Movie Review #735
Directed by Kurt Neumann. Writer: James Clavell. (Story: George Langelaan.) Produced by Kurt Neumann for Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Uncredited producer: Robert L. Lippert. Starring Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Charles Herbert, Kathleen Freeman, and Betty Lou Gerson. Uncredited cameo: Torben Meyer. Premiered in San Francisco, California on July 16, 1958. Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation in limited release on August 29, 1958. PCA #19036: Approved. Runs 94 minutes.
I guess it’s something about human nature that we all hate flies. For some reason, their very presence is alarming. So 1958’s “The Fly” has a sly and rather manipulative way of grabbing our attention. Especially in the opening credits sequence, the buzzing noise of a fly can be used for a misleading effect. In other cases, it’s also used for suspense. Whichever reason for the buzzing sounds, they’re there, and it’s our natural inclination to freeze our eyes directly toward the screen, or wherever else the sound might be coming from in our viewing environment. Not that any film needs our adrenaline to have our attention, but “The Fly” is a decent movie, because it had my full attention–buzzing or no buzzing.
But let’s be clear that “The Fly” isn’t for just any audience. It’s very much a B-movie, and in fact it’s from the Golden Age of B-movies. The director, Kurt Neumann died just a week before the film’s general release, and he still had three more movies on queue. Maybe he thought it was “just another movie,” but there’s a reason “The Fly” was Neumann’s biggest hit, or a few reasons, maybe. To go for a simple argument, this film is very suspenseful. By the final third, the movie has turned into an eerie, Halloweenish movie, mostly thanks to its music and costume design. (I can definitely see why many claim to be scared to death of this movie, after seeing it on TV as a kid.) The screenplay isn’t exactly the best. You’ll find obvious lines like these are, in fact, the best in stock:
“You said you killed your husband. That means you murdered him.”
But we can’t overlook the fact that the story is interesting, and–despite the appearance of a man with a god-awful French accent in the beginning–the acting is fine, overall. Al Hudison is spectacular as the titular creature; the concept is that a man and a fly became a hybrid through a failed science experiment, and Hudison totally sells that to us. The set which became his lab, however, deserves museum preservation. Maybe the movie itself isn’t, but that laboratory is as classic as the imitating set in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.
THE FLY IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.