Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Shoo Fly

Year: 1965
Director: Don Sharp
Cast: Brian Donlevy, George Baker, Carole Gray 
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes

Ah, here we're getting back to familiar territory. A six-years-later sequel that doesn't star anyone from the original, has a completely confounding continuity with the previous entries, and was produced on the cheap by a completely different company in England. Is this a Children of the Corn movie? Nope, it's just Curse of the Fly, a flick where absolutely nobody turns into a giant fly.

Also, the entire opening credits sequence rolls over shots of a woman running through a field in her underwear. Y'know, for science.

Curse of the Fly at least follows another leg of the Delambre family, so we're in somewhat familiar territory, even if nobody in the cast is remotely French enough to pronounce the name properly this time around (we get a lot of "de-lom-BRAY," sledgehammering that final syllable). Martin Delambre (George Baker) is the son of Henri Delambre (Brian Donlevy). It is explicitly mentioned that Martin's grandfather is the original Fly, which would make him Andre's grandson. But then you remember that Andre only had one kid before he died, and his name was Philippe. And then you immediately stop caring to preserve your sanity.

Anyway, Martin meets Patricia (Carole Gray), the aforementioned underwear runner, along the side of the road and takes her to Montreal where they fall in love over the course of the week, get married agreeing that they both don't want to know anything about the other's backstory, and return to his secluded mansion as husband and wife. While this seems like a sweet deal for a penniless wanderer at first, not all is as it seems at the Delambre abode. 

First off, Martin's devoted servants Tai (Burt Kwouk) and Wan (Yvette Rees in yellowface, boo) seem to be hiding something, and Wan especially seems dead set on gaslighting Patricia straight out of that house. And we see Martin and his father fiddling with their teleportation machine. It seems to be working just fine, but their first failed tests may have resulted in whatever is being locked away in those cages in the backyard.


Something we must face before we press on: Curse of the Fly is not a Fly movie. It's a mad science movie, certainly, using a lot of the trappings of the first two movies. But it's not a Fly movie. If you can push past that fact, there's enough here to keep you watching, but you must be made of sterner stuff to swallow this one. That said, it's actually a quasi-remake of Rebecca hybridized with The Island of Dr. Moreau that takes you on a lot of bizarre twists and turns. Fly-less turns, yes, but reasonably interesting ones nonetheless.

Curse of the Fly is more of an abstraction of the Fly concept, running with the idea that this family's obsession with developing teleportation will constantly be its downfall. It's all about the stupid hubris of man and science (and movie producer, evidently). So we're at least back to familiar 50's-esque territory in that regard. If anything, this movie takes the science-fear one step further, directly positing that scientists are inherently murderers by doing what they do.

And the Rebecca-ness of it all is actually pretty satisfying. I wish Carole Gray could achieve a facial expression beyond "vacant surprise," but the plot she is funneled through has some extremely creepy, almost gothic atmosphere. And Wan, the Mrs. Danvers analogue, is an epically evil presence (insidious racial undertones aside, it's a great performance). Her efforts to depose the new Mrs. Delambre are unsubtly maniacal in the best way possible, only further servicing that constant undertone of a lot of these movies, where men completely ignore the fears and experiences of women for their own sinister purposes.

There's pretty clearly only one purpose Patricia has been brought here in the first place.

The story of a woman being taken to a creepy old house where secrets are buried and everyone is working against her might not be what we signed up for, but it's what we get and it ain't half bad. And we aren't completely deprived of monstrous special effects, they just come in the form of the [spoilers, sorta] irradiated monsters kept in the back garden. The makeup used doesn't really vary between the two main creatures, but it's a fun bit of prosthetic work that makes their faces seem half-melted, a sight that works perfectly within the black and white aesthetic.

In color, this would probably just look like a Nacho Libre spinoff.

And anyone who's seen 1958's The Fly is no stranger to a dour ending, but this one is just grim. It doesn't land quite as well, because we still don't really have a grasp on these characters or why we should care about them (except for Wan, who gets a deliciously psychosexual moment in the back garden), but it's still impressively dark for a film of its vintage. It might be cheap and shakily performed, but it's unrelenting in its way.

Plus, this is the first Fly movie that doesn't think you'll be obsessed with its scientific process. The amount of time we're forced to sit there and watch random lights flash is kept to a minimum, with the small addition of welding masks instead of goggles so you know this time we're Super Advanced (for anyone who has taken on the unenviable task of keeping up with the timeline here, we're now a good two generations down from the original, with the youngest being fully grown, so this movie takes place in, oh, about 2008).

This one also actually seems somewhat aware of its treatment of women, which is saying something considering that, and I repeat, the entire opening credits roll over a scene of Patricia in her bra and panties running through a dewy field. We do get a hilariously ill-conceived line where Henri finds out Martin has a new wife and tells him to "send her back," but for the most part Patricia is the protagonist of this movie, much in the same way that something like I Married a Monster from Outer Space is accidentally, inherently about the female character it sets out to terrorize.

Curse of the Fly is probably the weakest of the bunch so far, especially when you measure it by the metric of being a f**king Fly movie, but for the most part it's still worth a look. It's probably better the less 60's horror cinema you've seen, because you have less to compare it to, but for a rote B-picture in a time when those movies were starting to become out of vogue, you could definitely make a much much worse decision than this one.

TL;DR: Curse of the Fly is more of an abstraction of the franchise's concept than anything, but it's a mildly satisfying one in spite of that.
Rating: 6/10
Word Count: 1161
Reviews In This Series
The Fly (Neumann, 1958)
Return of the Fly (Bernds, 1959)
Curse of the Fly (Sharp, 1965)
The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)
The Fly II (Walas, 1989)


  1. "it's actually a quasi-remake of Rebecca hybridized with The Island of Dr. Moreau"

    I mean, that makes it sound amazing.

    "we're now a good two generations down from the original, with the youngest being fully grown, so this movie takes place in, oh, about 2008"

    Take that, Friday the 13th! You weren't the first thoughtless franchise to accidentally do speculative fiction about the future.

    1. It boggles the mind how nobody could have thought of these things in the development process.
      Come to think of it, somebody probably DID bring it up and was immediately choked to death wth cigar butts.