August 17, 2006

Finally on DVD: CURSE OF THE FLY (1965) Third of The Fly's

Finally on DVD:

Region 2 PAL DVD (20th Century Fox)

“Half-human monsters from the fourth dimension…”

The malfunctioning matter-transporter appeared again in this rare British incarnation.

The Delambre family are at it again, this time with transporters on both sides of the Atlantic. As usual, there are disastrous side-effects from disintegrating and reintegrating human test subjects. As a young woman marries into the family, she discovers that probing the secrets in their remote mansion, isn’t the best way to recover from a nervous breakdown. What’s kept behind the four locked doors behind the garage? Why does the electricity keep dimming in the evenings? Who plays the piano in the middle of the night?

Here, Shepperton Studios stands in for Canada. Apart from Brian Donlevy, the British actors are pretty good at North American accents (to these ears), but the locations give the game away – we’re back at Hammer Film’s favourite location Black Park, once again.

As you can tell, I’ve been distracted from all the horror and the plot by other trivial details. I also found myself scrutinising Donlevy’s faultless toupee, and his ability to act whilst drunk.

The film, like it’s predecessors The Fly (1958) and Return of the Fly (1959), is filmed in 2.35 widescreen, yet the frame is barely filled by the sparse sets.

What passed for horror in the early sixties is watchable by 12 year olds now, though now it’s questionable for other reasons. The two bodies reintegrated as one is a ghastly sight, but what really made me squirm was the British actress made up as Chinese, and using an inscrutably evil accent.

Also, way back then, facial and physical disfigurement automatically made you a ‘horror creature’. Nowadays, similar real-life disfigurement is now widely depicted in documentaries and is of course reason for scientific interest and sympathy, not horror. If the motivation for the creatures could be explained other than ‘I’m a monster and I’m going to stalk the heroine’, it might make more sense.

The film stars Carole Gray, a beauty who also livened up Island of Terror (Night of the Silicates), George Baker (Sir Hillary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and TV’s The Prisoner), and of course token ‘Yank’ Brian Donlevy (twice times Professor Quatermass in Hammer’s The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass II). The director
Don Sharp, also notably brought us the 'Hell’s Angels from Hell' movie, Psychomania – a mad sixties horror that’s still watchable today for all the wrong reasons.

The DVD of Curse of the Fly has finally been released, no frills. But it’s in a beautiful 2.35 anamorphic widescreen release.

Black-and-white films shot 2.35 widescreen were a crossover phenomenon when b/w film was much cheaper than colour. Jack Clayton's The Innocents is probably the best example of this ‘genre’, yet The Alligator People, The Land Unknown, and Hammer Film’s These are the Damned, Nightmare and Paranoiac are also worth a look.

The DVD has a reversible cover, one representative of the film, the other side a tie-in with the other four Fly films – which is a bit of a cheat because it’s so dissimilar from the rest of the series. Oh yes, there’s no half-man, fly-head monster in this one!

Mark H

1 comment:

  1. This is definitely director Don Sharpe's best film. The slo-mo title sequence with Carole Gray running away from a mental hospital wearing nothing but her brassiere and panties is beautiful and mesmerising, and the backyard stablefull of human "accidents" is genuinely horrifying.Harry Spaulding's lilting, haunting score provides a welcome foil to the gruesome goings-on.