Kurt Neumann’s “The Fly” is a film that may unreasonably fall victim to the over familiarity of its finale which is the stuff of Hollywood legend: so outrageously over-the-top in concept that it may lead to an amplified sense of the mundane if not an outright sense of disappointment over the surface conventionality of the film’s approach to the remainder of the material.
The film attempts, with a few glaring omissions, a quite reasonable fidelity to George Langelaan’s 1957 story which is entirely built upon the framework of a murder mystery; recalling, through vivid remembrance, the events which led to the “murder” in the opening sequence of scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison, credited as Al Hedison) by his devoted wife Helene (Patricia Owens) as told to both Andre’s brother Francois (Vincent Price) and Police Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall). Using this simple flashback structure, the bulk of the film relates the story of Andre and his creation of a disintegrator-integrator, which instantly transports matter from one chamber to another and his body’s accidental transmutation with the atoms of a housefly -though the film soft pedals the mental deterioration of Helene (in this version, her madness is feigned to protect her child) which eventually causes the young widow/”murderer” to commit suicide in the Langelaan original, nor does it include the truly horrific results of a failed attempt to reintegrate Andre’s proper form thus removing all hope that a further reintegration with the original fly (if caught) would yield final restorative effects. The excision of this event- bringing to full circle the results of an earlier failed experiment with a pet cat (one of the most effective sequences in the film as the cat’s incorporeal despairing howls are quite unnerving) -undercuts the immediacy of Andre’s resignation toward self-destruction that in the story seemed inevitable whereas in the film is reduced to a much less effective tantrum of impatience.
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