Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Horror Movies That Don't Suck: The Fly (1958)

Like most people of the last generation or two, when I think of The Fly, I think of the remake directed by David Cronenberg. The melodramatic acting style of the film hasn't aged well, and the fact that Cronenberg was working from someone else's script as opposed to his own is unfortunately evident, but the special effects are amazing and the film stands as one of the few remakes thought to be better than the original. Due to this assumption and having the original summarized for me on several occasions, I've only recently gotten around to seeing the Vincent Price classic. Then this morning I noticed that James over at Cinemassacre decided to take a look at the film, and for the most part agree with his review. The original Fly is a much, much underrated film that is nothing like its black and white sequel (the first one is in color) with its iconic giant fake bug head monster. Instead, it has much more of the romantic tragedy that the Cronenberg sequel is known for (which was one of the major contributions Cronenberg made to Charles Edward Pogue's script). The tired motif of 50s sci-fi, 'beware the dangers of science' is prevalent throughout and one of the major drags of the film, but the chemistry of the characters is wonderful. It's a pretty sincere melodrama, and the wonder of it is in how great a horror movie it is without a tacked on body count. Like the remake, the horror of the film is what someone working alone does to their body. In place of his teleportation machine, one could easily imagine experiments with radioactive material going wrong, slowly deteriorating away. In this case, slowly losing grasp of one's humanity. It's a surprisingly tragic film, with minimal interest in trying to scare and much more of a focus upon having a loved one slowly die a horrible death.

I can't say really if the classic or original is superior, but in many ways that's why a recommend fellow fans of the remake check it out. Again, I suspect many have confused the terrible sequel, which is shot in black and white and also features Vincent Price, for the original which was shot in color. The difference in monster design is rather significant, original isn't anywhere near as absurd and for the time was a pretty decent low budget monster. More importantly, since the monster is tragic as oppose to a dangerous beast, the film dosen't rely so heavily on it being scary, the limited number of sets give the film a nice theatric feel to them further making the effects forgivable. It's always a shame with films like this how difficult it is to go into them fresh, for the idea of experiencing this with out the knowledge that it is about a fly-man is quite fun. The film's a slow burn investigation that shifts into a confession for why the doctor's wife apparently murdered him. I really like the narrative pacing of this one much more than the original which always felt clunky when it came to editing.

If you like classic horror movies like The Wolfman, I highly recommend giving this an open minded shot. It has really been overshadowed for far too long by its fantastic remake.


Blogger Cory Capron said...

NOTE: I suggest the Wolfman more for it's compelling characters and dimension of tragedy which I think are both qualities of The Fly. The Fly does not however have that same kind of rich Gothic atmosphere. Though instead it does have an interesting way of almost playing with its 50s leave it to beaver gloss. A kind of perfect world invaded by an absurd, perverse even, secret world of science untamed.

3:53 PM  

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