The Fly (1958)

The Fly (1958)

TOMATOMETER

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Deliciouly funny to some and eerily presicient to others, The Fly walks a fine line between shlocky fun and unnerving nature parable.

The Fly Photos

Movie Info

Wealthy Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) is discovered late at night in the factory owned by her husband Andre (David Hedison). Helene stands beside a huge metal press, which has crushed the head and arm of her husband. Held for murder, the near-catatonic Helene refuses to tell anyone--not even Andre's brother Francois (Vincent Price)--why she did it. Francois cannot help but notice that Helene reacts in mortal terror when a tiny flies zips through the room. Nor can he disregard the statement made by Helene's son Philippe (Charles Herbert) that the fly has a curious white head and leg. When Francois pretends that he's captured the fly, Helene relaxes enough to tell her story. It seems that Andre, a scientist, had been working on a matter transmitter, which he claimed could disintegrate matter, then reintegrate it elsewhere. After a few experiments, Andre tried the transmitter himself. Just as he stepped into the disintegration chamber, a fly also flew into the chamber. We aren't immediately shown the results of this, save for the fact that Andre afterward insists upon keeping his head and arm covered. Alone with her husband, Helene abruptly removes the covering, revealing that Andre now bears the head of a fly! His atoms have become mixed up with the fly, and now he is unable to reverse the procedure. Deciding that his transmitter will be a bogy rather than a blessing to mankind, Andre smashes the apparatus and burns his notes. He then instructs Helene, via body language, to crush his fly-like head and arm in the press. Neither Francois nor inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) believe the story...until, while staring intently at a spider's web in the garden, they see a tiny entrapped fly with Andre's head and arm, tinnily screaming "Help me! Help me!" as the slavering spider approaches (If you're wondering why Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall do not look one another in the eye during this scene, it is because they couldn't deliver their dialogue without dissolving into laughter). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Classics , Horror , Mystery & Suspense , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Fox

Cast

Patricia Owens
as Helene Delambre
Vincent Price
as Francois Delambre
Herbert Marshall
as Insp. Charas
Betty Lou Gerson
as Nurse Andersone
Charles Herbert
as Philippe
Eugene Borden
as Dr. Ejoute
Torben Meyer
as Gaston
Harry Carter
as Orderly
Franz Roehn
as Police Doctor
David Hedison
as Andre Delambre
Arthur Dulac
as French Waiter
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Fly

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (4)

One strong factor of the picture is its unusual believability.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Variety
Top Critic

Slightly above average 50s science fiction (1958), enlivened by a nearly literate script by James Clavell.

Full Review… | September 25, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Clavell's script successfully treads a fine line between black comedy and po-faced seriousness.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

One of the better, more restrained entries of the 'shock' school.

Full Review… | May 21, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The climax ("Help me!") has given many viewers chills while providing others with chuckles -- I'm in the former camp; the primal terror of that situation never fails to move me -- but the rest is efficient in its solemnity.

Full Review… | October 5, 2013
Creative Loafing

It's the charisma of Vincent Price that really drives this movie and makes it a classic even today.

Full Review… | September 27, 2013
7M Pictures

Audience Reviews for The Fly

½

This was probably the first Vincent Price movie I ever saw if my memory serves me correctly, probably doesn't but eh. Again this film is actually an adaptation of a short story of the same name that was, strangely enough, first published in Playboy magazine back in 1957. A most unlikely place to find the origins for one of cinemas best cult horror creations. Oh and side note quickly, as I sometimes comment on poster quality, this movies poster is awful...just yucky and lacking any sort of imagination (the one with, presumably, Patricia Owens screaming mug on). I'm pretty sure everyone knows the tale of this insectoid mutation, but lets have a quick recap. A man is found crushed to death under a hydraulic press, his wife is seemingly the culprit, later on she fully admits that she willingly killed her man under his instruction. When the police come along to investigate and interview her we find out what exactly happened through a long flashback. Andre Delambre (David Hedison) has been experimenting with teleportation, transporting objects through space by disintegrating them down to a molecular/atomic level and beaming them to another point, something like that, its all very Star Trek (before Star Trek was even born). Anyway he starts off with inanimate objects and has almost 100% success, frustrated after more tinkering he eventually starts experimenting on live creatures and then himself. As we all know this goes tits up when a fly gets into one of the cabinets with him and he loses his head and arm, only to be replaced with the fly's head and leg. Delambre then scrambles around trying to get help from his shocked wife Helene (Patricia Owens) to find the fly with his head and arm so he can try and reverse the process. The clock is ticking though as the fly's mind is slowly taking over. Amusing and embarrassing tit bit, at first I had no clue this film was set in French speaking Canada, I thought it was supposed to be in France for the most part, you know because all the Frenchness going on, ugh! But yes the film is actually set in Quebec where everyone apparently speaks French despite being in Canada, because whatever. The first thing that caught my attention as the story slowly unfolds is how lackadaisical the police appear to be with Helene. They have just found out she killed her husband in a highly gruesome way, there was a witness to the murder and she freely admits it without breaking a sweat or a tear. Yet they treat her ever so nicely, they don't arrest her, they don't even take her down to the station, in fact they all just sit down, have a nice cup of tea, and discuss things in a gentlemanly/upper class fashion, such levels of etiquette. As said most of the plot actually takes place in a long flashback. We see Andre with Helene and their little boy, how happy they are in their rich surroundings, and how well his work is going. Price plays the brother of Andre and takes more of a back seat in all honesty, he merely helps Helene recount what happened, looks after the young boy and assists the police. I often think maybe Price should of played Andre? he gets top billing yet he isn't really that important to the story, that role could of been played by anyone and the character could of been anyone. It just seems weird they would cast Price yet not use him for the main role, no disrespect to Hedison but its not like he brought anything overly special to the role. Side note, look out for a young Kathleen Freeman as the Delambre's house maid. The crux of the film are of course the transportation devices and the experiments Andre carries out. I might just add you can clearly see where future director David Cronenberg got inspiration from with his own vision in 1984. The basement lab Andre works in is very familiar in tone to the 84 version, the teleportation devices are very different naturally, here they are large glass cabinets...but the surrounding equipment, the control panels, wiring, layout of the cabinets, colour scheme etc...its all very similar if you've seen both versions. Did anyone notice the basement doors in this version? the pattern on the door? the way it slides open? the doors colour? I do believe they homage those doors in the 84 version. Its a very tiny thing but I noticed it straight away, unless its just me of course. Anyway I think we can all agree thinks start to really get exciting as Andre starts to experiment. Yes I know the cat sequence was sad, sad and eerie, that's the whole point of course. Who doesn't get a shiver down their spine when we hear the meows from Dandelo the cat, lost somewhere in subspace, just floating molecules or atoms...I'm not sure which. Although, far be for me to spoil the eeriness but what happened to the dish he put in with Dandelo? anyone notice that? If Andre got his atoms mixed up with a fly when he went through, would Dandelo get mixed up with the dish? Yes I know Dandelo didn't reintegrate but had he, would he be half cat, half dish? As for Andre and his hood when he eventually messes up, well talk about cheesy and hilarious, I love how Helena just treats him normally and acts virtually the same despite his ominous hood. No, no, never mind about this black hood over my head, just carry on as normal, as if nothing has happened, as if everything was perfectly normal. Yes I have had a hideous accident which I informed you about in my letter, but don't fret, no medical assistance required despite the fact I've clearly done something horrendous to my head, the hood will suffice for now. The reveal when Helena does eventually pull off his hood is of course a classic cinematic B-movie moment, the music reaching a sudden crescendo, the female screams, the zoom in on the mutated fly head with its twitching labellum or mouth section, great stuff. As you would expect the horror aspect has long since been diluted by the outrageously bad effects, for the time it was shocking but these days its merely a bloke with a rubber fly head on. The rubbery fly claw actually makes it even worse truth be told but the large compound fly eyes are very effective, easily the creepiest part on the common fly. I will admit it is kinda creepy watching this hooded bloke wander around in the basement, knowing he has a flies head, that being said, Hedison does actually perform well as the flies mind starts to corrupt his own mind, some good visual performances without dialog. One thing that did always confuse me, if Andre kept his mind when he got the flies head, did that mean the fly with the human head still kept thinking like a fly? Also, when the flies mind starts to take control of Andre's human body, did that mean that his human head on the flies body started to think like a human? I also don't really understand why Andre would have kept his mind when his head got transferred onto a flies body, why would the flies head retain his mind? Surely his mind would remain in his own head which would now be on the flies body, right? Same can be said for the flies arm/claw, how the hell does that have a mind of its own?? Oh and why are the flies head and claw human sized? wouldn't they be regular fly sized? my God how disturbing would that be!! The movie was quite gruesome for its time and its easy to see why. If you put aside the giant fly head and disturbing image of Hedison's head and arm on a flies body about to be eaten alive by a big spider, you then have the quite shocking image (for the time) of a man's dead limp body dangling from a hydraulic press after his head has been crushed. Oh and yes there is a lot of blood on display, its dripping down the side of the press for all to see. Despite that its not really scary (although I'm sure kids wouldn't like it), its more of a body shock horror than anything, an icky, gooey, revolting horror that makes your skin crawl when you think about it. Just being caught in a spiders web is enough to make my skin crawl brrr! On one hand the film is totally ludicrous and in places makes no real sense at all, as I've pointed out. Yet on the other hand its a dark, original, enjoyable science fiction tale of mystery and horror that does have some relatively sensible and interesting notions, mainly teleportation.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

½

While I think the Cronenberg remake is the best version of this story, this early rendition is definitely awesome. The remake relies purely on the horror aesthetic, horrendous and frightening visuals, and a relationship between the characters that mirrored abuse. The original cares more about making this a period piece, so it can delve into the mad scientist genre. It's also important to the film to rely mostly on subtlety and obscuring the face of Dr. Delambre (Hedison). While this film does an excellent job of displaying a time period that makes the horror Victorian and understated, and the characters rich and complex. It's a vintage Vincent Price film, including the graphic depiction of the monster's death and the issues with morality and scientific innovation. While the monster isn't very grotesque, his evolution is, and that's what's really scary.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

A top-notch nostalgic horror flick from the 50's that features the ever awesome talent of Vincent Price. The plot is very original and carefully told with much class. Boasts an ending that will truly leave viewers unnerved (or laughing, depending on who you are). Later remade in 1986 by David Cronenberg which is just as good.

Christopher Heim
Christopher Heim

Super Reviewer

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