The Fly (1958), HD/Blu-ray
20th Century Fox’s new Blu-ray release of The Fly (1958) finally offers fans a high resolution capture of the film, with a superb commentary by actor David Hedison and film historian David Del Valle. Also included is a fine documentary “Fly Trap: Catching a Classic” (which also discusses the two Fly film sequels), a biographical film on Vincent Price, and a short Fox Movietone News reel showing the premiere of The Fly. The film has never looked better with the Eastman De Luxe color palette and Karl Struss’s photography particularly shining.
I had forgotten how good this film is, and it should certainly be considered one of the great monster films of all time. Ben Nye’s Fly mask, with an articulated proboscis and whiskers (made from turkey feathers) is unforgettable. I find the design much superior to the bulbous fly head in the immediate sequel Return of the Fly (1959). Take note of David Hedison’s performance in fly garb, which is extraordinary with insect-like nervous twitches and erratic body movements that effectively convey that André Delambré is not completely in control of his own body. Peter Seller’s later played off on the autonomous hand in Dr. Strangelove (1964). David Hedison is solid in the lead role turned down by Fox actor Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951). The Fly was a huge hit for Fox, making over $3M dollars the first month (approximately $235M adjusted for today’s inflation).
Like Them! (1954), another film about mutant insects, The Fly plays a lot like a murder mystery. I like how the film is shown as a flashback, with Helene Delambré (Patricia Owens) telling Andre’s horrific story to investigator Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) and François Delambré (Vincent Price). There’s plenty of humor also, with Helene’s obsession trying to find the white-headed fly and housekeeper Kathleen Freeman thinking the whole household is nuts.
Director Kurt Neumann (1908-1958) died shortly after making The Fly. He was adept at adventure and action films during a relatively short career. His other sci-fi films Rocketship X-M (1950) and Kronos (1957) are minor gems also worth a look.
The new Blu-ray print reveals a level of detail never seen before. We get a close up view of Ben Nye’s extraordinary makeup which alone is worth the price of the Blu-ray upgrade. However, we see the limitations of 1950’s optical technology. For instance, the matte lines around the Delambré-Fly are revealed during the grotesque spider sequence. But why quibble? The film looks great. This is one of my favorite releases for 2013.