music friday in andalucía
life in ronda

creature feature saturday

The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958). Long ago (the 70s?), we saw comedian Bobby Slayton open in a club for two different rock acts. The shows were close enough that Bobby's sets mostly contained the same material. One quickie joke was to open his jacket, revealing a big plastic fly on the inside, at which point, he would squeak, "Help me help me" and close the jacket. He was referring, of course, to this, the original Fly movie. Vincent Price tells a story about the filming of the iconic "Help me, help me" scene. "[E]very time that little voice [of the fly] would say ‘Help me! Help me!’ we would just scream with laughter. It was terrible. It took us about 20 takes to finally get it." The thing is, no matter how much humor can be extracted from the sound of a tiny fly with a man's head begging "help me!" as it is caught in a spider's web while the spider closes in for a meal, everyone who sees The Fly remembers that scene, not just as a joke, but as something truly unsettling. Well, everyone perhaps except David Hedison, who played the man/fly: "[P]eople do an imitation of it all the time: 'Help me!' They had me in the net, and they pasted me white. In the dailies, when I saw that scene it was horrific — the sound of a man who’s gonna be eaten by a spider — I mean, it’s terrible! But they chose to go with that effect — heighten my voice to make it sound like a chipmunk or something — which to me made no sense at all." It takes a special movie to still have a hold on viewers 60 years after it was made, especially when that movie is of the B-variety. There are things that lift The Fly a bit above the competition. Vincent Price helps a lot. Actually, all of the cast are good, consistently treating the material with a straightforward honesty that belies the outrageous plot. While you're watching, it's easy to ignore the multiple implausibilities. Toss in the color Cinemascope picture, and the stereo sound, and The Fly looks and sounds more expensive than the average cheapie. And, for folks who need trivia with their creature features, the script was the first effort by James Clavell, who went on to co-write The Great Escape and to write several novels, including Shogun. 7/10.

 

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