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20th Century Fox presents
The Fly/The Return of the Fly (1958/1959)

"There are things man should never experiment with."
- Andre Delambre (Al Hedison)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 03, 2000

Stars: Vincent Price, Al Hedison, Brett Halsey
Other Stars: Patricia Owens, Herbert Marshall, John Sutton, David Frankham, Dan Seymour
Director: Kurt Neumann/Edward L. Bernds

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, mistreatment of animals)
Run Time: 02h:53m:51s
Release Date: September 05, 2000
UPC: 024543004547
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-AB- D

DVD Review

Since at least the days of Edison's 1910 version of Frankenstein, movie scientists have been dabbling in things which man is not meant to know. Here Fox gives us several such naughty scientists in a double feature of the first two films in the Fly trilogy of 1958-1965. These are by far the best of the series; the third entry is merely a lame shadow of the first two, both of which feature Vincent Price as the disapproving relative of the hapless title characters. The basic situation is set out in the chilling short story of the same name by George Langelaan.

The first film, shot in color, begins with the discovery of Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) at the Delambre Freres factory, where she has just crushed the head and arm of her husband Andre (Al Hedison, later known as David Hedison when he starred on television's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series) in a 50-ton press—twice. She appears to have gone quite mad, and obsesses about finding a fly with a white head. Andre's brother, Francois (Price) and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) eventually learn the story of how Andre's matter-transmission experiments went horribly wrong, resulting in deformities, madness, and finally the desire for the release of death.

On the whole, the first film is understated and quite effective. Andre's misshapen head and hand are hidden until nearly the end of the film, increasing the suspense and the shock of their appearance substantially. We are almost looking over Price's shoulder as he pieces together the horror of what has happened to his brother. Although the climax (the notorious "Help me! Please, help me") is a bit over-the-top, the film is a landmark of sorts. It cemented Price's reputation once and for all as a horror film actor, and successfully intertwined the genres of horror, science fiction and mystery as few films before had managed to do.

The Return of the Fly, filmed the next year, is not so important or so understated, and suffers from a script which degenerates into typical mad monster stuff. Andre's son Philippe (just a youngster in the first film), here played by Brett Halsey, is now a scientist himself and is determined to carry on his father's experiments. Philippe is if anything more amoral than his father, blackmailing uncle Francois (Price again) into assisting and funding his projects. This time the fly in the ointment is Philippe's assistant, Alan Hinds (David Frankham), who is willing to commit murder or worse in order to steal the matter-transmission technology and sell it to the highest bidder. Before long, Philippe is even more deformed than his father in the first film, but instead of hiding in his lab, Philippe goes on the rampage.

No suspense whatsoever is built up here; we immediately see the monstrosity in full detail, with nothing left to the imagination. The monster's head here is much larger and far more striking than that of the original film, which is the one count where the sequel improves upon the original. Otherwise, unfortunately, it's downhill from there. The relationships are all wooden and by the numbers, and it's difficult to care about any of the characters here, whereas there was a close empathy with the situations of many of the characters in the original film. The screenplay of The Fly was written by noted author James Clavell (Shogun, among others), and it has a literate quality about it. Return on the other hand, is full of awful lines such as "What if Philippe does not have the mind of a human, but the murderous brain of a fly?" The sequel shows evident signs of being slapped together hurriedly. On the whole, the continuity between the two films is preserved, although the lab is for no apparent reason moved from Andre's home to the factory.

The grades below are a blend of the two films; for The Fly the style grade would be 'A' and the substance grade a B+. The sequel rates about a 'C' for style and a 'C-' for substance.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture on both films is cracklingly crisp. Not a speckle or flaw is to be seen. On The Fly, colors are rich without being oversaturated. The color scheme is rather dated, but the colors themselves come through nicely. Black on both films are rich and solid, with excellent shadow detail. Return, shot in black and white, has a wide range of greys and is pleasingly photographed, although without subtlety of any kind. Both films are examples of an excellent anamorphic picture.

One possible quibble however: in a scene near the end of the first film, as Andre writes his final message to his wife on the chalkboard, the top line is half cut off—the framing seems to be a little too tight here. Otherwise, however, there seems to be adequate headroom.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Englishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: We have several audio selections to choose from. The Fly features a DD 5.0 soundtrack as well as a Dolby Surround track in English, plus a bonus French track (appropriately enough, since the films are set in Montreal, and some of the characters do speak French). Return includes a hissy Dolby Surround track and a mono track for English, with no French available.

The 5.0 track is quite good. Although the dialogue is center-bound, there is a nicely expansive soundstage for the music and the sound of flies buzzing from speaker to speaker. The Dolby Surround tracks are similar to the 5.0 track but quieter and more noisy. The mono track is decent, if unexceptional, and suffers from hiss as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 44 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Fly (1986), The Fly II, Fantastic Voyage, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc includes trailers for all six of the films being issued on 9/5/2000 by Fox on Double Feature discs. These vary in quality from very good (the 1986 Fly and its sequel) to wretched (Fantastic Voyage is smeary and heavily damaged). There is a pure 60's moment not to be missed on the trailer to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, when the announcer intones, "You are there as Barbara Eden dances to Frankie Avalon," while we get a closeup of Ms. Eden's, uh, assets, as they gyrate across the screen. Oddly enough, all six trailers appear on both sides of the disc.

There are fairly accurate subtitles in both English and Spanish on both sides, and the chaptering is quite good. Otherwise, there are no extras to be found.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

At Fox's originally-announced list price of $34.95, this disc was a little on the steep side, considering the quality of the second film and the lack of any substantial extras. However, Fox wisely dropped the list price to $24.95 just before release, making this double feature a no-brainer acquisition for horror fans. That way, you can look at it as buying the first film and getting the second as a bonus. Recommended, in that light.


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