Vincent Price
Return of the Fly
Medium: film
Year: 1959
Writer/director: Edward Bernds
Keywords: horror, SF
Country: USA
Actor: Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, John Sutton, David Frankham, Dan Seymour, Danielle De Metz, Jack Daly, Janine Grandel, Michael Mark, Richard Flato, Gregg Martell, Barry Bernard, Pat O'Hara
Format: 80 minutes
Series: << The Fly >>
Website category: Horror pre-1970
Review date: 9 October 2002
I probably enjoyed that more than I should. Its script is pretty much by the numbers (though at least it's not just a remake masquerading as a sequel), but there's plenty of style on view and it corrects the worst failings of the 1958 original.
This is the most simplistic of the four Fly films I've seen (although there's a fifth, Curse of the Fly, which is apparently the worst of the bunch). It doesn't attempt any real depth. It doesn't explore the problems of life and love for an insect-man. Once the eponymous Fly is up and stomping, this is simply a monster flick - and, to be honest, its star is one of the dafter movie monsters I've ever seen. It looks utterly ridiculous! The costume-makers tried valiantly, but their task was Herculean. When this Fly's onscreen, you'll struggle to respond with anything but suppressed laughter.
However in all other respects this film looks great. It's in black-and-white, which to my surprise was a big improvement. It makes the whole affair look less dated and more classy. I also appreciated the little details... when Brett Halsey picks up a book in his father's long-abandoned laboratory, see dust puff up. Also Brett resembles his supposed father, David Hedison. That's a nice touch, though I gulped a bit at being asked to believe that a decade had passed. Not only is Vincent Price barely a day older, but all those aggressively 1950s fashions are still utterly fifties. Is there a sixties hippie to be seen? No, there isn't. Ah well. There's something timeless about black-and-white that helped me overcome this problem.
Vincent Price is better served than he was in the 1958 original, with a role that's bigger and better. Last time, his Francois Delambre was an almost completely passive character! In fact, the acting is better all around; it's never brilliant, but neither is it ever actively bad. There are no child actors, for a start! Admittedly the Fly's love interest is a pretty thankless role, but Danielle De Metz adds a human dimension to the film just through her presence. She does everything the script needs her to do. I've no complaints there.
It's interesting to reflect that The Fly (1958) and Return of the Fly (1959) evolved in similar fashion to the later remakes, The Fly (1986) and The Fly 2 (1989). Both series kick off with a tragic love story between a Fly and his gal, then follow up with a more overtly horror-tinged sequel in which the son racks up a body count. At least in this film I didn't know how the story was going to develop. The other three I've cited are all pretty well signposted for a modern audience, but for quite a while here I didn't know how the inevitable would happen or what might ensue thereafter. Plots are good things. And though the Fly itself looks laughable, Edward Burnds still directs a creepy little sequence which might get you nervous just with sound effects.
It's possible that one cuts Return of the Fly more slack because one has different expectations of black-and-white. For instance, I might have been less forgiving of those clunky opening info-dumps in a colour film. I also have enjoyable suspicions about the ending, which I suspect may not have worked out quite as neatly as the characters seemed to assume. If it did, that's a big coincidence. Overall, Return of the Fly is an elegant little film that I'm proud to own. The Fly (1958) is a more interesting movie, but I think I enjoyed its sequel more.