The 13th Floor

DOUBLE TAKE! Revisiting THE FLY & THE RETURN OF THE FLY!

OK, my confession of the week is that I really wanted an excuse to revisit and gush about the 1989 version of THE FLY II. So in order to do that, I’ve decided to make this week’s “Double Take” a double feature of the original 1958 THE FLY, paired up with its 1959 sequel THE RETURN OF THE FLY! (Next week, we’ll delve into David Cronenberg’s masterpiece and its sequel!)

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OK, confession number 2. Although I have very vivid memories of various scenes from the original FLY, I realize now that I’ve never seen it! What the hell took me so long? This movie is great!

It opens on the scene of a grotesque accident, or is it a murder? The bloody remains of scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison) are splattered all over a metal press. His distraught wife Helene (Patricia Owens) is the prime suspect and she retreats back home to call her brother-in-law Francois (the great Vincent Price!) to confess that she just murdered her beloved. So the first half hour plays like a traditional murder mystery. What happened that led to Andre’s gory death?

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Helene finally opens up and starts telling the story of Andre’s revolutionary work to successfully accomplish teleportation with his pods; the separation of an object’s atoms in one pod and its reassembling in the second pod. His first attempt to use it on a living creature is with the family cat and well…. It doesn’t go so well. But after a night out together, Andre brings his wife home and demonstrates the machine to her to show that it does in fact work!

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Some time passes, and apparently (off camera) Andre at some point used the device himself. He can’t speak and he hides in his basement laboratory cloaked with a sheet over his face and leaving typed messages to his wife with instructions to find “the fly.” His son Phillippe has spotted an odd looking fly with a giant white head and since then, Helene has been searching for the obscure fly that might be able to save her husband. But time is running out as the longer he stays in his current form, the more he starts to lose his humanity. His cells and that of the fly have merged and so, when the sheet comes off, his terrible visage is revealed to be that of a giant fly!

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Also awesome? Fly P.O.V. Just saying.

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It’s a somewhat slow-paced movie, especially by today’s standard, but it’s just terrific and moved briskly enough for me. Only Andre’s left hand and head were changed into the features of a fly, so his reveal is one of the film’s most memorable moments. And then there’s one more shocker at the conclusion that shows us the attributes the fly inherited from its human counterpart!

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One year later, a sequel THE RETURN OF THE FLY hit theaters taking place 15 years after the events of the original and following Andre’s son Phillipe (Brett Halsey), now fully grown up and on a quest to continue his father’s work, despite protests from his Uncle Francois (Vincent Price returning again!).  The time jump is a bit jarring, but just as jarring is the color change. The original was presented in full color, whereas the sequel is presented in black and white, more than likely for budgetary reasons.

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Phillipe brings on an assistant, Alan Hinds (David Frankham) to help him continue his father’s experiments in his old grandfather’s house. But Alan has ulterior motives and before you know it, history repeats itself – only this time Phillipe is knocked unconscious, put into the machine, and comes out the other end with his DNA combined with that of a fly! It’s a fun movie, and Price is great as usual (despite his limited screen time this go round), but it’s not nearly as strong as the original film. And the fly, himself, doesn’t look nearly as impressive. But as a double feature with the original, it plays very well.

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At the moment, you can watch the original 1958 THE FLY on Netflix Instant. THE RETURN OF THE FLY is available from Scream Factory as part of their VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION Blu-Ray set, Volume II. And it looks absolutely flawless in high-def. There was a second sequel produced in 1965 titled THE CURSE OF THE FLY which goes even further down the family tree to continue the Delambre “curse,” but sadly this one doesn’t feature Vincent Price. At the moment, that 3rd chapter is only available in a DVD box set of THE FLY movies.

Next week, we’ll look at the remake and it’s follow-up!

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