Monday, 4 October 2010

The Fly (1958)

The Fly (1958)
Film: The Fly (1958)
Director: Kurt Neumann
Presented By: Twentieth Century Fox
Writer(s): James Clavell, George Langelann

Andre  -  Al Hedison
Helene  -  Patricia Owens
Francois  -  Vincent Price
Inspector Charas   -  Herbert Marshall
Emma  -  Kathleen Freeman
Philippe  -  Charles Herbert

‘The Fly’, directed by Kurt Neumann, tells the story of a scientist’s experimentation with teleportation and the catastrophic consequences of ‘playing God’.

The film is interesting in that it is structured more like a mystery/thriller. The bulk of the film is told as a flashback after seeing the aftermath of the murder of the protagonist. This kind of set up is what I would usually associate with a modern thriller rather than a horror. None of the usual horror trappings are present such as gore or jump scares, and while the reveal of the fly himself was the most disturbing part, he is a tragic and sympathetic character as opposed to the typical horror monsters which were particularly popular at the time.

“The film is overcooked to the point of hysteria. Yet the unmasking of the fly at the end is the most effective scene of its kind since The Phantom of the Opera in 1925.” – Film Four

“The Fly was released in the midst of the 50’s monster-film craze, and make no mistake, it is an attempt to capitalize on that trend.” -  Brandt Sponseller, review

The reveal

 Andre (Al Hedison) is an impressively devoted scientist who has managed to create a teleportation device called ‘the disintegrator-integrator’.  Although the machine originally shows a few faults, such as images reappearing as though they had been reflected, Andre eventually smoothes out these problems and starts to experiment on more complex structures; the first being his pet cat! This didn’t go very well and led to one of the film’s best quotes where Andre tells his wife Helene (Patricia Owens) that their beloved cat has gone ‘’ Into space... a stream of cat atoms... [sighs]‘’. Watching from a current perspective, this line was delivered rather comically as he looked into the air slightly pensively yet regrettably. After even more ‘adjustments’ to the machine, Andre then feels confident enough to teleport himself. Unfortunately, a fly entered the chamber before he transported himself and they were tragically spliced.

Space cat

The results of the experiment reflect the fears that were present at the time due to advances in science and technology and the constant nuclear threat provided by the cold war.

“’There are things man should never experiment with.’ The film explicitly link Andre’s assumption of the god/scientist role with atomic-age fears. In a conversation that takes place in the laboratory Helene expresses fear of the present, commenting on “the suddenness of our age”. After listing many recent discoveries she laments, ‘everything’s going so fast’.” - I was a Cold War monster: horror films, eroticism, and the Cold War imagination By Cynthia Hendershot

Similar fears are still present today and are reflected in films such as ‘I-Robot’ and the Terminator series where the fear is of technology and artificial intelligence becoming self aware and rebelling.

 After an extensive search for the fly in order to reverse the process, Andre insists that his wife must kill him as the fly is slowly taking over his mind. His wife agrees to squash his hand and head in a press at Andre’s brother, Francois’ (Vincent Price) factory. The film ends with Francois finding the spliced fly trapped in a web and proving the story to the inspector who had just declared Helene insane. About to be eaten, the spider with Andre’s head and arm wails frantically as it’s about to be eaten by the spider. The inspector destroys the fly and realises he has done exactly as Helene had to do to her husband, therefore leading to him understanding the logic behind the killing.

Overall I enjoyed the film and was surprised  at how much it focussed on Andre and Helene’s relationship and how the deterioration of his mind affected it.

Andre showing affection before the fly takes over

 NOTE: Sorry about the dodgy formatting in that quote! I can't fix it!


  1. Anatomy: Interim Online Review 05/10/2010

    Hey Charlotte,

    Great review of The Fly – articulate, nice use of quotes and illustrations and insightful too – but where are all the others? Indeed, while I can’t fault the individual merits of work – the life drawing is sensitive, some effective portraits (but yes – avoid working from photographs because all you’re really doing is mimicking a surface), I’m slightly concerned by the absences and lack of genuinely investigative development. Yes, I fully appreciate the irritant of ‘internet drought’, but the University has many computers, scanners, and the internet is free, so I struggle to accept it as compelling excuse. Perhaps, you have an amazing body of conceptual work you were unable to upload in time… if not, I’d suggest you need to commit to your studies with considerably more gusto and seriousness or risk falling behind and making a bad first impression.

    There’s not much I can offer by way of constructive feedback, as your blog is empty of decisions tried or tested. All I can suggest is that you do as many of your classmates are doing and approach the realization of your hybrid from the ‘inside-out’; consider comparative anatomies, noting similarities and differences and remember that, at heart, this is a self-portrait project, with the implied challenge of maintaining likeness or semblance. Your essay proposal is another mystery that concerns me, as this interim review is your opportunity to be reassured.

    I hope this is just a beginning-of-term blip – and now you’re more organized you’ll engage more fully.

  2. Visit 2nd year Leo Tsang’s unit 1 blog from last year for an example of what a great ‘creative development’ blog can look like; the brief was a little different then, but the expectation of what a student can produce in 5 weeks was not. Take the time to work backwards through his posts. This is what a creative project at degree level looks like…

    A general reminder that, alongside everything else you need to have ready for crit day, you also need to submit an offline archive of your creative development blog. There is a way of exporting your blog as PDF via Blogger – which would be ideal for this purpose. Incase you missed the original post, Alan gives details here:

    And finally – now is the time to return to the brief; time and again, students fail to submit what they’ve been asked to produce – and how; usually because they haven’t looked properly at the brief, or haven’t done so since week one. Trust me on this; just take a few minutes with a highlighter pen to identify what is required, when, and how. Remember – non-submissions are dumb!