I was sure I had seen this before. Really. I mean, it’s just one of those things everyone takes for granted. We’ve all see the classic monster films at some time in our lives right?
Still, I knew I hadn’t seen the Fly on the big screen and the chance to go to a Vincent Price movie in is an instant affirmative. So I packed up my car and headed out to the capitol for thier “Reel Science” (complete with an expert on flies giving a talk at the end of the flick) screening of the Fly.
My first inkling that I may not have actually seen this before was the color credits. Surely this film isn’t in color? I was confused. Every still, photo, screen grab…any material at all that I’d ever seen regarding this film was in glorious black and white. Indeed, that picture book the image of the fly in it- the one that had scared me so as a child…that was in black and white. So what gives? The Capitol wouldn’t DARE commit the most heinous of crimes – screening a colorized print of a black and white movie…would they?
Or wait…could this actually be in color? I mean, the blood dripping down from that hydraulic press sure looks cherry red – if this was a conversion, I’d expect it to look black with a red tinge on the outside….
Oh my God. I’ve never actually seen this before have I? This is going to be incredible. It’s one of my favorite things, catching films in the theater that I was too young to actually go to when it first came out, and I was going to be fortunate enough to see the Fly for the first time the way it was meant to be.
The Fly is nothing like the movie I expected it to be. It’s a slow burn, with a healthy dose of crime procedural in it, told mostly in flashback. There were a LOT of times when I though I was watching CSI:Fly rather than a horror movie.
Still, for all of the focus on the mystery of the accident rather than the monster, the movie maintains a tense atmosphere throughout. The search for the escaped experiment, the shrouded scientist, cloaked in shadows in the basement laboratory keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering if he’ll be able to make things right by the end. This is not a campy horror romp with a mad scientist turning himself into a monster and then rampaging through the town. In a lot of ways, this is really a character study. It’s a Shakespearian tragedy (You know, if Shakespeare had written about man-flies. Don’t judge too quickly there either. Shakespeare wrote some pretty gnarly things… This totally isn’t out of the question!).
Then there’s that scene.
You know which one I’m talking about. The fly with a man’s head, caught in a spider web. It’s been parodied to death. Everyone has seen someone do that imitaition of the tiny voice screaming “Help me! Help meeeee!” Familiarity breeds contempt. This is just a cheesy scare right?
Not even a little. This scene is horrifying. It’s not a semi-transparent head superimposed on a rubber flu body. The head thrusts out of the flys body as if it’s molting. Tendrils and strands cling to the chin and the spider as it slowly approaches is hideous. The close up, projected on that thirty foot tall screen as the helpless man head looks on terrified and despondent…it’s an image that stays with you. It’s one of the most terrible things I’ve ever seen in film.
The Fly is a brilliant movie, and I can’t even imagine what those early audiences, unmarred by the gore and violence of the slashers to come thought of this. It’s dramatic and suspenseful and caps off with some real horror.
And now I want more. Time to finally pull “Return of the Fly” off my shelf…but that’s a story for another time…