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  • Gareth Crook

The Fly (1958) - 8/10

I’ve just rewatched Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly. It stands up. Sure there’s a lot of slimy FX involved, but it’s the story that makes it work. I’m intrigued then to see how the original compares and of course to see if it’s better. So here I am. Well for starters it kicks off with more of a punch or technically a squish. Helene (Patricia Owens) has squashed her husband Andre (David Hedison) in a printing press. The big question is as she tearfully confesses to her brother-in-law François (Vincent Price) on the telephone, why? Something doesn’t add up. It’s all a bit murder mystery, with Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) asking the questions. Helene is illusive. She’ll admit to killing Andre, but there’s questions she “cannot answer”. Charas thinks she’s nuts and the plot thickens as he’s shown around Andre’s trashed home laboratory. We know what he was working on of course, but it’s fun watching François and Charas find out. Andre has destroyed all his work and with Helene not talking and assumed guilty of murder by insanity, Charas is at a loss. François though starts to get little clues. Helene’s obsession with a fly. A fascination shared by her son Philippe who notes it has a white head and a funny leg. This is a side of the story that Cronenberg ignores in his version. In fact he turns everything upside down. I love that film, but playing it this way is infinitely better. It’s a much slower burn and all the better for it. After some persuasion from Feançois, Helene gives in and tells her story. We get a lovely 50s flashback transition and finally get to meet Andre who explains his new teleportation machine. He’s excited and happy to show off his creation to Helene, until she spots a flaw. Andre is much more Doc Brown than Seth Brundle, although what he does to the family cat is rather chilling. This though ebbs and flows much better. The characters are well rounded and much easier to invest in. It taps well into the boom of the electronic age. Sure it still plays well 65 years on, but I bet this was a real rush to watch on release. True is doesn’t have anyone to deliver Goldblum’s wonderful skittishness, but this isn’t a horror as such. It’s full of romance, sweeping strings and picture book perfection. Well until one day when Andre locks himself in the lab and won’t come out. Declaring he’s had an accident to Helene through a note passed under the door. Whilst Andre’s transformation isn’t as grotesque, it’s no less cinematic. In fact maybe it’s better. He wears a black cloth over his head. The imagination left to wander freely as to what exactly it hides. He’s only one hope, finding the fly with the white head. Although Hedison is great, even with a cloth on his head and Price chews the scenery wonderfully. It’s Owens that shines. She does the heavy lifting and really carries this picture. This is not only a fantastic creature feature. It’s a fantastic film and yes it’s much better than the remake.



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