Starring Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, John Sutton, David Frankham, Dan Seymour
Written By: James Clavell; Edward Bernds; Harry Spalding
Directed By: Kurt Neumann; Edward Bernds; Don Sharp
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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When I first got ahold of this box set, I have to admit that I was expecting another cheap packaging of some old horror flicks in time for Halloween. You know what I mean bad transfers, no extras, no care or attention to detail. But I’m actually rather impressed with this set. It comes in a bright, eye-catching box featuring some rad classic poster art. Each disc is packed in its own thin-pack case, and there’s a fourth disc loaded with some great extras, especially an episode of A&E’s Biography on Vincent Price. And the films themselves look pretty amazing, with some terrific transfers and little to know noticeable flaws.
Anyway, you probably know the story of The Fly. A scientist invents a matter transporter and eventually decides to use himself as the first human subject. But wait! There are horrible consequences of messing with super-science!
Ahem. Anyway, the first Fly probably isn’t as good as it should have been. It has a great cast, including the ever-awesome Vincent Price playing a subdued supporting role as the brother of the titular Fly monster. The script was written by James “Shogun” Clavell. It’s well-directed and produced. But the problem is it seems to jump genres too much. It has a promising murder-mystery style opening: a night watchman finds a large press, covered in blood, with the remains of a human body next to it. The body’s head and arm have been crushed in the press, and the victim’s wife is there at the scene. What follows, though, is a shift into an extended flashback featuring a rather dull domestic storyline of a scientist. Is he spending too much time in his work? Is he giving his wife and child all the attention he should? Then after a while it becomes, at last, a bit of a horror movie, when SCIENCE GOES BAD!!! and the scientist gets changed into a horrible monster.
It’s a good movie, but as I said, not nearly as good as it probably could (or even should) have been. It gets a little absurd at times, too, especially the scenes with the human-headed fly. I can’t help but shake my head and laugh at that.
Funny thing is, the film is in color and the scientist gets stuck with a Fly head that’s not much larger than a normal human head. But I seemed to remember it being black and white, and the Fly having a ginormous head. Turns out I was actually thinking of the sequel, Return of the Fly, also featuring Price. This time around, the son of the original scientist fiddles around with Daddy’s failed experiment, and pretty much gets it to work. Only this time around, he’s double-crossed by an evil sidekick. Return was more low-budget, and as such it’s in black and white, but at least the director attempted to utilize the lack of color and spin it in more of a noir-ish crime-movie direction. On the whole, this sequel is essentially a cheaper, somewhat goofier retread (including great lines like “What if he has the murderous mind of a fly?”), yet at the same time, it’s a lot more entertaining than its predecessor. Great? No. Good? Yes.
The second sequel spins off in a completely different direction, involving an escaped mental patient marrying into the Fly-cursed family. This time around, we get a few random hideous monsters, rather than fly-headed scientists, all hidden away in a mansion. In effect, it becomes more of a sub-par haunted house story than a science-gone-wrong tale like the previous two films. And without Price or any decent sort of budget it just really amounts to a lot of nothing.
On the whole, this is an absolutely terrific boxed set with two good movies, one decent movie, and a host of great extras. If you’re into classic horror/sci fi movies, I heartily recommend you look into The Fly Collection.
Audio Commentary on The Fly
Biography: Vincent Price
Fly Trap: Catching a Classic featurette
2.35:1 (color, black & white)
Favorite Scenes: The opening of the first film; the Fly’s revenge-spree in the second
Running Time: 260 minutes