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The Fly (1958) Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 18 Matt Hough

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Posted September 10 2013 - 01:43 PM

The Fly (1958) Blu-ray Review

Kurt Neumann’s iconic sci-fi/horror classic The Fly is that rare thing: a 1950s horror film which only has a few moments of camp sensibility when seen today. The story is admirably played straight by the actors, and their earnest performances help give the film a dignity and strength that more than make up for some lapses in logic and some shoddy plotting.


Cover Art


Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

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Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 09/10/2013

MSRP: $24.99




The Production Rating: 3.5/5

Told in flashback, Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) relates the story of how her scientist-husband Andre (Al/David Hedison) while experimenting with a revolutionary disintegration/integration chamber became the victim of a horrific accident in which the atoms of his head and arm became swapped with those of a fly turning him into a mutant monster whose sensibility is slowly being consumed by the instincts of the fly. Listening to her story with undisguised disbelief are Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) and Andre’s brother François (Vincent Price). Only the fly with the head and arm of Andre can prove her story, and it has unfortunately escaped from the laboratory.

Telling the story in flashback (as was done in the George Langelaan’s short story adapted for the screen by James Clavell) dissipates some additional suspense that story might have contained if it had been told chronologically (we know Andre’s outcome within the first few minutes of the movie). Of course, presenting the story in that way would have meant much less screen time for the film’s two most famous players Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall, but that “will he or won’t he survive?” question is lost completely. Kurt Neumann is a journeyman director who doesn’t use the Cinemascope screen with much originality (there is one elegant sweeping camera move upward looking down on François as he enters a bedroom but then everything else is shot very straightforwardly), but he certainly has the shock scenes delivered nicely when the time for them comes. It’s seventy-three minutes in before we get our first full look at the man/fly, and it’s worth the wait with Ben Nye’s terrific make-up creation and David Hedison’s superb pantomime performance combining for a marvelous shock sequence (the point of view shot of the screaming Helene seen from the fly’s perspective is the film’s most memorable single image). The climactic encounter with the fly/man is less adept and is the aspect of the film that plays less well today (and actors Price and Marshall allegedly had a difficult time filming the scene even then between gales of hysterical laughter).

Both Al (later David) Hedison and Patricia Owens make a believable, sincere couple in love and desperate to return to their once-happy life. Hedison’s mime work after the transformation is really touching and most authentic as the fly begins to overtake his own sensibilities, and Owens, sometimes near hysteria and other times stalwart and determined, couldn’t be worthier of him (she does make one little slip that should have been looped: taking place in French-speaking Canada, she calls her son Philippe “Phillip” at one point but never again). Vincent Price is the steadfast brother in love with his sibling’s wife but not acting on it, and Herbert Marshall is the epitome of restraint as the doubting inspector. The brilliant Kathleen Freeman is wasted in the role of the maid while Betty Lou Gerson (Cruella De Vil herself) is a concerned nurse, and Charles Herbert is fine as the loving son.



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The film’s Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully replicated in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent throughout, and color is rich with flesh tones that are right if a trifle thickly hued. Contrast is usually spot-on though there are a couple of early scenes where contrast seems a bit milky damaging black levels. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix replicates Fox’s early stereo separations superbly. The directionalized dialogue is a treat (and is always completely discernible), and Paul Sawtell’s music gets a lush and ample placement through the soundstage. There is one sensationally creepy ambient effect: when the family cat gets used unsuccessfully as a guinea pig in the matter transfer experiment, its scattering atoms meow in separate speakers for a really terrific impact.



Special Features Rating: 3/5

Audio Commentary: film historian David Del Valle and star David Hedison have a very amiable chat as they watch the movie with Valle asking intelligent questions and Hedison scouring his memory to come up with answers. Fans will find this a real treat.

Biography: Vincent Price (44:03, SD): the excellent episode of the series Biography featuring the life and work of Vincent Price was already used on the Laura Blu-ray release, but here it is again for those who missed it.

Fly Trap: Catching a Classic (11:30, SD), film historians Steve Haverman, David Glut, David Del Valle, and star David Hedison are among those who discuss the film’s terrific impact leading to the two additional sequels with clips offered for all three films.

Movietone News (0:54, SD): brief clips of the world premiere held in San Francisco.

Theatrical Trailer (1:59, SD)



Overall Rating: 3.5/5

The 1958 version of The Fly was among the very first horror films I can ever remember seeing (waiting in a long line with my mother in Atlanta while my father attended a trade show), so it holds a special place in my heart. Fans should be delighted with the video and audio quality of this Blu-ray release.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 18 moviebuff75

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Posted September 10 2013 - 02:57 PM

Would this make a good double-feature with "The Haunting"? I'm trying to find another film to show with that one.


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#3 of 18 Rob_Ray

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Posted September 10 2013 - 03:05 PM

A better double-feature with "The Haunting" would either be "The Innocents" (if you want two movies from the same releasing era) or one of Robert Wise's films from his Val Lewton period, especially "The Curse of the Cat People."   That is, if you don't mind showing DVDs at the Skydome Cinema.  Is "The Uninvited" coming to BluRay?  If so, that would be a good choice.



#4 of 18 bigshot

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Posted September 10 2013 - 04:48 PM

I like saying this film has "lapses in logic" as if it shouldn't!



#5 of 18 JoeDoakes

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Posted September 10 2013 - 05:20 PM

I like saying this film has "lapses in logic" as if it shouldn't!

Why does Dracula go to London?  Why isn't everyone a vampire?



#6 of 18 Matt Hough

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Posted September 10 2013 - 06:10 PM

A better double-feature with "The Haunting" would either be "The Innocents" (if you want two movies from the same releasing era) or one of Robert Wise's films from his Val Lewton period, especially "The Curse of the Cat People."   That is, if you don't mind showing DVDs at the Skydome Cinema.  Is "The Uninvited" coming to BluRay?  If so, that would be a good choice.

 

I agree with these suggestions, particularly The Innocents. The Uninvited comes from Criterion in October.



#7 of 18 RolandL

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Posted September 11 2013 - 09:22 AM

Glad to hear it has the original directional dialog.


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#8 of 18 Johnny Angell

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Posted September 11 2013 - 06:22 PM

Would this make a good double-feature with "The Haunting"? I'm trying to find another film to show with that one.

I don't think it'd be a bad pairing.  Show The Fly first, 

Spoiler


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#9 of 18 Johnny Angell

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Posted September 11 2013 - 06:33 PM

The climactic encounter with the fly/man is less adept and is the aspect of the film that plays less well today (and actors Price and Marshall allegedly had a difficult time filming the scene even then between gales of hysterical laughter).

 

Spoiler

 

I do agree it is less adept, but I found it still effective.  I've just watched the film and I wanted to shout at the screen, 

Spoiler

 

I found the film to be better than I remembered it.  It has been more years than I can remember since I've seen it.  It's not often a film exceeds my recollections of it.


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#10 of 18 ahollis

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Posted September 11 2013 - 09:48 PM

Would this make a good double-feature with "The Haunting"? I'm trying to find another film to show with that one.


My double feature pick with The Haunting is The Uninvited.
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#11 of 18 Robert Crawford

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Posted September 12 2013 - 08:25 AM

My double feature pick with The Haunting is The Uninvited.

Me too!


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#12 of 18 Rob_Ray

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Posted September 12 2013 - 08:29 AM

Me too!

Me three!


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#13 of 18 Jacksmyname

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Posted September 13 2013 - 10:45 AM

Me three!

Me four!



#14 of 18 Stephen PI

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Posted September 19 2013 - 04:38 PM

As good as the music score sounds, it was one of many that was recorded during the music strike and had to be done outside the US. It would have sounded superior if it had been recorded on Fox's stage one.


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#15 of 18 ahollis

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Posted September 20 2013 - 08:58 PM

Everything you said it was. Thanks. 😊
"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman


#16 of 18 ScottJH

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Posted September 29 2013 - 04:37 AM

Currently on sale for $9.99 @ BestBuy.com



#17 of 18 RolandL

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Posted October 02 2013 - 04:10 AM

Caps-a-holic has some comparisons of the UK Blu-ray to the DE DVD. Looks like more picture info on the top of the Blu-ray but the sides and bottom are cropped.


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#18 of 18 Lromero1396

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Posted October 02 2013 - 11:38 AM

I just ordered this and am looking forward to revisiting this film. Despite the severely flawed flashback concept, it's still a nice little chiller with an all too real moral. I wish that Fox had released The Innocents as well this month, since that true classic of the horror genre is long overdue. I hope Twilight Time doesn't get a hold of that one as it should reach the largest audience possible via Fox or Criterion.







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