Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Kurt Neumann's 'The Fly', 1958

I was really excited to see this film as I'd only ever seen the parodies of it and REALLY wanted to know what they were referencing. When I'd finally watched the film I was pleasantly surprised by it, though some parts of it were dated and the misogynistic views of the time were pretty dire (but humorous), I found some parts of it pretty chilling despite the minimal effort when it came to the fly hybrid.

The general story is a talented scientist discovers the secret to teleportation but as he tested it on himself a fly got into the machine and spliced parts of each of them together creating two human/fly hybrids.  Only his wife can help him but to do so she has to find the fly he's been spliced with before it's too late. Which sadly, it is, and she's then forced to destroy the parts of him that aren't human, killing him in the process.
However, one of the most interesting themes of the film was the mirroring of the cultural fear of science 'gone wrong'. The fear that meddling with the natural order will somehow come back to destroy you.  The film itself was released in 1958, the fifties and early sixties were rife with films containing this theme of science becoming too much for the scientist: "that, powered by science and technology, the engine of change is out of control, that 'progress' may not be the unqualified force for good that we presume it to be and that individual scientists - however well disposed- are neither responsible for, nor in control of, the outcome of their researches". This was at a time when the public had seen the Manhattan project create nuclear weapons, the devastating effects they had and now the ever increasing threat of them being used against them during America and Russia's Cold War. The scientist Andre "dared to play God" and has now assumed the "god/scientist role with atomic-age fears"
Despite this fairly heavy undertone I found the film, at points, to be very comical, perhaps without meaning to be.  One example is the scientist Andre's lack of sensitivity when it comes to using his family's pet cat as a guinea pig.  He's barely had a successful test with inanimate objects and he has no remorse when it comes to disintegrating the cat on a molecular level and explaining to his wife that he's "in space" now.

To redeem it a little though, I found the initial reveal of the fly mask and the tiny voice of the other fly hybrid to be pretty chilling.  The director of 'The Fly' 1986, David Cronenberg, described the the fly's shrill scream as "biologically unsound" and I would have to agree, there's something disturbingly unnatural about the tiny voice it has and that combined with a spider that's giant from the fly's perspective is all round creepy.
Overall I found the film really enjoyable and despite being a big fan of Vincent Price, I thought that even with it's age and unusual setting, it still has an eerie message to give, even if it's portrayed through an oversized mask and glove.

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