THE FLY. (1958) BASED ON A STORY BY GEORGE LANGELAAN. SCREENPLAY BY JAMES CLAVELL. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY KURT NEUMANN.
STARRING VINCENT PRICE, PATRICIA OWENS, AL HEDISON AND HERBERT MARSHALL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is no common or garden B-movie or sci-fi shocker. It’s a genuinely disturbing and moving film that makes you feel a terrible empathy for the stricken characters contained within it.
It also really makes me wish I’d been a rich glamorous ‘Fifties housewife married to a wealthy, successful and generous man, because all Helene Delambre seems to do is change from one spectacular outfit to another, give instructions to the maids and lie in bed waiting for her husband to, well, come and make love to her. (As Scarface says to Michelle Pfeiffer just before she leaves him, lol.) I could do that. I could very easily live like that, being some rich guy’s sex-Barbie and clothes-horse.
The Jeff Goldblum version of this film (1986) is pretty much unbeatable, but THE FLY (1958) holds its own remarkably well too, even today. Vincent Price plays Francois Delambre, a French-Canadian electronics millionaire who co-owns his business with his brother Andre.
Andre is the genius scientist-inventor who spends all his waking moments in his laboratory while Francois is most likely the brains behind the business side of things. Francois is suave, single, sophisticated, sexy as hell and, sadly, disappointed in love. Can you guess who disappointed him? Come on, guys. There are only three main characters, after all…!
One night, Francois is lounging about at home in his magnificent red satin smoking-jacket when he receives a phone call from Helene, saying rather bizarrely that she’s just killed Andre in their factory. Francois thinks she’s kidding at first, but this is no freakin’ joke.
A horrified Francois calls an acquaintance of his, a police inspector called Charas, and the two of them high-tail it over to the factory to find that Andre has indeed been killed, and in a particularly horrific way as well, with his head and arm crushed in an industrial press designed to squish heavy metals. I know, it’s gruesome, right?
Then the two men nip over to Helene and Andre’s house to find Helene quite composed and in control of herself. Immaculately dressed and playing the hostess, she admits quite calmly to having killed Andre but she won’t say that she ‘murdered’ him because that’s a different matter entirely. She also categorically refuses to say why she did it. End of story.
I daresay that if she were ugly, ancient and impoverished instead of a millionaire scientist’s beautiful young wife, Inspector Charas would probably throw her in jail without a second thought. As it is, he lets her stay at home on house arrest with a nurse catering to her every whim while they try to puzzle out her mental state.
When she gets hysterical one day over the squishing of a common housefly by the attending nurse, however, the floodgates open. Helene Delambre is ready to talk. Francois is permitted to fetch Charas over to the house (‘I can’t tell this story twice,’ Helene says) and the two men hear a tale from her that seems to belong more in the realms of science fiction and science fantasy than the real world of cold hard scientific facts to which they’re more used.
Do they believe her? Not at first, of course. It’s just too fantastical. But when Helene’s cute little ‘Fifties son Philippe points out the existence of a rather unusual fly in the garden to his dear Uncle Francois, it gives some credence- just a little- to Helene’s story.
Francois rushes like a mad thing to grab Inspector Charas, who’s right this minute busy arranging for Helene’s committal to an insane asylum, and hurries him out into the garden to see this fly. Is this the dramatic eleventh-hour corroboration the distraught Helene needs before the white-shirted orderlies cart her away to the funny-farm for the rest of her life?
Helene’s story is indeed fantastical, but it’s heartbreaking too. I was in floods of tears by the end. Naturally I can’t divulge the details but may I be so bold as to suggest that you add THE FLY (1958) to your Halloween viewing this year? Team it with the absolutely brilliant Jeff Goldblum version from 1986 and you’ve got yourself a nice little party going. And for God’s sake don’t forget the sugar. Flies love sugar…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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