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.
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-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/10/2013
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.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
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.
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.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
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.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
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.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
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)
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.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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