Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Tantalizing Fly

Okay, I made a promise to myself that I was going to be a more prolific film reviewer here, and seeing as how I've got a list of fifteen films, I better get cracking!  Since I just did The Tantalizing Fly, why not segue into The Fly (1958)?  Saw that recently on Turner Classic Movies and... wow!  Wotta movie!  Why, it's prime for a remake and a lame sequel... oh, right.  Anyway, the picture quality was pretty crisp, so kudos to Turner Classic Movies for that.  They're entering the HD era full bore, which means that the Turner family will soon have to create another channel that doesn't show movies made after 1968, perhaps after Robert Osborne passes on, something like that.  Meanwhile, Bob Dorian's still chopped liver.
Apparently the original story of The Fly has a basis in French Canada, which apparently was lost in Cronenberg's remake.  Probably for the best.  Also, the story is told in flashback by the wife.  Spoiler alert: she sort of plays Dr. Kevorkian for her aggrieved / aggravated husband, but for the benefit of keeping the audience in the dark for the horrible plot surprises to come, she implicates herself in her husband's murder, parsing her language carefully ... apparently to maximize her own guilt.  Wonder what Dershowitz thinks of all this... ah, who cares.  He's just an appeals lawyer, and it seems he's pulled the ladder up behind him, because there's, like, no other appeals lawyer on our national stage!  What the Dersh?!
Anyway, to make a long story short, the protagonist of this story is a happy-go-lucky scientist named Andre Delambre, played by someone named David Hedison.  And while Jeff Goldblum's transformation in Cronenberg's Fly is gradual, Hedison's is physically instantaneous, and his mental state about the whole thing a close second.  I've never seen a character so positive turn bitter so quickly!  But he maintains some eloquence at first; I believe he says something about "some things weren't meant to be tampered with."  I guess they all say that.  Take Dr. Catheter in Gremlins 2, par ehemplay.  But anyone who's dabbled in the field of software programmery will feel right at home with Delambre right away, as it seems that a giant Univac-ish computer is at the heart of his experiments...
I should probably mention that Delambre is attempting to make a pioneering leap forward in man's ability to transport matter from point A to point B.  After seeing this movie, I ain't gettin' in no booth like that EVER!  I don't trust it.  Star Trek is a fantasy.  You're telling me that nothing ever breaks?  No fat Teamster in low pants ever has to fix any of this stuff?  It's all at the panels; it's just a matter of Uhura pushing a few buttons, and it's fixed.  The Star Trek teleportation technology may be unbreakable, but the ship's shields always seem to get a workout, that's for sure!  Anyway, as Dr. Delambre explains, in order to transport something from point A to point B, through wires, it has to be disintegrated, then re-integrated in the other booth.  Um... I ain't lettin' anybody dis-ANYTHING to me!  Period.  Especially my brain.  And, of course, the software programmer types can have a good laugh about that.  You know, something like, good luck reassembling something made of 1x10^28 atoms with ... what?  About 4K of RAM at best?  The movies make it look so easy.
But the filmmaking's just that good, that you get caught up in this unique dilemma.  Oh, why can't one man's technological advantage ever work out?  Take Matthew Broderick in WarGames, for instance.  This director named Kurt Neumann does his damnedest to make The Fly seem like a Hitchcock picture.  And according to this IMDb page, Neumann didn't live to see its success.  The guy practically died in the director's chair, for God's sake!  They didn't even mention that on TCM!  No respect, I tell ya.
You'll of course remember the film's finale from the Simpsons Halloween spoof, of course.  With the transport booths in tatters, Delambre's fate is all but assured.  He'd rather die as a horrible mutant than try to live to see if the damage could be repaired.  I guess man will just have to walk from point A to point B after all.  But you do have to give credit to the clean engineering work involved in the head transplant that ensues!  A tiny fly with a human head, and a human with a giant fly head.  In addition to transportation, Delambre also discovered miniaturization and... enlargification?  You get the idea.  MORE SPOILERS: the police officer who gets told this amazing tale goes to look at this tiny fly with a white head.  He goes to the industrial-strength spider web next to the bench to find that the legend of the white-headed fly are true.  Its tiny human screams for help are too much, and with that evil spider closing in, the police officer can't help but squash the poor fly to death. 
The irony is not lost on Vincent Price, Delambre's brother... oh, I forgot!  Vincent Price is in this, for God's sake!  Okay, not his most flamboyent, quintessential role, to be sure, but still!  Okay, sure, it's in his IMDb Top 4, but I still felt cheated.  Not to mention that the guy made his cat disappear.  Jerk.  Anyway, so the inspector's all ready to send the wife to the chair for her act of self-termination assistance, even though clearly the husband could've pushed the button himself, then run over to stick his head in the industrial strength walnut cracker.  And yet, for his act of squashing the creepiest fly in all of Sci-Fi cinema history?  He'll probably get suspension with pay at best.  But the psychological damage has been done.  "I shall never forget that scream as long as I live..."  And that, my friends, is what going to the movies is all about.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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