Gin and Milk

Science wouldn’t hurt a fly. But then it did. And the resulting fiction created one.

Of1950’s numerous atomic horrors, The Fly is among the most somber. It’s human and reserved. The creature neither destroys a building or kills anyone; everything happens in an otherwise happy, post-war home.

Andre Delambre (David Hedison) follows the pattern of discovery – excitement that he can transport physical matter by disintegrating atoms, the duty to continue and help mankind, then the sobering realization of what he’s created. Delambre becomes part man, part fly, representing his own remorse and the understanding that such technology is inevitably abused.

The Fly captures Oppenheimer’s regret – crudely, admittedly – toward the atomic bombings. The Fly’s atom splitting, ear-ripping sound, and bright light all draw comparison. Delambre’s self-imposed isolation is imbued with sorrow after he turns, creating forced distance from his family.

The Fly, distilling atomic aggression down to pure sci-fi and with empathy

The script establishes Delambre’s veteran status. After being crushed by a press, the body is identified by a war wound. That’s use to bring another parallel in the end. Vincent Price defends Delambre, explaining to Delambre’s son that, “He died because of his work,” no doubt a common refrain during WWII.

Interestingly, James Clavell earned scripting credit. An Australian, Clavell became a POW in a vicious Japanese camp during his service. And yet, he wrote The Fly, distilling atomic aggression down to pure sci-fi and with empathy. Delambre is a Manhattan Project medley, depicting the anguish when that science turned against mankind.

In total, The Fly is little more than a Frankenstein story. Instead of electricity, the nuke becomes a fearful catalyst. Even in retracing that literature, The Fly becomes a necessary update. This is less an exploitative venture seeking to capitalize on radiation (like The Fly’s numerous relatives in the decade) than to show the moral side effects.

It’s also intelligently composed, billed more as a mystery with Helen Delambre (Patricia Owens) as the lead. She’s distraught, yet capable; that’s another unusual piece for the 1950s, where women fill roles only to scream – and scream she will, too. When her fear reaches a pinnacle, it does so with purpose. The Fly holds its monster from view. Helen doesn’t see her husband’s disfigurement until the audience does, with mere minutes left in the runtime. When she calms down, Helen also faces a scientific burden. Experimentation and discovery changed her literal nuclear family. The consequences will never let her be free.

Video

Shout issues The Fly Collection on Blu-ray, bringing the sequels to HD, along with the ‘80s entry (and its sequel). In this case, Shout uses the same identical disc Fox issued on their own years prior. Same transfer, same master. By 2019 standards, this one needs a rescan.

Positive results come from color saturation. That’s still superb. Some bleed and fringing comes at the source, not this disc. Vibrant flesh tones pair with strong primaries. From Owens’ dresses to the silvery blue evident in the Fly’s makeup, each hue draws the eye. In Delambre’s lab, neon lights glow and equipment flickers to life.

Resolution sinks the positive elements though. Grain meanders around the frame, quite chunky and coarse. While detail shows, a lot is lost behind the haze. Older mastering limits the potential. Luckily, the print shows minimal damage, a stray scratch or speck indicating a well preserved source.

Intense color seeps into black levels, giving them a certain tint. The Fly loses contrast and depth, if gaining in rich palette; it’s a wash. Exteriors still bring wonderful brightness, making garden scenes superbly dense.

Audio

Given the 1950s origins, this DTS-HD 4.0 track is unusually broad. Dialog travels into stereo channels with an obnoxious frequency. Someone turns their head just a little, and the voice trails into the front soundstage. It’s distracting, if certainly the intent.

The bold score fares better, full and wide bodied to build drama. Range excels, as does fidelity. This is where the 4.0 mixing plays a dominate role and for the better.

Extras

Nothing new. Vincent Price is given his praise in an excellent 44-minute biography, depicting a uniquely Hollywood figure, remaining so long after his passing in 1993. This was originally produced in 1997. Commentary comes from actor David Hedison and film historian David Del Valle.

Fly Trap reminisces and discusses impact from the film’s release, a tad short at 11-minutes, especially considering discussion near the end about sequels. A one minute clip from Fox Movietone news profiles a kitschy premiere, and The Fly’s trailers round this disc out.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Fly (1958)
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

A reserved, cautionary sci-fi tale, The Fly uniquely recounts the discovery of nuclear horrors, and the resulting regret.

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