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11 September 2008

Movie Review: The Fly and Spawn

This week in Los Angeles, a new opera premiered based on, of all things, the 1986 science fiction movie, The Fly.

With the libretto by David Henry Hwang and music by Howard Shore, this opera has brought renewed attention to the 1986 movie upon which it was based.

The original movie was actually based on a short story from Nouvelles de l"Anti-Monde by George Langelaan.

The Fly

You might think this 1958 movie takes place in France because of the characters' names, but actually it is set in Canada. There's been a murder in a factory. A man's head has been crushed. The culprit is his beautiful wife, Helene (Patricia Owens). When she tells her story to her brother-in-law Francois (Vincent Price), see the story in flashbacks. A scientist, Andre Delambre (David Hedison) has invented a disintegrater-integrater. He shows it to his wife, but things don't work exactly right--some of the particles are scrambled. He experiments on a cat and it doesn't quite work, but finally, he decides to try it on himself. Unfortunately, a fly has entered the chamber with him and the integrator scrambles the man and the fly so that parts have been switched. He hides himself from his wife and son until he must bring his wife into his confidence. This is a classic and well done with a happy ending for the wife, but not for the fly.

The movie was directed and produced by Kurt Neumann with a screenplay by James Clavell before he wrote that Japanese drivel called "Shogun."

Return of the Fly

When you have a hit, what do you do? Just what 20th Century-Fox did. You make a sequel. There's a different director (Edward Bernds who also wrote the screenplay) and producer (Bernard Glasser) and the only character who returns besides the fly is Vincent Price. Helene has died and this 1959 black and white movie opens with her funeral. There her son, now a young man, asking about his father's mysterious death. After 15 years, all the equipment remains. Philippe (Brett Halsey) figures out how to duplicate his father's experiments, but his treacherous friend betrays him and puts him in the teleporter with...of course, a fly. The one has a happy ending for both the fly and the fly boy. The acting isn't great but if you like bad science fiction this is good in a bad way.

Curse of the Fly

You think by the third generation, people would have learned their lesson, like kill all flies or make a fly-proof room before you experiment. Andre's son, Henri (Brian Donlevy) and two grandsons can't keep away from that damn transporter machine. As a subplot, we have an escapee from an insane asylum, Patricia (Carole Gray) who meets and married Henri's eldest son, Martin (George Baker). Now they are teleporting people between Quebec and England. A few botched experiments later, the bride is missing and the police are looking for her. And there was actually a first wife who wasn't dead or divorce. This is available on DVD. Directed by Don Sharp with a script written by Harry Spalding, this is bad, real bad.

The Fly

This 1986 movie changed a lot of the details. We are no longer in Canada. The people aren't French Canadian. There is no family, just a lonely offbeat scientist, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and an ambitious journalist, Veronica (Geena Davis). They meet at a party and he immediately takes her home to show her his new toys. She thinks they are designer phone booths; they are, of course, teleporting pods. Directed by David Cronenberg who co-wrote the script with Charles Edward Pogue. They seem to have been a bit confused about what exactly they wanted to do. Veronica's boss is seen as slimy, but then almost heroic. Their happy ending with Veronica and her boss married didn't screen well so they changed their epilogue. The DVD shows all these possibilities. I have to say that now, the nightmare scene where Veronica dreams she has given birth to a larvae-like baby now seems embarrassingly phallic. There's a lot more gore in this flick and some black humor on the part of Brundle as he becomes Brundlefly.

The Fly II

This movie in another era would have been called "Son of the Fly." Yes the offspring of Veronica and Seth is born, Martin Brundle (Eric Stoltz). Veronica (Saffron Henderson) conveniently dies and because Seth and Veronica had no relatives (I guess) the child is left to Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson), the owner of Bartok Industries for whom Seth worked.

Martin, having mutant fly genes, experiences an accelerated growth rate. In three year, he's ten. The teleporters still exist, but they don't work well. The test animals usually end up deformed, including a dog that Martin befriends. Martin begins working on the teleporters and befriends Beth Logan (Daphne Zuniga). Martin discovers that he is mutating into a fly and contacts his father's rival Stathis Borans (John Getz) and attempts to find away to prevent his metamorphosis into a fly.

Directed by Chris Walas and written by committee (Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat and Frank Darabont), this movie had a clearcut villian--corporate America as embodied by Richardson's Anton Bartok. Not as psychologically deep or darkly humorous, but a more focused story with a predictable happy ending, well, except for Bartok.