This a movie I have always known about, but never had the desire to watch. That is until I discovered that it wasn’t just an 80’s horror flick (which I understand is a classic itself) but also a series of B movies from the 50’s and 60’s. In an episode of the X-Files, Mulder is sleeping with the original playing in the background. I am always up for classic 50’s cinema, and it must have some appeal if the producers felt the need to through a nod out to it.
I thought there were some really good storytelling devices, and the last half of the film was very enjoyable, but I would have enjoyed it more if it were a half hour shorter.
For those who haven’t seen it, and don’t care to, the film begins after the majority of the action has taken place. Helene Delambre has just killed her husband Andre and goes to Francois, her brother-in-law (Vincent Price) for help. This type of plot device I don’t really care for. Smallville often would start an episode part way through the action, often when Clark was about to do something completely out of character. I feel like it is a waste of my time, when the main story is told I forget about the flash forward until the moments leading up to it. I would rather they just told me the story.
It makes sense here somewhat, as we see film through the great Vincent Price’s character, and the main plot is told to him by the wife of the man who would be the fly, but a 3rd of the film is wasted leading up to her telling of what happened.
The next section, the beginning of her tale, is wasted on character building and the showing of the family dynamic, and leading into the real action. I normally wouldn’t mind this except that we have already wasted half an hour building to the story, just kind of seems redundant.
But when act 3 begins, I’m all in. Andre, the dead man from the beginning, is a scientist who has invented a teleported (called here a disintegrating/reintregrating machine) but a fly gets inside during a test and their DNAs mix. Andre now has a fly face and appendage, and there is a fly with a white face and arm flying around). The handling of the fly revelation is done excellently. We see only his arm until the final scene when his face is finally revealed. The emphasis on the white faced fly is subtle at the beginning then highly important when you realize why – that the white parts are Andre. Even better is the death of the fly itself, now half human and yelling in a high pitched voice “HEEEEELLLP MEEEE!!!”
The effects are great for the time. They really help your make the jump from “this is a 50’s drama that happens to have a scientist turn into a fly” to “Oh yep, this is Sci Fi now.”
I also appreciated the subtle humour of the film. I love the Marvel films, but they focus a little to much on humour, at least for me. In this if you miss the jokes it makes no effect on anything, it doesn’t pull you out of the film. And it was all done in subtleties is the acting, rather than scripted punchlines in the dialogue. Maybe this is a thing of the time?
I do like that this film does not have a happy ending. Just like The Incredible Shrinking Man, in a time of romantacism and the hero always winning, it is nice to see the protagonist lose. Not because I’m sadistic, but because sometimes things go wrong, and media telling us that everything will work out in the end is unrealistic. Especially in dealing with ethically questionable science.
Overall, I would only give this a 7 out of 10. It’s good, but I would have preferred it as an Outer Limits episode. I will watch it again though.