The Curse of the Fly [DVD]
Director : Don Sharp
Screenplay : Harry Spalding
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1965
Stars : Brian Donlevy (Henri Delambre), George Baker (Martin Delambre), Carole Gray (Patricia Stanley), Yvette Rees (Wan), Burt Kwouk (Tai), Mary Manson (Judith Delambre), Michael Graham (Albert Delambre), Rachel Kempson (Madame Fournier), Jeremy Wilkins (Inspector Ronet), Warren Stanhope (Hotel Manager), Charles Carson (Inspector Charas)
The Curse of the Fly is an intriguing follow-up to 1958's The Fly and its 1959 sequel Return of the Fly primarily because it is so different from its predecessors. Although it marked the return of Robert L. Lippert, a theater owner-turned-producer who had produced the original for 20th Century Fox, the production was moved to England and the reigns turned over to director Don Sharp and writer Harry Spalding, who had previously collaborated on 1964's Witchcraft, one of the many Anglo-horror films directed by Sharp during the 1960s. As a result, The Curse of the Fly has a decidedly continental flair, with its primary influence seeming to be George Franju's offbeat melodramatic French horror-thriller Eyes Without a Face (1959).
In this respect, some have complained that The Curse of the Fly is too slow-moving for its own good, but such complaints are rooted in expectations of immediate gratification. As a B-horror movie, it is expected to deliver the goods as soon as possible, which is an odd complaint considering that the original Fly took its sweet time working up to the big Phantom of the Opera-style revelation that the doomed scientist now has a giant insect head atop his shoulders. Some audience members may have also been disappointed that nothing of the kind happens in Curse; the only man-fly combination we see on screen is a still photograph.
Sharp establishes that something is different with this Fly sequel in his opening shot, which is a strangely poetic, slow-motion image of a window shattering and a woman clad only in her underwear climbing out and running into the woods. The woman is Patricia Stanley (Carole Gray), and we later discover that she is escaping from a mental institution. On the road she meets a handsome young man named Martin (George Baker), who picks her up, takes care of her, and obeys the Law of Narrative Efficiency by asking her to marry him one week later.
Unfortunately for Patricia, Martin's last name is Delambre, which makes him the descendent of Andre Delambre, the tragic scientist from the original film. The “curse” of the title apparently refers to the fact that the men in the Delambre family can't leave well enough alone and insist on trying to perfect patriarch Andre's matter transference device, despite the constant tragedies it provokes. Martin's father, Henri (Brian Donlevy), is determined to make the device work, and he and Martin work out of a laboratory deep in the bowels of a large, gloomy mansion in Canada while Martin's brother, Albert (Michael Graham), works out of a connected laboratory in England. They are assisted by Wan (Yvette Rees) and Tai (Burt Kwouk), an Asian couple who add a splash of vaguely racist Orientalist flair to the proceedings.
Like the original, The Curse of the Fly is a warning fable about the dangers of pushing the scientific envelop. And, while the film is blessedly free of anyone getting his or her atoms mixed up with a housefly's, there are plenty of tragic disasters waiting to happen. In fact, there are already a number of disasters in the form of family members and coworkers who were transported by the device and were horribly mutated for their efforts. Martin and his father keep these “mistakes” locked away from prying eyes like pathetic animals, and Patricia's accidental discovery of them is one of the film's freaky high points.
The Curse of the Fly does a much better job than its predecessors of conveying the horrors of science gone wrong. The film's mutants are not only more believable than a man with a giant fly head, but Sharp gives them a sad, pathetic undertone, similar to what Tod Browning did in Freaks (1932). The make-up effects, while certainly a bit dated, are still surprising effective, especially in the supremely disturbing scene in which Henri purposefully sends two people through the matter transference device at the same time, ensuring a grotesque spectacle on the other end.
By making Patricia the film's primary point of identification, Spalding's screenplay introduces an aided layer of intrigue and mystery to something that could have easily been obvious. After all, we know what the transporter is from the previous films, as well as its disastrous potentials. Yet, he and Sharp make Curse of the Fly a genuinely involving melodrama with horrific overtones both visceral and psychological. Some of the film's most unnerving moments involve Martin and Henri taking advantage of Patricia's fragile mental state to make her think she's dreaming about the horrors she keeps uncovering in the Delambre household. Thus, if the mutants don't get her physically, the Delambres will destroy her mentally, all in the name of science.
|The Curse of the Fly DVD|
|The Curse of the Fly is available as part of “The Fly Collection” four-disc DVD box set, which also includes The Fly (1958) and Return of the Fly (1959).|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||September 11, 2007|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The big news in this new four-disc box set of all three original Fly movies is the improved anamorphic transfer of the original film. Previously available as part of a double-feature DVD released in 2000, the previous transfer of the The Fly was made from a print that suffered a bit of fading, as well as damage to the source print in the form of the blemishes, dirt, and vertical lines. The new anamorphic transfer of The Fly is a solid improvement, with brighter colors, a sharper image, and noticeably less damage and dirt. The bright tones of the DeLuxe color palette really shine, making this box set immediately worth the upgrade for longtime fans of the film. The transfer of Return of the Fly also appears to be new. It looks very good, improving on the original transfer with barely any damage or signs of aging, particularly the removal of speckling the marred the 2000 disc. The contrast is strong and vibrant with good detail, although some of the darkest scenes tend to get a bit muddy. The Curse of the Fly is making its DVD debut here, and it boasts an excellent new transfer that is sharp, crisp, and lacking in any damage. |
The soundtracks for all three films sound slightly dated in their lack of depth, but they have been well-preserved and sound very good for their age. The Dolby Digital 4.0 surround track offered on The Fly is particularly good for four-channel surround, even though most of the surround effects are reserved for the irritating whine that comes up again and again whenever Andre uses the disintegrator/reintegrator. The newly mastered 2.0 surround tracks for Return of the Fly and The Curse of the Fly are also quite good, despite their inherent limitations. All the soundtracks are clean, with no hints of background hiss or popping.
|With the exception of the disc for The Fly, which contains an audio commentary by star David (Al) Hedison and film historian David Del Valle, all the supplements in this box set reside on a fourth disc titled “The Fly Collection Disc of Horrors.” There is a 45-minute episode of A&E's Biography series on Vincent Price, as well as a new 12-minute featurette about the Fly trilogy titled “Flytrap: Catching a Classic.” It includes interviews with actors David Hedison and Brett Halsey, as well as clips from a 1987 video interview with Vincent Price; screenwriter and film historian Steve Haberman (Dracula: Dead and Loving It); writer/director Donald F. Glut (The Mummy's Kiss); Fangoria editor Tony Timpone; and film historian David Del Valle. The other supplements, most of which are stills galleries, are nicely organized according to each film. Supplements for The Fly include the original theatrical trailer, a one-minute Fox Movietone News short about the film's ballyhoo-laden premiere in Hollywood, and stills galleries of the original pressbook, behind-the-scenes photos, and production photos. Return of the Fly has an original theatrical trailer, a 60-second television spot (which also advertises The Alligator People), a gallery of lobby cards and posters, and a photo gallery. Supplements for The Curse of the Fly include an original theatrical trailer, pressbook gallery, lobby card and poster gallery, and a photo gallery. One cool thing that is worth mentioning is the way the pressbook galleries are organized: You can move through each page of the pressbook, and within each page you can highlight certain articles or pictures that take you to a zoomed viewed so you can read the fine print and see the details. Very well done.|
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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