The Sci-Fi Chronicles brings me another classic, one I am actually ashamed to admit I have never seen, but I was such a huge fan of the Cronenberg remake that I didn’t want to sully my love of it.
This version, lacking Cronenberg’s body horror, is the original incarnation, has a script by Shogun’s (the second +1000 page book I ever read) James Clavell and stars David Hedison (who will always be Felix Leiter to me), Patricia Owens and Vincent Price.
Set in Montreal, the opens with the horrific murder of Andre (Hedison) by Helene (Owens). As Francois (Price) deals with the loss of his brother, he tries to figure out what is going on, and so the flashback begins. It seems Andre was working on a teleportation device, but the experiment went disastrously wrong when a fly entered the device with him, well their heads and arms anyway.
Helene is believed to be insane for her actions, and her reactions to flies around the house seem to support that belief. Philippe (Charles Herbert), their son, has seen the fly they are looking for, but he has no clue what has happened to his father. Slowly she reveals what really happened.
Andre has very noble ideals in creating his device, but even that isn’t enough to save him, and considering what happened to the cat he practically deserves his fate… Which he reveals to Helene through a note, advising that he’s had an accident. The reveal, of course, is classic, as is the immortal ‘Help Me!’ scene.
It’s a slow moving film by today’s standards, but still vastly entertaining, though very melodramatic. Helene and Philippe begin their hunt for the white-headed fly, while Andre mopes beneath a hood in his lab.
It seems that the two minds are becoming infused, with the fly portion taking control of the human body, and the reverse is occurring to the fly, though why it won’t let itself be caught is beyond me.
I will say that for the time, the makeup effects on the fly head, even though it’s apparently a mask, the quivering proboscis is a little unnerving.
While he is still in control, Andre insists on destroying all his work, and the device, putting a stop to any of the knowledge being shared, and seems intent on making sure that it includes him as well.
As I said it’s definitely melodramatic, but it also gets a little dark as well, as suicide seems to be the only answer he’s willing to consider. A bit of a downer. But don’t worry, it’s the 50s, so there is still a bit of a happy ending, in a manner of speaking.
I have to admit, I prefer Cronenberg’s version, this one just seems too clean cut, polished and bright. It’s too candy-colored to be truly frightening. Still, glad I can finally say that I’ve seen it.