In the mid-1960s, I watched a 1958 science fiction film called ‘The Fly’. It starred David Hedison, Vincent Price, and Patrica Owens. Though touted as a ‘horror’ film, it wasn’t that scary, but it was interesting, and a little unnerving to imagine something like that happening. The story is told in flashback, after a scientist’s wife has been arrested for his murder.
A scientist (Hedison) is experimenting with matter transfer, and decides to try to transport himself between two chambers. One will disintegrate him, and he will reassemble in the other. But as he enters the chamber, a fly also gets in there. As the particles are merged, parts of the fly transfer onto the scientist, and vice versa. Once reassembled, he is left with the head and arm of a fly, and his own head and arm have transferred onto the tiny insect.
To be honest, I thought it was a bit silly. Hedison is obviously wearing a rubber fly head and arm, and when the big ‘reveal’ is shown to his wife, it is more funny than scary. We also see the ‘other’ fly, with the tiny head and arm of the scientist, as his wife searches desperately for him. It’s far from being a classic in any genre, though it has its fans. The trailer is almost as good as the film.
In 1986, American film-maker David Cronenberg made a remake. Starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, this had all the benefits of decades of improvements in special effects, as well as Croneberg’s penchant for what became known as ‘body horror’. He also (very wisely) ditched the secondary plot of the tiny fly having the man’s head and arm, instead concentrating on how the infected scientist slowly but surely develops into a terrifying hybrid of man and insect. This was the real deal. Often quite scary, occasionally downright repulsive, and the perfect casting of Goldblum and Davis in the leads. This is a rare example of a remake not only being 100% better than the original, but pretty much obliterating it from the annals of cinema. It’s the one to watch, undoubtedly.