a series of typed letters, learned that her husband had an accident in the lab, and only she could help him! When he let her into the room, she found him hiding his head beneath a conveniently available black cloth with his left hand shoved suspiciously into his pocket. He explains how he opted to throw caution to the wind and test his machine out on himself, but something went horribly wrong. Wouldn't you know it, there was a motherflipin' fly in the teleportation machine with him! And that's some bad news right there.

Hello, handsome. 
 Andre was turned into a fly-human hybrid, with one arm and his head (but curiously, not his brain) becoming real gross upon reintegration. Helene was justifiably horrified, screaming her fool head off (no one in the rest of the house noticed, which is unnerving by itself). Eventually though, she realized that beneath his buggy eyes and totally disgusting wiggly mouth, her beloved husband was still there. And if only she could catch the white-headed fly, he'd have a chance of getting back to normal by taking another trip in the teleportation machine with the fly. To me, this seems absurd, since in all likelihood he'd just end up with a pair of wings and a weird fly penis, but it's the plan they wanted to try.

Not a fly penis!
To make Andre's stupid plan work though, first Helene would need to catch one specific fly, which sounds pretty impossible. I'm not bragging when I say that I don't have a lot of flies in my house, but apparently the Delambre house was just lousy with them! Enlisting the help of little Philippe and the housemaid Anna (Kathleen Freeman), who was just as bad at catching flies as she was for maintaining an accent from one sentence to another, they miraculously came pretty close to capturing the white-headed fly. It escaped however, and they were back to square one.

Gonna kiss you with my gross wiggly mouth parts!
Down in the lab, things were getting worse, as the longer Andre stayed part fly, the more the fly's instincts and even brain started taking over. I guess in the move maybe like half his brain went to his human body and half his brain went to the fly's body? Anyway, Andre was fast becoming less and less human and since Helene fucked up finding the fly (you had one job!), the only thing he could do was destroy himself. Or rather, make Helene do it, by crushing his mutated body in the mechanical press. It was a nice morbid touch to have his fly arm fall out of the press after his head got smushed, forcing Helene to have to squish him twice to get the job done.

So there's the truth. Helene isn't really a murderer, because for the most part, Andre wasn't actually Andre. Of course, it's an absurd story that Inspector Charas doesn't believe a word of. François isn't so sure though, and when Philippe announces that he's found the white-headed fly trapped in a spider web just as the police arrive to cart Helene off, he rushes to see if this could be the proof to exonerate Helene (who by-the-by, he has the hots for).

Help meeeeee!
Along with Charas, François looks upon the spiderweb in horror. There's the fly alright, only he's got Andre's head and arm, and he's screaming "Help me! Help me!" as a big ass spider gets all up in his business. So... he's got conscious thought, and can speak. And is about to become dinner. Nothing horrifying about that, or confusing, no sir. François and Charas just stare at him for forever. Probably wondering why all the other people in the movie just saw a white head on the fly and didn't see a dude's face, which is plainly visible:

Help me faster!
Eventually, Charas picks up a rock and puts this pathetic creature of it's misery. The pair concoct a plan to explain away Helene's charges, and everyone lives happily ever after. Seriously, a husband, father, and brother just died, and the family acts like it's time for a damn picnic. I guess seeing a guy as half-fly really dampens your memory of him.

Nobody even misses you.
I really enjoyed The Fly, and having finally seen the original, I understand Treehouse of Horror VIII's Fly vs. Fly so much more (it's clearly inspired by the original, not the 1986 version, amazing as that was). Vincent Price is refreshingly not meant to be creepy, and does a good job of anchoring the film. Patricia Owens puts in a solid performance herself, with a role that could have been more screamy and less empathetic. All in all, it's less campy than I was expecting, and though it could have been creepier (the only close to skin-crawly part is when Andre is trapped in the web), it was a very fun watch.

Atoms gone wild!

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