The Fly (1958)

One day while working I got a call from Jenny to come home quickly. There was a grasshopper in the trailer. As I pulled into the yard, she was nervously sitting on the porch. It was a beautiful day, but that wasn’t why she was on the porch. In her mind at that moment, the world was divided into two areas: Where the grasshopper was, and where it wasn’t. The only safe place to be, was where it wasn’t (if you read that sentence a few times, it does start to make sense). Yes, the grasshopper WAS large (as I walked into the trailer he swiveled his head to me and said “What do YOU want?”), but she’ll be the first to admit she has a bug phobia.

That being said, The Fly would definitely NOT be on Jenny’s list of favorite movies. The chilling ending has become iconic, but even without that, this is a surprisingly well-made movie.

David Hedison plays Andre Delambre, a scientist who has invented a means of transporting solid objects through space by means of breaking down their molecules and re-assembling them in another location. While testing the machine on himself, a fly surreptitiously enters the chamber with him, causing their molecules to combine.

We learn that later on. The movie starts out with his devoted wife (Patricia Owens) accused of his murder. As she tells her story, the police believe her to be insane. The movie plays out as a detective story, with the scientist’s brother Francois (Vincent Price) trying to put the pieces of the unbelievable puzzle together.

Interestingly, the director Kurt Neumann knew Patricia Owens had a real fear of insects, and didn’t allow her to see the climactic make-up until the unmasking. Clever man.

Unlike many mad-scientist stories where the scientist is out for nefarious ends, we feel true pity for Andre. In many movies of this genre, the scientist ends up wanting to destroy those around him. Here he loves his family and fears for their safety. A beautiful moment occurs as he scrawls his last wishes to his wife on a blackboard, struggling as he feels his mind going. As he writes “LOVE YOU” with tremendous effort, it becomes clear there is more to this movie then meets the compound eye.

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