When Halloween comes calling, I like to watch as many horror films as I can. With prime time TV shows cutting into every night — and a wife who isn’t exactly fond of the genre — sometimes it’s hard to watch as many as I’d like. With all the horror films in my library at my disposal, I like to get in some old school classics. Usually this entails diving into the Universal Classic Monsters box set which includes everything from Dracula to The Mummy to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Aside from the classic Universal monsters, there are plenty of old school creature features to fall back on and The Fly is right on time, available September 10 from Twentieth Century Fox.
The twisted tale of scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison, credited as Al Hedison) and his quest for teleportation continues to age quite nicely. After his body is found mangled by his wife Helene (Patricia Owens), she is taken home where she nonchalantly speaks about Andre’s dead body to both Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) and her brother-in-law Francois (Vincent Price). Helene recounts the events leading up to the death of her husband, but seems mighty distracted by flies in the house. Turns out, Andre has been working on a teleportation machine — called a disintegrator-integrator — which allows atoms to transport intact. After the family kitten goes missing during an experiment, Andre tests the machine on himself, but fails to notice one minor detail, and now Andre has become The Fly!
I’ve read lots of reviews online calling The Fly a classic that doesn’t live up to its hype. But they couldn’t be more wrong. People forget that there was a lot that couldn’t be shown back then, and director Kurt Neumann manages to wring some good tension out of James Clavell’s screenplay (based on George Langelaan’s Playboy story). Vincent Price lends his always helpful hand, even if he’s not playing a character as outrageous as we’re used to. Price isn’t even the lead here, it’s actually Owens. Whether or not the film would still be considered “scary” is obviously up to the viewer, but The Fly definitely holds up against the Universal classics. Back in the old days, there was more left up to the viewer and less carnage splashed on the screen, which in my book, is always at least more interesting.
The Fly lands on Blu-ray on a 50GB disc, presented in its CinemaScope 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While The Fly may not look quite as sharp as the last Fox classic I reviewed (Love Me Tender), it still looks pretty amazing. Sharpness is a little on the soft side, with some age related soft shots to go along with it. There doesn’t appear to be any DNR or artificial sharpening on-hand, but some of the backgrounds are a little more alive than the characters; meaning grain is as heavy as you’d expect from a film shot on 35mm. A few white specks show up here and there, most noticeable during darker scenes in Andre’s laboratory, but thankfully noise never rears its head. There was also no banding or aliasing. The one thing that I thought may be a print issue was during some harsh scene transitions, but it’s clearly the fault of the original editing because the same effect can be seen during the special features; which also show just how good the Blu-ray presentation looks.
The audio is just as good with a 4.0 DTS-HD MA mix. The opening credit sequence kicks things off with the sound of a fly buzzing around the sound field. It buzzes about through each front speaker from the left to the right with ease while Paul Sawtell’s score swells across all channels. Dialogue is presented with crystal clarity, but seems to be a tad on the low side whenever characters are outside. After Andre performs his experiment with the cat, it can be heard meowing from one speaker to the next, as if it’s crawling around your very own air ducts and the final “help me” has never sounded so appropriately insectile.
The special features are mostly ported over from the 2007 DVD release: The Fly Collection. This set includes the original trilogy: The Fly, Return of the Fly, and The Curse of the Fly. There’s a Vincent Price A&E Biography (44:00), including interviews with his daughter Lucy Chase Williams; Fly Trap: Catching a Classic (11:30) featuring interviews with David “Al” Hedison, film historian David Del Valle, and Tony Timpone at the time editor of Fangoria, covering all three films in the series. Also included is a quick 54-seond Fox Movietone Newsreel showing the monster-studded premiere of The Fly from 1958, a theatrical trailer, and a jovial audio commentary featuring Del Valle and Hedison again.
Longtime fans of The Fly, and fans of the David Cronenberg remake, will find lots to love with the Blu-ray release. Featuring a huge upgrade in picture quality and a fitting surround track, along with plenty of features that are brand new to those who didn’t even know the trilogy pack was released on DVD, The Fly is another classic done right by Fox Home Video and is worth a purchase, especially with Halloween right around the corner.