The Fly (1958) Blu-ray Review: A Classic Reborn in HD

Between The Fly (1958) and The Fly (1986), you couldn’t have two films that take more different approaches to the same story, yet both achieve their aim admirably. The former is from a time when special effects were in their infancy, and the story had to carry the audience and hold their attention. The latter emphasizes suspense, but the build-up is to a gory climax that puts the unmasking of Andre Delambre to shame.

If you somehow have missed both of these films and their numerous sequels, well, get ready for a big spoiler — they’re about scientists (David Hedison, 1958; Jeff Goldblum, 1986) trying to perfect disintegration/reintegration of people, animals, and objects, otherwise known as teleportation. When a fly unexpectedly enters the chamber before transmission, the scientist is merged with the fly, and undergoes significant physiological changes. The version in question here starts at the end of Andre’s story, with his wife Helene (Patricia Owens) calling Andre’s brother Francois (Vincent Price) to confess to having murdered Andre in a 50-ton hydraulic press, but she will not offer any specifics as to why she did it other than to imply it was at Andre’s request. A police investigation ensues, and ultimately Helene confides the truth to the incredulous Francois and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall), which kicks off a flashback sequence that lasts half the movie. This sequence details Andre’s research and the unfortunate outcome of it, saving two big reveals until very late in the film.

This is the classic Price vibe, keeping the audience guessing the whole way through, teasing them with bits of information and insight here and there. Contrast this dialogue-heavy, cerebral take on the story against the 1986 version that serves as essentially a documentary on the graphic devolution of man into fly. It’s a constant build up where the only real question is how horrific things are going to become before they get any better. The pacing in this classic is perfect, the reveals well timed, and while the effects and blaring suspense music definitely speak to their era, they lend to the overall charm of the period.

The picture quality of the Blu-ray is really clean. Watching the untouched trailer on the disc after seeing the feature makes this abundantly apparent, as static and other artifacts run rampant across the screen. The feature is in color, which I swear wasn’t the case the last time I saw this elsewhere. If it was originally black & white and you’re a purist about these things, we’re definitely seeing color here. The audio is clear and subtitles are available in a multitude of languages.

Beyond the feature itself, we have feature commentary with actor David Hedison and film historian David Del Valle, a 45-minute biography of Vincent Price, the “Fly Trap: Catching a Classic” featurette that explores the franchise’s origins and audience reactions to the films, and the original theatrical trailer. I believe most or all of these features have been included with previous retail releases of the film, so if you already own it, you might only be getting the upgrade in picture quality here.

No classic movie buff’s library should be without The Fly. It’s been admirably imitated over the 55 years since its initial release, but still holds up today with just a modicum of cheese. Whether you’re looking to round out your Vincent Price catalog or just to enjoy a heady suspenseful creature feature for Halloween, The Fly should be on your radar.

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Mark Buckingham

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