The Fly: Kurt Neuman
The Fly II: Edward Bernds
The Fly: David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman
The Fly II: Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, John Sutton David Frankham, Dan Seymour,Danielle De Metz
The Fly: George Langelaan (story), James Clavell
The Fly II: George Langelaan (story), Edward Bernds
The Fly: A brilliant scientist becomes obsessed with perfecting a device that can transmit matter from one location to another. Successful in his initial tests, he experiments with a human guinea pig – himself. But an ordinary housefly makes the journey with him, and when they emerge, both creatures have been extraordinarily changed. This is the chilling story of a man fighting to retain his humanity, and a desperate woman’s attempt to save the man she loves.
Return Of The Fly: The boundaries of science are pushed to their every limits in this sequel to the classic, ever-popular The Fly. Here Philippe, the son of the ill-fated scientist, naively continues his father’s misguided experiments. The victim of his traitorous assistant’s greedy ambitions, Philippe finds himself in a terrifying limbo – he’s grown the head and limbs of a fly! Taking spectacular revenge on his betrayers, Philippe must also race against time and find a way to reverse the horrifying mutation.
The Fly: $700 thousand.
Return Of The Fly: $225 thousand.
English Dolby Digital 5.0 (The Fly)
English Dolby Surround 2.0 (Both Films)
English Monaural (Return of the Fly)
French Monaural (The Fly)
The Fly: 94 min.
Return of the Fly: 80 min.
Release Date: 9/5/2000
• Theatrical Trailers
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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The Fly (1959) / Return Of The Fly (1959)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 11, 2007)
Although I dearly loved the 1986 remake of The Fly, it took years before I could bring myself to watch the 1958 original. What
I knew of the film made it look impossibly cheesy, what with some dude running around wearing that silly fly-head, and that ridiculous, high-pitched "help me!"
DVDs get me to do strange things, however, which meant I would finally take a look at this movie. To my surprise, I actually found it to offer a pretty effective rendition of the tale. Granted, although the basic story to both the original and the remake are the same, the 1958 edition can't hold a candle to its more recent cousin. The Jeff Goldblum version is infinitely better-developed and more effective. Still, for a piece of alleged-schlock from the Fifties, that era's Fly works pretty well.
As with the remake, the story concerns a scientist who has invented a machine that can transmit matter from one place to another, just like the teleporter on Star Trek. They have it down pat by the 23rd century, however, while our protagonist, André (Al Hedison, later known as “David”), is still working the bugs out of the system - literally. (Ha! How's that for quality humor?)
When he thinks he has the machines working correctly, André impulsively hops in the gadget himself. Whoops - missed that fly that zipped in with you, dude! As a result, when both critters pop out of the device, some body parts have switched places; the little fly's buzzing around with a human head, and vice versa.
Most of the plot is told in flashback, as the movie starts with Andre's apparent murder. His wife Helene (Patricia Owens) seems to be the culprit, and she also appears to have gone off the deep end as she relates this information to police Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) and her brother-in-law Francois (Vincent Price). After avoiding it for a while, Helene offers all of the nasty details and we eventually discover Andre's ultimate fate.
As with the 1986 version, it ain't happy; both movies are essentially tragedies at their hearts, though the remake is much more powerful since the original puts too much of a “feel good” spin on the sad events. Nonetheless, it's a surprisingly somber piece for the era, and it rarely descends to the level of campiness I expected; as silly as it can be - mainly due to the weak effects - it still seems pretty creepy. I was even a bit spooked by those eerie cries of "help me!"
Actually, I don't know what I would think of this film were I not so well-acquainted with the remake. I feel as though I may have filled in some of the gaps. Perhaps the tragic aura wasn't really there but I interpreted it that way due to my familiarity with the 1986 movie. Frankly, it's hard to say, but I do know that I got a minor kick out of the original. I really expected it to be a chore to watch, but it moved along at a good pace and remained suspenseful even though I was well aware how things would end. The performers all add a level of gravity to the piece that it needs; if they don't take it seriously, we sure won't.
While the original never lets its character fall to the depths seen in the remake, we do see hints of the depravity to come. In the 1986 film, much is made over the vicious character our man-fly will become when the transformation is complete, and he has to fight off his more brutal instincts. Those points aren't emphasized to the same degree in the original, but they're there and it's clear they're a factor in the decisions
that are made. Again, I never felt as involved in this one as I was in the remake, but the 1958 edition of The Fly still managed some effectively eerie material.
The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio B/ Bonus D-
The Fly appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Many problems cropped up in this unsatisfying transfer.
Most of these related to sharpness, which was consistently weak. Crisp shots were rare, as most of the movie looked soft nearly to the point of being blurry. Some of this stemmed from edge enhancement, as I noticed fairly prominent haloes through much of the movie. Jagged edges and shimmering weren’t an issue, but given the muddiness of the definition, that wasn’t a surprise. Source flaws were a mild distraction. I saw occasional speckles, grit, some light grain and a nick or two, but these seemed fairly insubstantial given the age of the material.
I found the film's color reproduction to be problematic. The hues appeared rather pale and faded throughout the movie, with no evidence of any accurate, fully-saturated tones. Granted, The Fly manifested a fairly limited palette, so this wasn't the problem it would be for a bright and bold film like The Wizard of Oz, but it still seemed undesirable. Even fleshtones looked dull and muddled; they appeared overly drab and brown. The colors weren't horrible but they were another weak aspect of this picture.
Black levels could come across as a little flat and murky, but for the most part they appeared deep and nicely dark, with solid tones that didn't look too heavy. Shadow detail was similarly fine, as the low-light situations displayed appropriate levels of nuance without excessive thickness. Ultimately, the problems with sharpness and colors left this as an ugly presentation.
The Fly came with two English soundtracks, and the listing on the package created some confusion. First, the case indicates that one mix is Dolby Digital 4.0, but that's not correct; it's actually DD 5.0. The other track really was Dolby Surround 2.0, as noted on the package, but I felt confused because the listing states that this mix was "newly created". I couldn't find any information about the original track, but it seemed odd that this less ambitious and robust mix would be the newer one.
In any case, I did screen both tracks and noticed quite a few differences. The 5.0 mix was a great deal more expansive, as it provided a relatively active sonic environment; lots of audio came from the side channels and the rears contributed some useful atmosphere at appropriate times. Unfortunately, I found the side speaker usage to be too active during most of the film. The mix worked well when we hear music or effects; these came across as bold and bright and they fill the space nicely.
However, dialogue lacked good localization. At times speech came from all three front speakers; the lines tended to stay vaguely focussed in the correct spot, but they bled through to the sides badly. As such, I preferred the Surround 2.0 track. It didn't attempt as much but it provided more consistently satisfying results. The rear channels offered virtually no information; they may have been on, but I heard no direct evidence of that. The forward speakers showed some modest stereo imaging, noticeable mainly through the music and a few of the showier effects. Speech also seemed mildly localized to the sides as well, but it's a very small difference.
The quality of the two tracks also differed. For music and effects, the 5.0 mix was the way to go. It presented both of these in a surprisingly bold and deep manner, as they seemed clear and offer solid low end at times. On the other hand, the Surround 2.0 track sounded smaller and less vibrant for effects and music. They remained largely clean and accurate, but they lacked the impact heard in the 5.0 mix.
Not surprisingly, dialogue sounded better on the 2.0 track, since it didn't suffer from the negative effects of the bleeding. On this version, the speech seemed relatively natural and crisp and always was easily intelligible. For the 5.0 mix, however, the lack of adequate localization made the dialogue excessively vague and broad; it created an echo effect that I found terribly distracting. The 5.0 track also betrayed some tape hiss not evident on the Surround mix.
Although I ultimately preferred the 2.0 track, it's a serious trade-off either way. The 5.0 mix offered some very nice power to the effects and music, and it featured a decent surround environment as well, whereas the 2.0 track came across as almost monophonic. However, the latter portrayed dialogue in a much clearer way, which I think compensated for its lack of ambition. The 5.0 edition worked great for a few scenes, but it became very distracting for much of the rest of the movie.
If I had to choose one, I'd go with the 2.0 track just because of its greater stability. However, since this DVD will allow you to switch audio "on the fly" – ha! - it's possible to have the best of both worlds. There were only a few specific scenes in which music and effects were prominent, so it's not much of a problem to flip between them at the appropriate times. I know, it's a dopey solution, but it works. (For the record, the "B" grade I assigned to the soundtrack of The Fly applies to the 2.0 mix.)
The Fly includes few supplemental features. Actually, all we get are six trailers. There's a clip for this film itself, one for its 1959 sequel Return of the Fly, plus ads for the two Eighties films, 1986's remake of The Fly and 1989's sequel The Fly II. Finally, we get trailers for two movies found on another Fox "double feature" DVD: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Fantastic Voyage.
Return of the Fly
While 1989's The Fly II remains one of filmdom's most universally despised sequels, I was unaware of any such animosity toward an earlier sequel to the original, 1959's Return of the Fly. I don't know if that's because more people like this film than enjoyed the 1989 flick or if it's just due to the fact fewer people are aware of the earlier piece. In any case, while I found Return to be decidedly less interesting than its predecessor, the contest is a lot closer than the match between the Eighties pictures. In that case, the sequel is radically less compelling than the original, but the discrepancy between the 1958 and 1959 flicks is much smaller.
Actually, Return bears a fair number of similarities to The Fly II. As with that movie, this one features the son of our original man-fly as the protagonist. The difference is that the later picture's grows up as a mutant, whereas this one's Philippe - already seen as a 10-year-old boy in the first movie - gets deformed the same way as dear old Dad.
There's a much greater lapse in time between the events of the first and second films in each pair also. The Fly II starts only a few months after the previous movie's proceedings, although it ends up about five years in the future. Return, however, jumps ahead roughly 16 years, a figure I base this on the differences in age between Charles Herbert, who played young Philippe in The Fly and Brett Halsey, who takes on the adult role in the sequel. This fast-forward isn't explained in the film, so we're left to ponder it on our own and think of how much the world of 1974 looks like the environment of 1959. It also seemed remarkable how little Philippe's Uncle Francois (again played by Vincent Price) has aged in the interim; why, he looks just like he did when the boy was only ten!
Okay, I recognize that it's probably a waste of time to nit-pick these kinds of gaffes in a movie of this sort, but I thought some of these seemed awfully sloppy. At least the 1986 and 1989 films took some pains to deal with the issue of contamination during transportation; all runs through the cycle were done nude in those flicks. However, in the Fifties versions, everyone who goes through the ringer does so clothed, which makes me wonder why they didn't turn into half-man/half-slacks creatures. Geez, in the first movie, André actually dispatches a cat while she drinks milk from a bowl; how bizarre could that combination have been?
In any case, both Fifties films have their plot faults, so I won't penalize either in regard to the other. Return is less interesting than the original mainly because - as with the 1989 film - it becomes little more than a typical monster movie. Some attempts at psychological depth are attempted in Return - Philippe remains deathly afraid of flies, something that's used against him by a baddie - but these nuances feel like little more than cheap devices to allow lightning to strike twice. After all, what were the chances the son would happen to run himself through the transporter as another fly sneaks into the machine? Pretty slim, I'd think, so the story needed to find a way to plant a bug in there with him, and it does so, but in a pretty silly way.
Unlike The Fly II, Return of the Fly isn't a terrible movie, but it's not a very good one either. I didn't find it to be significantly worse than the original, but that's mainly because I thought
The Fly was only decent at best. Neither of these films remotely competes with the heights achieved by the 1986 version. As it stands, Return presents a dopey but mildly entertaining take on the original.
The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-
Return of the Fly appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Don’t expect a great presentation here. Though superior to the visuals of the first film, Return suffered from concerns of its own.
Sharpness upgraded from The Fly but remained less than ideal. Though many shots looked distinctive and well-defined, moderate softness interfered on more than a few occasions, especially during wide shots. I didn’t find the same level of messiness seen in the first flick, but the movie could’ve looked tighter. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but noticeable edge enhancement appeared through much of the movie.
Source flaws often distracted. Quite a lot of white speckling cropped up through the film, and I also noticed occasional bits of black grit. These weren’t overwhelming, but they seemed more prominent than they should. At least the dark tones in this black and white image looked nice; they tended to be deep and firm much of the time, though a few slightly blown-out shots occurred. Shadow detail appeared appropriately heavy but not overly opaque. A few outdoor scenes caused mild problems, as they tended to seem too dark, but those were infrequent. Unfortunately, the occasional softness and the speckles left Return as a “C+” transfer.
Return of the Fly provided two separate English soundtracks, but their differences seemed less extreme than the mixes we found on the first film. The DVD included the original monaural track plus a "newly created" Dolby Surround 2.0 mix. The latter offered a moderately-spacious soundfield, with some decent stereo imaging in the front plus occasional panning between channel, usually through moving cars. Dialogue generally stayed in the center, though it blended slightly to the sides on occasion. The surrounds kicked in some nice ambience when appropriate, such as during a thunderstorm or when the machines were activated. It's not an ambitious remix, but it added a nice aura to the track.
That extra atmosphere came with a small price in quality, as the sound of the 2.0 mix didn't seem as crisp as that of the original monaural track. Dialogue largely appeared similar, with speech appearing fairly warm and articulate and with no concerns related to intelligibility.
Music and effects were a slightly different affair, however, as they sounded distinctly more precise and clear on the mono track; the Surround mix replicated them adequately, but it added a loose boominess to them that seemed inappropriate. Honestly, both tracks were really pretty good for a movie of this vintage. They sounded fairly clean and lacked distortion, and background noise was kept to a minimum. However, I ultimately preferred the mono track just because it seemed more authentic; the clarity and accuracy of the audio was better, and that compensated for the level of involvement lost from the Surround mix. (Again, my grade of "B-" for the audio is based on the mono track.)
We find the same supplements as we discovered on the other side of this DVD. There are the film's original theatrical trailer, plus one for its 1958 predecessor. It also tosses in trailers for the 1986 version of The Fly, its 1989 sequel, The Fly II, plus two movies paired on another "Fox Double Feature" DVD: Fantastic Voyage and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
I guess I can't complain too strongly about the lack of supplements on this DVD, since it includes two full movies. However, the question becomes whether these two films are worth the relatively-high list price of $34.98. To me, no. I enjoyed them moderately but didn't think enough of them to consider a purchase. However, it should be noted that even if the package sold for $20, I still wouldn't want to buy it just because I'm not that wild about the films themselves, so the question becomes whether or not this set would be worthwhile for more ardent fans of the movies.
In that case, I'd think it probably would, especially if you like both films. If your tastes run to one or the other, it's more difficult to justify. For me, I'd have no problem dropping $35 for the 1986 version of The Fly just because I love that movie; the addition of its sequel wouldn't add any value to that package for me, and I'm sure many others feel the same way. I don't think there's nearly as much antagonism aimed at either of these films, so it's probably a better bargain in that regard; folks who like one will probably get something out of the other as well.
So as far as recommendations go, I'd definitely toss this one out as a rental for anybody who thinks they might find it interesting; neither film is great, but both The Fly and The Return of the Fly provide some modest fun. If you're a fan of either title, you may want to more actively consider a purchase. I found the picture quality of The Fly to be poor, though it provides solid sound. Return of the Fly is more consistent on both sides; it looks okay, and the audio seems satisfactory as well. Until some of these "double feature" DVDs include two very strong movies, they'll remain a somewhat iffy investment, but at least both of these films are pretty decent and you won't be stuck with a genuine clunker.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars|| Number of Votes: 4|