DIRECTOR: Kurt Neumann
As the wife (Patricia Owens) of “murdered” scientist played by Al (David) Hedison, is maniacally hunting for a fly with a white head, both the police and his brother (Vincent Price) are trying to uncover the truth behind his death, which seems by all accounts to be the work of his wife.
But as she recounts the tale of how they both ended up embroiled in the hydraulic press, one under it and one at the controls, the plot thickens and a Sci Fi classic is born. Hedison’s scientist has invented the teleporter and during one of his human tests on himself, a fly enters the chamber with him and the pair are fused: The fly’s head and left arm are now a part of Hedison, whilst his head and arm are buzzing around as part of a common house fly.
The film makes an effort to offer some real science, though be it toned down and simplified by today’s standards, but it is easy to feel that this is a naive movie at face value, if you forget that in 1958, teleportation was a fantastical concept, but mid 60’s science fiction such as Star Trek would make this much more matter of fact and play around with science more freely.
But by the time of the remake in 1986, David Cronenberg was gifted with an audience who understood these ideas and offered a more comprehensive take on what might have happened, in this case, gene splicing and DNA replication, with the cells using the corrupted hybrid DNA code as a basic every time the cells replicate, a process which would eventually turn Jeff Goldblum’s man in to a man/fly hybrid monster!
But here, whilst almost all of this is present, it is simplified for an audience unprepared and unarmed with the scientific knowledge with would be more common in the 1980’s, thanks to films like this. Here, Hedison’s man/fly is changing mentally into a fly the longer he has the mutation, leading him to commit assisted suicide in order to prevent his work from been replicated, fearing the consequences.
This is ground breaking stuff. A Sci-Fi classic which spends most of its running time building an intriguing, intelligent suspenseful thriller, with little time given over to the eponymous Fly itself, but it is omnipresent, chilling as is the reveal of the scientist’s deformation in the final act, the change in personality and loving relationship with his tragic wife.
And that penultimate scene in which the white-headed fly is revealed to us with Hedison’s head and arm as it/he is about to be devoured by a spider in his web, must be one of the most chilling scene’s of the genre. Simple, effective and not for the special effects or gore, but for the concept, one which leaves you thinking and considering what you have just witnessed.
What would you do if you saw a fly with a human head? A human with a fly’s head? Creepy…