Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Fly (1958)

Fig. 1
Kurt Neumann’s The Fly is a science-fiction horror that portrays the metamorphosis between a man and a fly. The film follows Helene (Patricia Owens), a wife of a scientist, who is left to deal with the repercussions of her husbands metamorphosis. The film was created and set in the 1950's, hence has typical 50s costumes and family values i.e. in the remake the film centres around a single, alienated man and his girlfriend, whilst the 1958 version is about a family man scientist, Andre, who lives with his wife and son and works on experiments in the basement of the family's home. The films opening is unexpected and it becomes clear to the audience the structure of the film will result in flashbacks.

The metamorphosis within the film seems to focus on the theme ‘playing God’ and by doing so does God punish man? Although you do not see the transformation unfold on screen you are left with a fusion of fly and man. Film4 states, "Wife Helene (Owens) and brother Franacois (Price) are of course powerless to help. Andre has learned the hard way the perils of trying to bend the laws of nature too far." (Film4) The reviewer observes the message of the film, that humans should not mess with the laws of nature. Neumann’s man/fly hybrid resultant in the 1950's would have shocked the generation, yet now the audience sees a man with a fly's head and arm - tame in terms of horror.

Fig. 2
Almar Haflidason argues, "Silly it may be but the tension is quickly cranked up as Hedison realises he has to find the fly so that he can try to reverse the damage. Any humour in the situation quickly drains away as Hedison battles to stop his personality being consumed with his new found predatory instincts. Meanwhile his 'other half' is trapped in a spider's web. This desperate 'double' struggle cleverly detracts from the cheap-looking monster effects and allows a dramatic and quite poignant film to form." (Haflidason 2007) Haflidason observes that the 1950's special effects has little to desire, yet the editing creates drama and makes the film a classic horror. Within the review Haflidason brings up the idea of the 'double' (Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s theory about everyone having an exact double), which is a key signifier to the audience that things will only get worse - resulting in death. 

Fig. 3
It becomes apparent during the film that the metamorphosis is starting to effect Andre mentally, after the physical transformation has occurred. He begins to lose control of his arm and his brain, resulting in the somewhat dramatic assisted suicide. Howard Thompson suggests, "It does indeed contain, briefly, two of the most sickening sights one casual swatter-wielder ever beheld on the screen. At one point, the hooded hero discloses his head as that of a giant-size fly. And the climax, when this balcony-sitter nearly shot through the roof, is a fat close-up of a fly, with a tiny, screaming human's head, trapped by a spider on its web. To any random customer expecting a pleasant doze, watch out! Short as these two scenes are, there's no escaping them." (Thompson 1958) It is clear that Thompson has found parts of the film to be shocking. It becomes apparent in the film that as Andre looses control of him brain and arm the fly he's been spliced with is gaining control of them, hence why Helena must kill the 'fly with the white head'.

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Neumann, Kurt (1958) The Fly Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on: 15/10/11)

Figure 2. Neumann, Kurt (1958) Andre/Fly. At: (Accessed on:15/10/11)

Figure 3. Neumann, Kurt (1958) Helena and Andre/Fly. At: (Accessed on:15/10/11)


Film4 (unspecified reviewer and date posted) The Fly. At: (Accessed on:15/10/11)

BBC Almar Haflidason (2007) The Fly (1958). At: (Accessed on:15/10/11)

New York Times Review Howard Thompson (1958) The Fly (1958) The Screen: Hair-Raiser; The Fly' Is New Bill at Local Theatres. At: Tomatoes (Accessed on:15/10/11)

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