Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Fly, The

Two series of Technofantasies (1-3 and 4-5) drawing inspiration from "The Fly" (1957) by George Langelaan (1908-1972).

1. The Fly US movie (1958). 20th Century-Fox. Pr Kurt Neumann. Dir Neumann. Spfx L B Abbott. Screenplay James Clavell (1924-1994). Starring Al Hedison (André Delambre) – who later took the name David Hedison by which he is better known, Charles Herbert (Philippe Delambre), Patricia Owens (Hélène Delambre), Vincent Price (François Delambre). 94 mins. Colour.

Scientist André develops the "Disintegrator-Integrator", a matter transmitter, but in experimenting on himself overlooks a fly in the laboratory; his and the fly's atoms mix, and he becomes a Monster within which human and fly instincts war. He convinces wife Hélène that knowledge of matter transmission is too dangerous for humankind, and destroys all evidence of the experiment, persuading her to kill his monstrous body in a hydraulic press. Police and brother François are sceptical until François discovers the man-headed fly in the garden.

TF leaves much to our imagination until its final scenes: oddly, while the fly-headed human holds few terrors, the trapped fly with its horribly human head strikes a deep chord. An early moment smacks of purest fantasy: André has failed to transmit the family cat, which vanishes who knows where; but for hours there remains a spectral, echoing, fading squawl. [JG]

2. Return of the Fly US movie (1959). 20th Century-Fox. Pr Bernard Glasser (1924-2014). Dir Edward L Bernds. Screenplay Bernds. Starring David Frankham, Brett Halsey, Vincent Price (François Delambre), Dan Seymour, John Sutton (movie lacks proper credits). 80 mins. B/w.

André's son (Halsey) unearth's André's matter-transmission equipment and determines to reactivate it. By astonishing coincidence, his assistant (Frankham), a crook, thinks to put a fly in the pod with Halsey, and the inevitable happens. This time Uncle François, a sort of one-man Greek chorus for much of the movie, is able to sort things out, reconstituting Halsey and destroying the Monster fly. A movie that seems much longer than its 80 mins. [JG]

3. Curse of the Fly US/UK movie (1965). Pr Robert L Lippert, Jack Parsons. Dir Don Sharp. Spfx Harold Fletcher. Screenplay Harry Spalding. Starring George Baker, Brian Donlevy, Carole Gray. 86 mins. B/w.

A bleakly, depressingly poor movie that takes the Technofantasy of its predecessors and turns it into schlock-Horror/sf. [JG]

4. The Fly US movie (1986). 20th Century-Fox/Brooksfilms. Pr Stuart Cornfeld. Dir David Cronenberg. Spfx Louis Craig, Ted Ross. Screenplay Cronenberg, Charles Edward Pogue. Starring Joy Boushel (Tawny), Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife), John Getz (Stathis Borans), Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle). 100 mins. Colour.

This is not a remake of 1. Idiosyncratic scientist Brundle has been experimenting with matter transmission, but his attempts to transmit flesh are messy failures. Through his sexual relationship with journalist Quaife, especially through a chance remark of hers, he realizes his error: he has never taught the transmitter's computer about the poetry of flesh. That done (it is not clear how), he proceeds, in due course inadvertently combining himself with a fly. Almost immediately he gains prodigious physical, notably sexual, vigour; slower to come are physiological changes. His obsessive self-preoccupation intensifies as the Transformation accelerates: he becomes able to walk on the ceiling, and must predigest his food by vomiting on it. Quaife, who discovers herself pregnant, he now regards as a betrayer; he seizes her from an abortion clinic and plans one last mad experiment. But, when Quaife's ex-boyfriend appears on the scene, Brundle – or now, more accurately, The Fly – begs piteously to be killed.

TF's subtext, that Monsters lurk within us all (Brundle's mental changes are more repugnant than his physical ones), is a cliché, but the movie's sparse direction and overall moodiness make it seem fresh; the electricity between Davis and Goldblum contributes much. The movie, with its emphasis on the "poetry of flesh", bears all the trappings of philosophical profundity without in fact being profound, yet it bears them with some integrity. [JG]

5. The Fly II US movie (1989). 20th Century-Fox/Brooksfilms. Pr Steven-Charles Jaffe. Exec pr Stuart Cornfeld. Dir Chris Walas. Spfx Chris Walas Inc. Screenplay Frank Darabont, Mick Garris, Jim & Ken Wheat. Starring Gary Chalk (Scorby), Harley Cross (young Martin), John Getz (Stathis Borans), Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle), Ann Marie Lee (Dr Jainway), Lee Richardson (Mr Bartok), Eric Stoltz (adult Martin Brundle), Frank C Turner (Dr Shepard), Daphne Zuniga (Beth Logan). 104 mins. Colour.

This conventional Horror Movie tells of Seth Brundle's (see 4) Ugly-Duckling son Martin, brought up as an experimental subject in Bartok Industries. He displays astonishing physical and intellectual growth, being "adult" by age 5. Trusted surrogate father Bartok asks him to take over Seth's matter-transmission researches. Martin makes great strides, helped by colleague and lover Logan, until he discovers that Bartok has had their lovemaking videotaped. His wrath triggers superhuman abilities and accelerates his transformation from human to insectile form. [JG]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.