The first film we watched from the ‘Shapeshifters’ film programme was Kurt Neumann’s ‘The Fly’ which is a film adaption based on the short story written by George Langelaan in 1957.
The story follows the genius scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison) who has created a matter transportation machine but unfortunately it has a few glitches. After several attempts at fixing the problems, including one where the family cat is disintergrated, Andre manages to get the machine to work and tests it on himself only to be integrated with a fly that got into the machine at the same time.
A particular theme that seems to reoccur throughout the film is the idea of man bending nature to his will and the idea of playing God by doing so.
"the crucial ingredient is a central irony: by playing God, man transforms himself into the lowest of beasts,"
Although technology and science were widely accepted in the 50's, the fear of science and experimenting with 'God's creation' was quite high. The public's idea of scientists experimenting with atoms caused a fear of the consequences involved and with the examples of the atomic bomb and their results, these fears were very understandable. In 'The Fly', Andre experimented with atoms which would have brought about the fear that lurked in the minds of the audience of the real life experiments and set in the idea that science can be used to 'abuse' creation and by abusing it you would induce God's wrath.
The atmosphere of the film is always changing and although there are elements that are found as being ‘humorous’ and ‘familial’, we must remember that the film is meant to be horror in genre and at the time of it’s creation would have been quite horrifying to watch:
“Silly it may be but the tension is quickly cranked up as Hedison realises he has to find the fly so that he can try to reverse the damage”.
As amusing as it was to watch the first living subject, the family cat, disintegrate and Andre reveal to his wife that its atoms are in space, the atmosphere when Andre experimented with himself was not amusing due to his misfortune of being fused with a fly. The tension rises to a point where catching the fly involved with the experiment is a must, failure to do so is not an option and the atmosphere intensifies even more when it seems that the fly is uncatchable and Andre insists upon his own death to prevent anyone from finding him.
The film, in a way, looks at the mentality of man:
When Andre had been fused with the fly, he began feeling the urges and predatory instincts of the fly whilst also retaining his human conscience. Throughout their co-existence both the fly and Andre’s minds were fighting for control of the body. If you picture it as having two minds in one body you can see how quickly that might make you go insane and unfortunately for Andre/fly this became reality, he couldn’t control the fly in him for much longer and sort no other option than to kill himself.
Another example would be how both the detective in charge of the murder enquiry, Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) and Andre’s brother; Francios (Vincent Price) both assume that because Andre’s experiments seem preposterous and there is no clear evidence that such events took place, Helene (Patricia Owens), Andre’s wife, is insane.
I have to admit that I was unsure what to expect from a film produced in the 50's, however I was quite pleasantly surprised. The messages that were conveyed through the film were made quite clear, as were the consequences!
Quote 1 - http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2010/09/cronenberg-blogathon-fly-1958-vs-fly.html
Quote 2 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/21/fly1958_review.shtml
Quote 3 - http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/66832/the_fly.html