Monday, 26 September 2011

The Fly (1958)

Produced and written by:  Kurt Neumann
Screenplay by:                James Clavell
Cast:                             David Hedison (Andre), Patricia Owens (Helene), Vincent Price (Francois), 
                                    Herbert Marshall (Inspector Charas), Charles Herbert (Philippe), Charles 
One of the first things we find out in the film is when Helene (Patricia Owens) brutally kills her husband, crushing his head and arm under the printing press (twice). For the first couple of minutes the audience can't figure out why she would do this, as there is nothing anyone recalls being wrong with her marriage or family life. The confused family inspector (Herbert Marshall) and victims brother Francois (Vincent Price) are desperately trying to find out the reason, why a loving wife would kill her husband. 

"-You mean you put your husband
  under the press?
 -No, Inspector. He did that himself.
-He put his head and his arm
  under the press?
 -I cannot answer that question.
  Coffee, Inspector?"

Helene speaks of the murder as if there was nothing wrong with it, and she would not explain to anyone why she'd do such a thing. They assume she has become crazy, because neither Francois or the Inspector can think of any motive or reason except insanity.
In the scene when the Inspector and Francois walk into the laboratory we see lots of smashed up equipment and find out both Andre and Helene come from a very wealthy family, as Francois says, they "have more money than they know what to do with it." Also this is one of the scenes where the audience stumbles on the ironic plot of the film.

"-Did your brother
  ever experiment with animals?
 - Never.
 - Or insects?
  No. Though that would be funny, if...
  No. Hélène and André
  believed in the sacredness of life.
They wouldn't harm anything.
Not even a fly."

This is quite funny, considering that later in the film we find out that Andre WAS having experiments with animals, and in the next scene the Fly yet again is mentioned when Helene ends up showing signs of insanity after the nurse tries killing a fly that she thinks is 'bothering' the patient. The buzzing of the fly first creates the tension in the scene, which soon enough is interrupted by the crazed widow. 
So far in the film none of the characters can understand the reasons of the insanity. It's not until the dinner when Philippe asks Francois a weird question, asking about how long do flies live... This made the brother of the victim curious about the fly, considering that it has played a big role in the case so far. 

"-Because I saw that fly
  Mummy was looking for again.
 - I didn't know she was looking for one.
 - Oh, yes, she was.
   It's grown quite a lot.
   But I recognised it all right.
 - Mm, this is good.
   How did you recognise it, Philippe?
- Its head is white instead of black
   and it has a funny sort of leg."
 It seems quite suspicious that the day Andre disappears the fly comes into the picture. Also it raised Francois's  suspicion because
 of the amount of times the insect was mentioned by others. To find out what really happened to his brother, he decided to pretend
 that he caught the fly to see what Helene will have to say in that case. As he enters her room, funnily enough she asks him the 
same question as Philippe, 
'How long do the flies live?'
Yet again Helene goes mad after hearing that the exact insect she was looking for is found.  After Francois described the insect, 
the woman demands he gives it to her. After hearing its safely locked away in his desk, she finally decides to tell the Inspector and
  her brother in law what really happened the day she murdered her husband. 
"-Although I killed my husband,
  I'm not a murderess.
I simply carried out his last wish."
This is the moment when the story goes into a flashback. 
The flashbacks shows a happy family, loving husband and caring wife. Nothing out of ordinary, until Andre Delambre insists for 
Helene to follow him to see the new project he has been working on. It turns out to be a matter transporter, which Andre called 
the disintegrator- integrator. What it did was, it disintegrated matter in one place, the inegrated it in another. Which worked
as a form of teleportation. Shocked Helene couldn't believe it and thought he husband was just making fun of her. However after 
proving it, we realize that the machine is not perfect yet and there's still some work to do on it. This is because after the china bowl
 comes out of the integrator, in the place where it's supposed to say 'Made in Japan', instead it came out in mirror- effect. After this 
incident Andre, the passionate scientist decides to hide himself in his laboratory to perfect his invention. He hides himself in the
 laboratory for two weeks. when Andre finally comes out of the basement he's got some terrific news for Helene. after a night out, he takes her
down to the laboratory to show her when the bowl comes out of the disintegrator with the writing being exactly the same as before.
After he tries to do the same with a guinea pig, Helene doesn't agree with the idea, however, the animals comes out unharmed. 
Unlike the Dandelo, the family cat which Andre tried disintegrating 2 weeks before this event...
"-She disintegrated perfectly but never
  reappeared. I don't know why, even now.
  I redesigned the projecting device,
  and now it's perfect.
 -Well, where's she gone?
 -Into space. A stream of cat atoms."
A very important bit of plot also gets mentioned in this scene. Helene is frightened by her husband's 
experiments and says that it's like 'Playing God', however Andre comforts her and says:
"-God gives us intelligence
  to uncover the wonders of nature."
Oh the irony! Obviously neither Andre or Helene have any realization what's about to happen next. Helene gets a bit worries about 
her husband, after he wont answer the door when she brings his brother to have a look at the invention. Thing that caught my
 attention in this scene was after Helene tells Francois that Andre has something exciting to show him replies 
"- Well, what is it? Flat screen?
 - It's better. No more questions. Come on."
This shows the cultural difference between 1958 and 2011, where a flat screen TV is just as ordinary and normal as water in our 
taps. Yet, in this film it would be viewed as a revolutionary invention. After Emma mentions that Andre didn't eat his dinner though,
 Helene gets even more worried and decides to check out the situation herself. After she does, to her surprise Andre wouldn't open
 the door, and she receives type- written instructions from Andre, asking her to bring bowl of milk laced with rum. After she does 
what Andre asks, he lets her to come into his room. what we see when she does is a man with a bag over his head. Its quite a 
comical sight, seeing a very intelligent, rich, family man with a bag over his head. 
Andre reassures his wife that he is not in danger, however it is a matter of life and death, and asks her to find a fly. A fly with a 
white head and arm...At this point Helene remembers that Philippe caught that exactly fly earlier on in the day.
"-I caught such a funny-looking fly.
  You want to see it?                 
  But this isn't like any other fly
  I've ever seen.
  It has a funny white head
  and sort of white leg."
At the point of the desperation to save her husband, Helene gets both Philippe and the family servant to look for the strange fly. 
After the countless attempts, there are changes that are starting to appear to Andre, he gains a more wild character and keeps 
loosing controlof his left arm. He asks Helene to destroy his laboratory and kill him, she refused and said that theresstill chance to
 cure Andre, and that he haven't been trying hard enough. To prove it Andre gets into his invention, and at this point it's the first 
time we finally get to see him without a blanketcovering his head.
Helene screams with fear after seeing her deformed husband. To my opinion this was one of the
most effective scenes in the film, when we see the monstrous creature that used to be Helene's husband curl in fear after he hears his wife's scream. we even get to see with the eyes of the
half fly, half man. We see the fright on Helene's face, and after she passes out we see Andre
picking her up and putting her on the bed. This gets us to question, whats the line between a monster and a human? A human with flies head still has feelings, even if they become weaker each day... Andre decides to destroy his laboratory while Helene is passed out, so no other person will make the same mistake as he did and tries to play God...
After Helene wakes up and sees the laboratory ruined she decides to follow her husbands orders (another reference to 1950s of the wife being loyal to her husband). She follows Andre to the factory. he willingly puts his head under the press and asks his wife to press the button to release it. Unfortunately due to Andre's wild instincts his arm gets out from beneath the press when Helene pressed the button, that's why she had to do it twice....
 So back to the reality...
Francois isn't sure whether or not to believe the story Helene just told. 
However, Inspector Charas is certain of her insanity and decides to phone up people to take her away. Desperate Helene asks Francois about the fly, thinking if she shows everyone the evidence of this surreal story they'll believe her. Unfortunately Francois just admitted that he lied about catching the fly so they could find out what actually went on in the past couple of days. 
Considering to the lack of evidence, the lack of the fly, no notes or writing on the blackboard, since it have all been destroyed, Inspector decided to just accept the fact that Helene became insane. 
It's not until Philippe runs up calling for his mother, when Francois finds out that he found the "Funny looking" fly.
Francois rushes off to show the Inspector the evidence. And its this moment, I'm sure a lot people would agree is the most dramatic, hilarious and yet creepy moment of the film.

"Help! Help! Help! Help!....."
  Creeped- out Inspector grabs a rock and squashes both, the spider and the "Fly" with a rock.
"-You've committed murder
  just as much as Hélène did.
  You killed a fly with a human head.
  She killed a human with a fly head."

This is the moment when both the Inspector and Francois decide to cover up Helene's murder.
Because no one would believe a story about a human with fly's head, they decided to tell the judge that Andre Delambre commited suicide. 
The story ends happily with Helene being not guilty for killing "The thing"
Funny fact about the last scene that I found out from Hal Erickson's review on Rotten Tomatoes: 
"If you're wondering why Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall do not look one another in the eye during the spider scene, it is because they couldn't deliver their dialogue without dissolving into laughter"
Quotes taken from: 

Figure 1 The Fly Poster : 
Figure 2 :  
Figure 3:
Figure 4:
Figure 5:
Figure 6: 
Figure 7: 


  1. good to see you getting the hold of blogger, and putting text and pictures up with a bit more positivity.

    While now I know what really happens in the film with detail, with your accurate explanation of the plot, what i think it is missing in your review is the use of your critical eye. for that matter, you have to understand the story of the film ( you did well in that!) and then just give your opinion supported by quotes from other reviews for example. Also for you to become an animator/ film director, you have to have a critical eye for techniques how is the editing?, how is the lighting?, colour scheme of the film.

    My suggestion for next time is start by presenting the film and its director followed by a short synopsis of the story, then write what it meant to you by supporting your opinion with other quotes by reviewers. ( did you like the film? and why? what did you like? if you didnt like it why?) avoid the simple I didnt like it because i didnt or was boring. then if the film made you feel something, maybe it was a good use of editing, or lighting, or the characters. Finally, when you use pictures use them in your advantage to show scenes you felt that were important.

    enough of behaving like a tutor, hope it helps for the next reviews.

    ohh and good luck for the project!

  2. Hey Alicja,

    Well - what I admire about this, your debut as film critic and thematic scholar, is the time you spent on it - which is obvious; this isn't some superficial re-tread, but CGAA year 2 student, Ruben is right - what it lacks is critical 'meat' - and, in places, the tone is a bit too informal and chatty. I got your email re. help for approaching reviews in the academic style, so here's some links you'll find instructive;

    This first link is to the post on the group blog I posted a while back :

    For a really good example of a review written by one of your classmates, Meg - go here:

    Take a look at the presentation etc. - you've got multiple fonts at multiple sizes - you've got text double-spaced and aligned centrally - it just means readers are distracted from the content, so always 'preview' your posts before publishing and be prepared to 'edit' them if it doesn't look great.

    Some other useful links for you, Alicja - this one is gearing you up for your first 'greenlight' review which takes place on Tuesday 4th. This is where you demonstrate to me that you've got the workload under control and you're working effectively towards a successful and ambitious resolution of the brief:

    Finally, go to Anatomy/Unit Materials on myUCA and find the document 'A Rough Guide to Written Assignments for CGAA' - it contains pretty much everything you need to know to write a credible and undergraduate standard written assignment - and it will help you get the tone right for your reviews too.

  3. Cheers for the help guys! I aggree about the critical comments, Ill make sure to add that in the second review (:

    Also about the fonts etc... I tried having it in the same font and spacing etc... But somehow blogger wouldn't let me to have it that way so I kinda got frustrated and posted it the way it was, as I already spent a lot of time writing the whole thing up =S.
    Yeah, not a good attitude to it but at least I can make sure for the second review that this doesnt happen on the first place.
    Now, time for the return of the fly haha