So remember how I mentioned that the Fly wasn’t what I expected? It wasn’t a mad scientist turning himself into a monster and rampaging through town?
Yeah. That’s THIS movie instead.
Actually, it seems like this movie is the one that has had more influence, visually anyhow, on the genre. In my last column, I also mentioned a childrens book in my local elementary school with a picture of the Fly in it. that picture used to terrify me and kids would pull that volume out and chase me around with that picture. My memory is admittedly fuzzy, but I’m almost certain that the still was this photograph or one very like it. Almost definitely from the Fly Returns – not from the original.
Given the success of The Fly, I absolutely can’t understand why this sequel was given such a smaller budget – according to IMDB’s estimates, they had about a third of what they made the original for. While there are some sets and props re-used, there’s a great deal here that had to be created from scratch, including a new monster head – one far more horrific than the mask from the first film. Horrifying but clunky. The actor inside obviously couldn’t see out of it and it shows when he dashes away to escape the folks chasing him. To make matters worse, the large head wobbles visibly.
The suit isn’t the only effect to suffer. Last time, I mentioned expecting the fly with the human head to simply be a rubber creature with a man’s head superimposed on it – safe, slightly transparent, but par for the course. While they opted for something far more visceral and horrifying in the original, the superimposed head is exactly what we get here. It’s clearer, but it’s also safer – and perhaps a bit more goofy.
I may be judging the film a bit too harshly though, because standing on it’s own , apart from the criticism of the excellent predecessor, this is a genuinely fun film, with a very standard plot and indulgent thrills. It’s a typical mad scientist story, edged with obsession and betrayal. The fly here (son of the original scientist) is very much a monster, with the animistic side taking over far more quickly than in the previous film. The beast is driven by instinct to avenge its human self, and is far more satisfying as a monster here. The movie isn’t as heavy as it’s predecessor, in fact it’s slightly more direct and camp format as well as the happier ending make it infinitely more re-watchable to me than the original. It’s fun, and a good (if predictable) way to continue the story.
It never hurts to have Vincent Price back as well. He’s the only returning actor, though a lot of the background returns as well. This was filmed on the sets (still standing) from the original – this didn’t surprise me, as I was watching I found myself remarking on how good a job they did replicating the props like the goggles and telepods. Even the lab looked remarkably similar – it should. It’s the same room, shot from a different angle – about forty five degrees to the right. If you look closely, you can spot the doors (which now lead to different places) and the computers in the same places they were. It’s a brilliant bit of simple slight of hand.
I like this series, and was glad to see the sequel. After all, there’s really not too much more mileage they can get out of this franchise…
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…