Thursday, October 6, 2011

Monsters vs Aliens Challenge: The Fly (1958 & 1986)

It's sort of hard to believe I've reached the end of this challenge. I also wish I would have known ahead of time how I was going to feel about this movie, because I don't like ending the series on a bad note. I don't like writing negative reviews at all really, but I guess when you sign up for a challenge you don't really have a choice.

The Fly (1958)

Like many 50s sci-fi films, The Fly is the story of a scientist trying to do things man wasn't meant to and dealing with the consequences. I think that's a fairly simple plot that nearly all of us can understand, especially in a world where technology advances farther and farther each decade. One of the problems with this movie is that it feels the need to talk down to us about it for far too long.

As the movie starts, the scientist is already dead. His brother, played by Vincent Price, gets a phone call and goes over to their factory to discover his brother crushed by a hydraulic press and his sister in law apparently guilty of the murder. Just telling you that, I bet you already know exactly what happened. Yet this movie feels the need to draw out scenes of the wife saying she doesn't know why but she did kill him, and debate on whether or not she knew how to operate the machine, etc. She's also obsessed with finding a white headed fly. Finally, after 30 minutes of sitting through this, Vincent Price convinces her to talk and we flashback to find out what happened.

Scientist Andre Delambre has built a teleportation machine. It originally works for inanimate objects, but when he puts their beloved pet cat through, it disappears. That poor cat. It also bothers me that his wife and son never seem to notice she's missing. Anyway, after tweaking the machine a little, he manages to keep a guinea pig alive and therefore assumes it's all ready for humans. He tests it on himself, but unfortunately a fly sneaks in there too and they swap heads and a single arm.

You would think the brain would go along with the head, but apparently not. For awhile at least, he's able to think and types out messages to his wife. He keeps his head hidden under a sheet so she can't see how hideous he is. Finally, after an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie, we get the reveal and a wonderful blood curdling scream from the wife when she sees him.

I know I've complained about this many times throughout the challenge, but I just can't understand it. If you're going to go through all the effort of building these masks and effects, don't you want to show them off?

The other thing I found a little odd as I was watching it was the fact that the fly slowly taking over his brain meant that he was turning evil. These days we mostly just think of flies as annoying pests that are attracted to garbage. But it is worth mentioning that Beelzebub translates to "Lord of the Flies" so at least at one point or another people felt differently.

Beyond Vincent Price, who is enjoyable in pretty much anything he's ever done, the main redeeming moment of this movie is toward the very end, when we see the fly that now has a man's head and arm. Its tiny cries of "Help me!" along with its rather creepy appearance are really well done for the time period. Unfortunately, I spent most of the rest of the film just wishing it was over already.

The Fly (1986)

However, had I known what was coming, I think I would have relished all that slow moving preaching. The one thing I had always heard about this version of The Fly was that it was gross. The effects in this movie are in fact disgusting, nauseating, and squirm worthy. Rather than a head/arm swap, the scientist, called Seth Brundle here, is merged with the fly on a genetic level, and slowly takes on more and more fly qualities as the movie progresses. At first it's just some breakouts on his face and some coarse hair on his back, but then his fingernails fall off. And we're forced to watch him pick off every single one (Okay, I totally looked away after the first one, so I could be wrong here. But who could sit through that? Yuck.) Puss oozes off him, he vomits acid because that's the only way he can eat, his teeth fall out, one ear just flops off while he's talking one day... it's really bad.

Perhaps even worse is the story. With no introduction what so ever, Brundle walks up to a woman at a party, played by Geena Davis, and asks her if she wants to go back to his place to see his invention. She's a journalist looking for a big story, so she follows him. He manages to teleport one of her stockings, so she's all impressed. She goes back to a guy who runs a science magazine to tell him about it, and we eventually find out this is her ex-boyfriend. It's the most pointless subplot ever, as she thinks he's a jerk but then acts like they're friends whenever the plot calls for it. I'm usually not one to think about the bechdel test when it comes to movies, but would it have killed them to insert a female friend in here for her to talk to later? Anyway, it quickly becomes a love triangle as after attempting to teleport a baboon and having the poor thing come through without its skin, she seduces Brundle. I guess she loves gross things. She babbles some nonsense about the appeal of flesh, and somehow this makes him realize what he needs to do to fix the machine.

After another baboon turns out fine (Where is he getting them from? Is there a baboon shop somewhere?) he goes through, but of course the fly is in there too. He becomes superhuman at first, and we endure a long scene full of a gymnast pretending to be Jeff Goldblum and doing flips. Then it is implied that the two of them have sex for a really long time, and he still doesn't finish. He wants her to go through the machine so she can be superhuman too (he doesn't know about the fly yet) but she's scared. So he picks up a chick at a bar, impressing her by arm wrestling a guy and breaking one of his bones so it goes through the skin. But she won't go through the machine either, so he's back at square one. This is about when all the ultra disgusting transformation stuff starts happening.

Geena Davis finds out she's pregnant, and wants to have an abortion because she's afraid the baby will be a fly baby. We know this because she has a dream sequence where she births a giant maggot. When in doubt, just assume this movie is going for the most disgusting way possible to show you anything. "Brundlefly," as he is now calling himself, wants to save the baby and therefore kidnaps her to stop her from having the abortion. Creepy ex-boyfriend who thinks no means yes now becomes the hero who is out to stop Brundlefly with a shotgun, except he gets hit with acid in the hand and then ankle so we can watch them melt.

Geena Davis manages to convince Brundlefly not to kill him, and that's when everything gross up to this point becomes mild and tame as we watch the last of the human parts slowly but surely fall off him to reveal a fly creature underneath. During that whole sequence I was squirming and shouting "nightmare fuel!" in my head, but once the actual fly creature was shown, I actually thought he was kind of cute by comparison. This is how this movie can warp your mind. Anyway, after badly acting by crying, "No, I can't!" Geena Davis blows the fly creature's head off and the movie ends as abruptly as it began.

Both of these films have sequels, but I think I would need alcohol and payment in order to sit through them. Apparently, there is yet another remake coming in 2012, starring Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey, Jr. It looks to be a closer remake to the 1958 version, in at least they are using the Delambre last name.

The reason I had to sit through these is Dr. Cockroach in Monsters vs Aliens. He is voiced by Hugh Laurie. I've only ever seen one episode of House, but his performance here does tempt me to see more. The character is largely your typical mad scientist type, but that doesn't make him any less entertaining. This scientist actually transformed himself on purpose, though he wanted the strength and endurance of the cockroach, not its appearance. It sort of works as a nice nod to the 1986 The Fly, though I'm not sure why anyone would want to acknowledge such a horrible movie. There's a really fun sequence in this film as Dr. Cockroach gleefully tries a few experiments on Ginormica to try to get her back down to normal size.

So what happens now that I've completed the challenge? It's safe to say there will be more viewing of silly 50s horror and alien sci-fi movies in the future, but I probably will only stop to review the ones I actually enjoy and think you should watch.


  1. I agree with you on the '58 fly, it takes forever to get around to the point. I was just always sort of tapping my foot when Vincent Price wasn't on screen, but this is one of his very few roles as an out and out good guy, so that's nice.

    I have avoided seeing the more recent fly for precisely the reason you disliked it, I don't handle oogie stuff that well, but I suppose if you're a fan of gross-out stuff then it'd be great.

  2. I thought about you while watching the remake because you had mentioned something about Jeff Goldblum tolerance in one of our conversations. I enjoyed him in Jurassic Park, but in this one he's just plain terrible.


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