Friday, June 25, 2010

Musca domestica

The Fox Movie Channel is showing one of the more entertaining and well-made movies of the 1950s horror picture cycle tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 PM ET: the 1958 version of The Fly.

Patricia Owens is Hélène Delambre, the widow of a scientist in Montreal who stands accused of murdering her husband, but who has gone insane, obsessing over the houseflies in her house, or at least one fly in particuler that she can't find. The police, in the form of Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall), are ready to have her arrested and either tried or committed depending upon her sanity. However, she tells her brother-in-law François (Vincent Price) what happened, if only he can find the fly she's looking for. Desperate for the truth, François lies about catching the fly, and brings the Inspector along to hear the story.

The only thing about a movie like The Fly is that it's become iconic to the point where you probably already know the rest of the story. Hélène's husband André (David Hedison) was a scientist who, in his home laboratory, was working on a transporter-like device that moves matter from one place to another. Thinking he's finally perfected it, he decides to experiment -- upon himself, after all the experiments with inanimate objects seem to have shown that the kinks were worked out. (Brilliant idea.) Unfortunately for him, a fly gets in the transporter chamber with him, and the two organisms' DNA are commingled on the other end. The result is that we've got one human-sized man with a fly's head, and presumably a fly with a human head flying around out in the great wide open.

André enlists Hélène to find the special fly with the human head, on the theory that sending both of the hybrids through the transporter will separate out the DNA back into the correct organisms. (Frankly, if you accept the idea that the DNA can become commingled, the logical assumption would be that if you run the two organisms through the machine again, the result would be that the DNA would become more commingled. But this is a horror movie, so we have to suspend logic from time to time.) But time is of the essence: apparently, the fly's brain is beginning to take over and overpower any human instincts the man's body might still have. If she can't find the fly, she'll have to help him kill himself. Obviously, she doesn't capture the fly, since he ends up dead.

François and Charas obviously aren't sure they belive this story, because Charas is still ready to have Hélène committed. Still, if they can find that fly, they might be able to prove the story. After all, the couple's son has claimed to have seen a "fly with a white head". The two adults do find the fly, and you've probably seen the parody of the fly's condition. But, I won't give that away if you haven't seen the movie.

As I mentioned, The Fly is one of the better movies from the genre of 1950s horror. It's not perfect, of course, in that the story has a lot of logical holes. That, and the laboratory could have used the color movie treatment. Still, the effects are reasonably well done, and the acting is competent if not to the level you might get from Marshall in Foreign Correspondent or Price in Leave Her to Heaven. That having been said, the movie is more than entertaining and worth watching. And, like most iconic movies, it's also been released to DVD, so that you don't have to wait for the Fox Movie Channel showings. The only thing is, The Fly was remade in the 1980s, so you have to make certain you get the original version.

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