Cast & Crew
One late night at the DeLambre Frère Electronics Factory in Montreal, Gaston, the night watchman, hears strange noises emanating from the press room. After a bloodied woman runs from the press room and admits that she killed her husband Andre, one of the brothers who owns the factory, Gaston notifies François DeLambre of his brother's death. François then phones Inspector Charas, an old acquaintance, and asks him to go to the factory. When the jaws of the press are raised, they find Andre's body with its head and arm crushed, and François is baffled as to how Helene would know how to operate the complicated piece of machinery. After Dr. Ejoute, the family physician, declares that Helene is in a state of euphoric relief, Helene, calmly seated in her living room, admits that she killed her husband but refuses to explain why. As the inspector interrogates Helene, she is distracted by the buzzing of a fly. When the inspector asks to see Andre's laboratory, François is shocked that the equipment is a shambles. Believing that Helene may be insane, the doctor confines her to bed, and François assumes guardianship of her son Philippe. The inspector thinks that Helene is sane, however, and informs François that he intends to ask for an arrest warrant the following day. At dinner that night, Philippe mentions that his mother was desperately searching for a fly with a white head and strange leg. When François questions Helene about the fly, she, thinking that he possesses the insect, begs him for it. Instead he threatens to turn it over to the inspector unless she tells him the truth about his brother's death. After François promises Helene that he will kill the fly, she asks him to summon the inspector and then recalls a happier time, several months earlier when Andre excitedly showed her his new research project based on the disintegration and reintegration of atoms: After successfully transforming a plate, Andre decides to experiment on the family cat, but after being disintegrated in the chamber, the feline fails to reappear, and all that remains is a disembodied meow. Two weeks later, Andre reemerges from his lab, triumphant, and insists on transforming a guinea pig. After the guinea pig reappears, Helene makes Andre promise that he will not experiment on any more animals. One day soon after, Andre invites François to lunch to demonstrate his experiments, but when François and Helene approach the door to the laboratory, they find a note from Andre stating that he is unable to dine with them. Later, Philippe shows his mother a fly with a white head that he trapped, and she makes him release it. That night, Helene returns to the lab and Andre slips another note under the door, reporting that he has had a serious accident and is unable to speak, and asking her to bring him a bowl of milk laced with rum. Upon returning with the milk, Helene finds another note, instructing her to go into the other lab in search of a fly with a white head. He allows her into the room on the condition that she not look at him, and when she enters, she sees that he has draped a black cloth over his head. She then informs him that she made Philippe set the fly free, and when Andre reaches out in frustration, she sees a fly tentacle extending from his sleeve where his arm should be. Helene runs out of the room in horror, but promises to find the fly. The next morning, Andre hands Helene a note explaining that unknown to him, a fly entered the disintegration chamber with him and their atoms became entangled. If the fly cannot be found, Andre writes, he will be doomed to life as an insect and will kill himself. Helene immediately sends Philippe and her housekeeper Emma on a quest for the fly, but after they trap it in the living room, it slips through a crack in the window. When Andre learns this, he types Helene a note, insisting that all must be destroyed, including himself. Helene begs him to try the disintegration chamber one last time, and Andre humors her. After the process is completed, Helene pulls off the cloth and finds a giant fly's head staring at her. When she faints, Andre tenderly picks her up and caresses her face, but his claw begins to twitch uncontrollably. Sensing that his humanity will soon be overcome by the fly atoms, Andre smashes his equipment and then motions for Helene to follow him to the factory. There, he puts his head between the jaws of the press and gestures for her to close it, crushing his hideous head and claw. Helene completes her story, but the inspector, incredulous, refuses to believe her, and informs François that he intends to arrest her for murder. The next day, as François resignedly waits in the garden, a fly with a white head trapped in a spider's web squeaks "help me" at him, but he cannot hear the tiny voice. As the inspector and the attendants from the asylum arrive to take Helene away, Philippe tells François that he saw the fly in the garden. Running there, François and the inspector find Andre's head grafted to the body of the fly. The spider is about to devour the fly when the inspector crushes both insects with a rock. Now convinced of Helene's story, the inspector declares Andre's death a suicide. Some time later, François explains to Philippe that his father died in the search for truth.
Betty Lou Gerson
L. B. Abbott
Harry M. Leonard
Walter M. Scott
Lyle R. Wheeler
Merrill G. White
The Fly (1958)
The Fly was adapted from a short story by Paris-born British writer George Langelaan. As an intelligence agent during World War II, Langelaan had agreed to undergo extensive plastic surgery that would render him unrecognizable even to his fellow countrymen and he channeled the motif of transformation into his 1957 short story, the tale of a French scientist experimenting with matter disintegration and reintegration who winds up atomically fused with a common house fly - with tragic results for man and insect. The tale came to the attention of executives at 20th Century Fox when it was published in Playboy magazine in June 1957. (Hitting the newsstands in 1953, Playboy was the brainchild of Hugh Hefner, who proved himself to be as much of a sci-fi geek as a hedonist when he published the forward-looking works of genre titans Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Frederik Pohl, and J. G. Ballard, among others, within the pages of his skin mag.) Fox executive Buddy Adler entrusted production of The Fly to Robert Lippert, head of Regal Films, whom studio head Daryl F. Zanuck had brought on board to help save the ailing studio from bankruptcy. With direction entrusted to the reliable Kurt Neumann, The Fly went forward with a budget of $325,000 (about twice the price tag on Kronos), to be shot in Cinemascope and Technicolor.
To handle the adaptation of The Fly, Lippert hired writer James Clavell, a British expatriate and WWII veteran who had come to Hollywood in 1953 with the expectation of becoming a screenwriter. Clavell had turned his wartime experience into a spec screenplay, Far Alert, which had sold but was never produced; The Fly would be his first Hollywood credit. Clavell would go on to write a novel, King Rat, published in 1962 and again drawing upon his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war; the book was adapted for the big screen in 1965. Clavell also received credit as a cowriter on The Great Escape (1963) and The Satan Bug (1965) before breaking out on his own as the writer-director of To Sir, with Love (1967), starring Sidney Poitier. Clavell's 1975 novel Shogun, set in feudal Japan in the 17th Century, became an international bestseller that was adapted as a nine-hour NBC TV miniseries in 1980; the success of Shogun led to a theatrical adaptation of the writer's 1966 novel, Tai-Pei, in 1986. Working on The Fly, Clavell stayed largely faithful to the George Langelaan story (apart from shifting the action from France to Canada) and received only one request for a do-over from the front office: to lessen the impact of the tale's downbeat ending by eliminating the suicide of one major character.
To play Andre Delambre, the unlucky scientist whose overreaching turns him into The Fly, Lippert had wanted to cast Michael Rennie, who had starred as the Christ-like extraterrestrial Klaatu in Fox's The Day the Earth Stood Still several years earlier. When Rennie demurred over the reality that his face would be covered through much of the film, the role was offered to Rick Jason, who had just inked a Fox contract and enjoyed prominent roles in The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956) and The Wayward Bus (1957). When Jason proved similarly out of reach, Lippert gave the part to a good-looking young actor named Al Hedison. With a name change in later years to David Hedison, the Providence, Rhode Island-born actor would distinguish himself on the small screen, as the star of Irwin Allen-produced Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968), and in features as CIA agent Felix Leiter in two James Bond movies made 26 years apart: Live and Let Die (1973), opposite Roger Moore as 007, and Licence to Kill (1989), with Timothy Dalton as Bond. The supporting cast of The Fly was rounded out with actress Patricia Owens (fresh from playing Marlon Brando's fiancée in Sayonara, 1957) as Andre's horrified wife, Herbert Marshall as the cop on the case, and Vincent Price, relegated to the somewhat decorous part of Andre's brother Francois.
The Fly was one of Fox's biggest hits at the time of its theatrical release in August 1958, earning $3,000,000 in domestic receipts. The film is now regarded as director Kurt Neumann's best, though sadly he did not live to enjoy the acclaim, succumbing as he did to a (no doubt work-induced) heart attack only a few weeks after the film's July 1958 premiere. Fox ordered up two sequels, Return of the Fly (1959), in which Andre Delambre's now-adult son (Brett Halsey) repeats his late father's experiment with similar results (the atomic gum-up due this time to industrial espionage), and Curse of the Fly (1965), which featured various other Delambres (among them, Brian Donlevy) dealing with the dark side of scientific ambition - both of these shot in black and white. David Cronenberg rebooted the logline of The Fly in 1986, making the hideous evolution of its hero scientist (Jeff Goldblum) gradual rather than sudden (a plot point suggested during production of the original film by star Al/David Hedison); another estimable hit and another modern sci-fi milestone, Cronenberg's The Fly spawned its own quickie sequel, The Fly II (1989). An opera based on Cronenberg's remake and written by frequent collaborator Howard Shore (with a libretto by David Henry Hwang, whose 1988 Broadway play M. Butterfly Cronenberg adapted as a film in 1993) opened in Paris and Los Angeles in 2008.
The essential worth of The Fly has long been a bone of contention within the horror/science fiction community, with the room dividing on the question of its dodgy science and the quality of Kurt Neumann's direction. Critic Ivan Butler derided the production as "the most ludicrous, and certainly one of the most revolting science-horror films ever perpetrated" while colleague Carlos Clarens concluded that it "collapses under the weight of many... questions" but praised the shock reveal in which Helene Delambre sees her fly-headed husband for the first time via a multi-image fly's eye view - an effect cooked up by cinematographer Karl Struss. (Patricia Owens' full-bore scream might be considered a linchpin between Phyllis Kirk's vocal response to an un-masked Vincent Price in House of Wax  and Janet Leigh's primal reaction to the sight of "Mother" in Psycho .) Michael J. Weldon, writing in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, expressed his admiration for The Fly in warts-and-all fashion by declaring it "brilliant, sick, absurd... Unforgettable" but it is genre aficionado Bill Warren who comes closest to localizing the film's strange appeal in its "macabre poignancy." The success of The Fly also had the effect of transforming Vincent Price, whose resume to that point included only scattershot genre assignments, into a full-time fearmaker through his many collaborations with William Castle (House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, both 1959) and Roger Corman (House of Usher , The Tomb of Ligeia ).
By Richard Harland Smith
Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties by Bill Warren (McFarland & Company, Publishers, 2010)
James Clavell: A Critical Companion by Gina Macdonald (Greenwood Publishing Troup, 1996)
Adaptations - From Short Story to Big Screen: 35 Great Stories That Have Inspired Great Films by Stephanie Harrison (Crown Publishing Group, 2011)
The Fly (1958)
The Fly on Blu-ray
George Langelaan's original short story published in Playboy introduced the idea of a matter transmitter, a machine that teleports physical objects and people in the same way that Television transmits images. In 1957 independent producer Robert L. Lippert was making inexpensive genre films for 20th-Fox under the Regal Films banner, including the science fiction pictures Kronos and She-Devil. When Fox decided that Lippert's latest production had the makings of a much bigger hit, The Fly was boosted to mainstream status, with CinemaScope, color by Deluxe and Stereophonic sound. A mysterious ad campaign promised the ultimate in queasy insect horrors, helping to make The Fly into a major success story.
The screenplay by James Clavell is a nervous blend of soap opera and gruesome horror. Helen Delambre (Patricia Owens) has apparently crushed the head of her inventor husband Andre (Al "David" Hedison) in a machine press, but refuses to explain why to Andre's businessman brother François (Vincent Price) or to police inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall). François must trick Helene into telling the whole horrible story: Andre successfully built and operated a matter transmitter, only to suffer a terrible accident when he tried to transmit himself. His head and one hand were exchanged with that of a fly that slipped into the teleportation booth. Unable to talk or eat normally, Andre first begs Helene to find the missing fly so he can reverse the process. When that seems impossible, Andre begs her to help him destroy himself.
Going a step or two beyond 1958 standards, The Fly is packed with horrific moments, starting with the grotesque spectacle of a man with the head of an insect. The film's most famous image depicts Andre's insect-vision as Helene sees his new face for the first time: as if in a fragmented kaleidoscope, forty Helenes scream at us in horror. And few viewers forget the sight of a tiny, anguished human-faced fly caught in a cobweb, calling "Help Me!" as a spider bears down upon it.
An exception to the many low-budget B&W monster movies of the time, The Fly was filmed on relatively lavish sets. Helene Delambre lives in a pastel-colored Montreal mansion and drinks champagne after a night at the ballet. The cozy normalcy makes the intrusion of techno-disaster seem all the more upsetting. After the catastrophic accident Helene must summon all her courage to aid Andre -- even as he rejects her help. Andre allows her to enter his lab only when he covers himself with a black cloth. The movie takes domestic alienation to an absurd extreme: "My husband has become a thing in the basement." All Helene can do is issue instructions for the confused maid (Kathleen Freeman) and her earnest son Philippe Delambre (Charles Herbert) to put out sugar in hopes of catching "the fly with a white head".
The actors play their parts seriously at a time when appearing in a 'monster' movie was not considered a smart career move. Patricia Owens had recently starred opposite Marlon Brando, and Vincent Price was just establishing his ascendancy to the title of America's #1 horror icon. Although Price and Herbert Marshall may have joked about some of their scenes, nothing is played for laughs. When seen from Helene's point of view, The Fly resembles an atomic-age update of Kafka's Metamorphosis. We feel sorry for the man transformed into a cockroach, but what can his poor wife be thinking?
The narrative is sufficiently strong to overcome a number of inconsistencies in the details. Andre's matter transmitter malfunctions differently every time he uses it, and at one point he claims that he's not certain how all of it works. Why the machine mixes Andre with the hitchhiking fly is a mystery, when it doesn't confuse Andre with his own clothing, etc.. When the housecat Dandelo is disintegrated but fails to reappear in the receiving booth, Andre guesses that its "stream of atoms" is still "out there" somewhere. That doesn't explain why we hear ghostly kitty-cat meowing after Dandelo is gone.
Andre's own brain apparently still there inside the giant fly's head, at least until he reports that he's beginning to lose control of his mind. When Andre scribbles "I love you" on his blackboard, his own fly-claw tries to stop him, a bizarre sight that prefigures Doctor Strangelove's behavior in Stanley Kubrick's black comedy. Yet The Fly has some genuinely nervous moments. Andre wears dark goggles to watch the teleportation process, as if observing an atomic bomb blast. We become doubly anxious when Helene throws herself under the descending machine press to rescue Andre, because the press looks like a real functioning machine, and not a prop.
The Fly did so well in release that Robert L. Lippert immediately made a quick B&W sequel, The Return of the Fly. A returning Vincent Price is present when Andre's grown son Philippe (now Brett Halsey) follows in his father's footsteps. Six years later Lippert had relocated to England, where made The Curse of the Fly, an even less expensive second sequel with Brian Donlevy. Andre's invention is finally put to practical use, shuttling people between Montreal and London. As might be expected, everything again goes gruesomely wrong. It only remained for the maestro of "body horror" David Cronenberg to reinvent The Fly thirty years later, with Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. The new story departs from the original by having the matter transmitter join Goldblum's Seth Brundle with a fly at "the genetic-molecular level". Brundle emerges from the machine looking normal, but his body soon undergoes a horrid metamorphosis, forming a new creature altogether. The two versions of The Fly are each creations of their respective eras. Although they function like horror pictures, both films are prime examples of progressive science fiction.
20th Century Fox Studio Classics' Blu-ray of The Fly is a brightly hued transfer from a new film restoration. Colors are richer and the contrast more dynamic than on earlier DVD releases. The chroma is almost too much for Patricia Owens' bright lipstick. The original 4-track stereo mix has been adapted for this release, with the added audio fidelity allowing us to hear the tiny Andre-Fly voice through the ringing of church bells. Paul Sawtell's soundtrack makes good use of the multi-channel sound, as does the occasional buzzing of flies.
The extras have all been seen before on a 2007 DVD release. Collector and stills archivist David Del Valle hosts a commentary with David Hedison. Hedison wishes that his transformation from man to fly-monster had been more gradual, which would have given his role more variety. Together they remember the late Vincent Price with respect and fondness. Price is the subject of an informative episode of Biography, which shows many good film clips from the actor's career. The featurette Fly Trap: Catching a Classic is a quick overview of the Lippert-Fox Fly trilogy. A news film premiere clip and an original trailer are also present. Fox Studio Classics' arresting package design shows respect for audiences unfamiliar with the movie by hiding its only 'spoiler' image as a tiny reflection in a frightened woman's eye.
By Glenn Erickson
The Fly on Blu-ray
Help me! Help meeee!- Andre Delambre
It'd be funny if life wasn't so sacred.- Andre Delambre
Michael Rennie was offered the title role but declined it because his head would be covered thru most of the picture.
"The Fly" was originally a story by George Langelaan that appeared in the June 1957 issue of Playboy magazine.
The lab set cost only $28,000 and included some surplus Army equipment.
This was such a success at the box office that it became one of Fox's biggest hits of 1958.
James Clavell's first script was faithful to George Langelaan's original story but Fox executives demanded a happier ending.
According to February 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items, the picture was originally to be produced by Robert Lippert for Regal Pictures. Twentieth Century-Fox replaced Lippert with Kurt Neumann because the studio feared that Lippert's conflict with the Screen Actors Guild over refusing to pay residuals to actors might hinder production. Modern sources suggest that after the success of Regal's She Devil and Kronos (see below), both produced and directed by Neumann and photographed by Karl Struss, Fox decided to produce a horror picture using the budget techniques employed by Regal. According to Twentieth Century-Fox publicity materials contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, "Andre's" lab equipment consisted of army and air force surplus. Modern sources add that the effect of the fly was created by fitting a rubber sheath over Al [who later changed his name to David] Hedison's head. Once the sheath was in place, a mobile proboscis was attached to a wooden plug which Hedison held in his mouth and wriggled. The first fly eyes were beaded domes, but were later discarded in favor of irridescent domes.
The film was critically well received, with the Variety review commenting that "a strong factor of the picture is its unusual believability." The Fly helped establish Vincent Price's identification as a horror star. A September 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that writer Arch Oboler sued the studio, short story author George Langelaan and Playboy magazine on the grounds that the film was plagiarized from his short story "Across the Gaby," which was broadcast as a radio play in 1937. The outcome of the suit has not been determined. Fox produced several sequels to The Fly. In 1959, the studio released Return of the Fly , and in 1965, Curse of the Fly, starring Brian Donlevy and directed by Don Sharpe (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). In 1986, David Cronenberg directed a Fox remake of The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, and in 1989, the studio produced The Fly II, starring Eric Stoltz and directed by Chris Walas.
Released in United States 1998
Released in United States August 1989
Released in United States Summer July 1958
Shown at Film Forum Summer Festival of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction in New York City August 8-10, 1989.
Shown at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.
Released in USA on video.
Film spawned two sequels "Return of the Fly" and "Curse of the Fly."
Film was also remade in 1986 by David Cronenberg, starring Jeff Goldblum.
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.)
Released in United States Summer July 1958
Released in United States August 1989 (Shown at Film Forum Summer Festival of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction in New York City August 8-10, 1989.)