Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Buddha Man Meets Vincent Price!

The Fly (1958) In a novel opening to a 50’s sci fi flick – we start off as Andre DeLambre (David Hedison) lies dead, his head and arm crushed to paste in a hydraulic press at the factory owned by his family for generations. The police quickly realize this particular press cannot be set automatically, but must have someone at the controls – so this wasn’t suicide – it’s MURDER. Who could be responsible? Well, there are no flies on the police – they see Mrs. DeLambre (Patricia Owens) standing right beside the controls in question and they waste no time putting the blame squarely on her. Her brother-in-law Francoise (Vincent Price) cannot believe Helene capable of such an act and tries to find out why she did it – but the stoic woman refuses to answer – and her quiet calm does not endear her to the authorities, as they begin to believe she is cold and calculating. Making matters worse – they discover evidence that as the press first came down on Andre – his arm slipped out – and that Helene lifted the press, put his arm back in, and sent the press down a second time. What kind of a monster could crush her husband to death – twice?

Herbert Marshall and Vincent Price in the lab.

Eventually it becomes obvious that she is not attempting to flee – or fly – away in escape – but her refusal to explain her actions simply isn’t going to fly. She tells Francoise her story – a few weeks before, scientist Andre had made an amazing breakthrough in his research – he created a machine that could teleport solid matter across a room! Eventually Andre hoped his teleportation system would allow cheap and fast movement of food, goods, and people anywhere in the world – but that would come after perfection of the process – currently it’s just moving something from one cabinet to the other in his laboratory. However, the scientist’s adventurous side kicks in and he decides to take a trip through himself to test the effects of teleportation on living matter. (Seems a little risky, considering…) The first time through goes fine. But the second time is another matter, as Andre is unwittingly joined by a second passenger, and you’re not winging it if you remember the title of the movie at this point.

Charles Herbert and Vincent Price revel in their arachnophobia together.

After that second teleportation, Andre locks himself in his lab and won’t let anyone see him. Eventually he allows Helene to bring him food – but only soups and liquids – and he now wears a cover over his head and keeps one hand out of sight in a pocket. He also enlists her help in a feverish search for a fly – but not just any fly – this fly sports a tiny white head…without it he might not have a wing or a prayer…

David keeps his Hedison out of sight, while Patricia thinks he Owens her an explanation...

This is one of the most fondly remembered monster movies from the 50's - and with good reason. It's a well made thriller - even if the science is beyond goofy. A very solid cast is well orchestrated through the story by director Kurt Neumann - who sadly died right after the movie was released and never got to see it become his biggest hit. Like pretty much all movies like this from the time - the movie makes you wait a while to see the creature in the feature - but it's worth the wait - a cool makeup design by Ben Nye.

Don't harsh his buzz... 

I'm glad Vincent Price is playing Hedison's brother here - because that means we get Price throughout the movie - if he'd been the fly guy we'd have much less of him in the movie. Hedison - still sporting the first name Al before settling on David as a better choice a few years later - is a good choice for the doomed scientist. Patricia Owens handles the various sides of her character (loving wife, cool widow, hysterical screamer) very well - which leads me to wonder why she's not more well known than she is? Charles Herbert has been discussed in this blog before. A good child actor - with agents and managers canny enough to get him top billing in films he did a couple of years after this. And we must mention Herbert Marshall - a veteran actor who found the film silly - he and Price legendarily broke up at some of their scripted lines and actions - but who keeps his performance properly somber and serious.

I don't think you can mention this movie and not touch on the highly recommended 1986 remake from David Cronenberg - that version shores up the science by bringing in DNA and a transformation at the molecular level - which is still fantasy but a tiny bit more grounded in reality than switching heads and hands with an insect.

But we're still back in 1958 - and this original movie is highly recommended as well. In fact, why not watch the two versions back to back?

House of the Long Shadows  (1983)  A thrill collectively went through all classic horror fans when this movie was announced. The four reigning Kings of Horror (at the time) - Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine - all together in one film for the first time. Add in more cool British actors like Richard Todd, Sheila Walker, and Louise English (one of Benny Hill's Angels a few years previously) to make the movie even better. That the cast list ended with Desi Arnaz, Jr. didn't have us worried one bit. Then we saw the movie. We should have worried. In the midst of all those veteran actors, Desi stands out like a sore thumb and really mars the movie.

Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price.

It also works against that incredible quartet that the script - the zillionth adaptation of the hoary old chestnut Seven Keys to Baldpate - is pretty slow and doesn't really showcase any of the four that well. I don't mind it being another version of an old story - I just wish this adaptation had a little more pep. It's also a visually dark movie - at least it was in the old VHS and in the streaming version I watched not long ago - and it's sometimes hard to see what's going on - which is ironic considering how many times the story was used for radio shows. A big remaster to Blu-Ray might take care of the illumination issues, but until then good luck seeing parts of this. In the end, it's not that great - but what true horror fan could resist checking this out?

Thank you as always, my golden friend. Until next post - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. As much as I love The Fly - it's one of those perfect, late night horrors - I actually like the sequel a little better? The backwards plot device drags a little for me, but Price more than makes up for it. I must have a double bill soon!. I've never seen House of Long Shadows, but have only heard middling things on it. It'll remain waaaaay down the list for me...

    1. Well, the sequel has Price too - so that's a bonus - and it does have that jerkweed bad guy - but I still prefer the original. Skip House all you want - but if you do watch it let us know what you thought!