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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr
enik1138 at popapostle dot com
The Fly (1958)

The Fly

Movie

Screenplay by James Clavell
Based on a story by George Langelaan

Directed by Kurt Neumann

Released July 1958

 

A scientist develops a matter transporter and then puts himself through it, with catastrophic results.

 

Watch the full film at DailyMotion

 

Didja Know?

 

The Fly is a 1958 movie based on the short story of the same name by George Langelann (1908-1972) first published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. It served as the inspiration for both this film and the 1986 film.

 

Scientist André Delambre is played by Al Hedison, who would later adopt the screen name David Hedison and go on to be best known as Captain Lee Crane, commander of the high-tech nuclear submarine Seaview in the 1964-1968 television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

 

Andre's brother, François, is played by Vincent Price (1911-1993), well-known for his horror film roles (though he appeared in many other types of film and television as well). 

 

Characters appearing or mentioned in this film

 

André Delambre (dies in this story)

François Delambre

Satan (stray tom cat)

Gaston

Dandelo (the Delambre cat, dies in this story)

Hélène Delambre

Inspector Charas

Dr. Éjoute

Philippe Delambre

nurse

Yvette

Emma (Delambre housekeeper)

Professor Augier (mentioned only)

Nurse Anderson

 

Didja Notice?

 

    At 1:33 in the movie, we see the sign for André Delambre's business, Delambre Freres Electronics Montreal Ltd. This is, of course, a fictitious company. Freres is French for "brothers", so the business is Delambre Brothers Electronics.

    The sign reveals that the story takes place in Montreal (Quebec, Canada). The original short story is set in France. For this film adaptation, the setting was moved to Canada, presumably to appease North American audiences. Possibly the large French-speaking population of Quebec played a role in the decision as well, as a way of having the story remain French, but still be in English!

 

    As the movie opens, a cat runs through the electronics factory complex and is intercepted by the night watchman, Gaston, who picks up the feline and says, "Ah, Satan, mon cher. You are late ce soir. Still looking for your girlfriend, huh? Mademoiselle Dandelo has found another. You will never see her again. But don't you worry. There will be others. Y en a toujours. Ne t'en fais pas." Presumably, the cat is a stray tom Gaston has taken somewhat of a liking to; funny that he calls it Satan! Dandelo is the "official" cat of the factory, as we shall see later in the film, a female. Mon cher is French for "my dear" and ce soir means "tonight". Mademoiselle is French for "Miss". "Y en a toujours. Ne t'en fais pas," is French for "There are always some. Do not worry."

    Dandelo also appears (sort of) in the short story, but Satan does not. In the short story, Dandelo is referred to as male, not female.

 

After hearing about the death of André, François calls Inspector Charas at the Athenaeum Club, which appears to be a gentlemen's club. As far as I can tell, this was a fictitious club for Montreal, but probably inspired by the famous Athenaeum Club of London, England.

 

As he pulls up to the Delambre factory at 6:05 in the movie, Inspector Charas' car is a 1957 Mercury Montclair. The white police vehicle already there is a 1948 Packard Custom Eight Ambulance.

 

At 7:51 in the movie, François is able to identify his brother's body, even though his head was crushed, by the long scar running from his knee to ankle incurred during the war. Likely, this is a reference to WWII. In the short story, Andre's scar ran from knee to thigh.

 

At 9:04 in the movie, Dr. Éjoute says, "François, mon ami. Is it true?" and "Mais c'est impossible." These are French for "François, my friend. Is it true?" and "But it's impossible."

 

Inspector Charas remarks that if Hélène killed her husband as she claims, she could hang for it. In Canada, capital punishment was inflected only by hanging from the end of French rule until July 1976 when capital punishment was abolished in the country.

 

André and Hélène's son is named Philippe. In the original short story, he was named Henri.

 

Philippe asks his uncle François how long flies live. François doesn't know the answer; common houseflies live for about one month.

 

At 32:00 in the movie, André remarks to Hélène about television transmissions from New York as a comparison to his matter transmitter. New York City is the most populous city in the U.S.

 

    Just as in the 1986 film, when Brundle teleports a baboon as his first living test subject, André here decides to teleport the family cat, Dandelo, and it's a disastrous failure, the cat's molecules vanishing into the ether instead of reforming! Shouldn't he have attempted to teleport a plant or something like that first? And even if he had successfully teleported a plant first, the first mammal he'd attempt it with should be something like a lab mouse or rat. (After weeks of refinement on his equipment, he does finally teleport a guinea pig).

    And why does he put the cat's milk saucer in the teleporter with her? It seems as if the action is only there to show that the teleporter will work with inanimate objects (the saucer reappears) and not with living specimens (the cat does not reappear). But that is not what André was trying to show with his experiment.

 

When the cat fails to rematerialize, how is it that the cat's meow is heard emanating echoingly from the air around the lab? The cat should just be disintegrated shouldn't she?

 

Does anyone know what ballet the Delambres go to at about 40:00 into the film? Is it a real ballet or just something put together for the film? The cover of the playbill André is seen holding reads only "The Royal Opera House presents...Ballet Russe," and Ballet Russe is simply French for "Russian Ballet". As far as I can find, there is no opera house called Royal Opera House in Montreal.

 

Except for his visit to the ballet with his wife, André wears what appears to be the same clothing throughout the film. It's not remarked upon in this film, but in the 1986 film, Seth Brundle also wears one ensemble throughout, five sets of exactly the same outfit to wear day-by-day, saying he learned it from Einstein, so he doesn't have to expend any thought on what he's going to wear. Perhaps André was doing the same.

 

André explains to his wife that his matter transporter turns the subject into its constituent atoms and sends them at the speed of light to the receiving chamber. But atoms have mass, so cannot travel at the speed of light; only light, with no mass, can travel the speed of light.

 

We see that the teleported guinea pig is still alive and healthy after one month. This same day, Hélène remarks that "Spring will soon be here." This means it is likely the beginning of March, as Spring begins around the third week of March in the northern hemisphere. So, André's first initial semi-success with the teleporter occurred one month and a couple weeks before that, roughly mid-January.

 

When François comes to the house for lunch, Hélène tells him André wants to show him something in the lab and François excitedly (or perhaps mock-excitedly) asks, "Well, what is it? Flat screen?" and she responds, "It's better." There's no other dialog to indicate what they meant. Could they really be talking about a flat screen television?! Was this something people were dreaming about even in the 1950s? There was, in fact, talk about it in technology circles as early as the late 1940s, maybe earlier, by General Electric in conjunction with the company's work on radar monitors. I'm not sure how widely-known the concept would have been to the public back then, but since the Delambre brothers own an electronics company, it makes some sense that they might be interested in developing it. Also, since the quote is in the movie in the first place with no further explanation, it implies a general movie-going audience of 1958 could have knowledge of the concept.

 

    When Philippe captures a strange fly with a white head, he keeps it in a match box until his mother makes him release the insect. The box reads, "Manufactures de l'etat, 50 Allumettes Suedoises, Contributions Indirectes." This is French for "State Manufactures, 50 Swedish Matches, Indirect Contributions." Kind of a strange label if you ask me!

    There is a company called Swedish Match founded in 1915 as a maker of matches and tobacco products, though the box seen here seems to be the product of a fictitious company; the label appears to have been applied to a match box with a different logo printed on it. The family housekeeper, Emma, has a mild accent that sounds like it might be Swedish...possibly the boy got the match box from her!

 

As Philippe releases the fly he's caught at 49:54 in the movie, it is a real fly. It is clear that the white head on it is simply the result of a tiny drop of white paint and not the miniaturized head of André as seen at the end of the movie!

fly with white head

 

The evening of the day André becomes part fly, he slides a note under the lab door telling his wife not to enter or ask questions and he asks for a bowl of milk laced with rum. An odd request as food items go, though there are some cocktail recipes of rum and milk. With a fly head, it would realistically be impossible for André to eat solid foods (although he does later), hence the liquid dietary request. Possibly, the rum is a craving of the fly part of him, as rum is an alcohol made from sugarcane. And it's possible the milk request is due to a portion of cat genes being incorporated in him from the discorporated Dandelo! Though the cat incorporation is never made explicit here, the original short story has André's head becoming a mix of fly head and cat's head from the lost Dandelo!

 

Losing his ability to speak due to the fly head, André types out notes on a typewriter in his lab for his wife to read. But the pages he hands her all have tractor feed sprockets on the sides! I'm not aware of any typewriter that used tractor feed paper, but the typewriter on his desk does appear to have a ribbon of the paper going into it. The paper sheets are also shorter than the typical 11" length. Maybe the device is some kind of combination typewriter and dot-matrix printer attached to the computer system.

 

What is this contraption seen mounted to the kitchen wall in the Delambre house?

kitchen contraption

 

When Hélène finally unmasks her husband and sees the fly head, we then see a prismatic view of her face repeated dozens of times. This is due to the compound eyes of a fly.

 

Emma tells François she thought the white-headed fly looked like a bluebottle. The bluebottle fly is a species of blow fly, common to most areas of the world and recognized for its metallic blue coloring.

 

Both human/fly fusions die by being crushed: the human with fly head crushed by the hydraulic press, the fly with human head by a rock wielded by Inspector Charas.

 

At the end of the movie, Philippe tells his mother and uncle he'd like to be a scientific explorer like his father was. In Return of the Fly, the adult Philippe essentially becomes just that!

 

Memorable Dialog

the sacredness of life.mp3
buzz.mp3
you know how women are.mp3
matter transcribing stations throughout the world and later the universe.mp3
meow.mp3
a stream of cat atoms.mp3
best fly I ever caught.mp3
help me.mp3

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