My personal history with 'The Fly' comes with seeing the Cronenberg version first. What made this extra strange was the fact that it didn't actually bother me as something scary that was gonna make me lose sleep. I just thought it was really gross. Mind, I think I saw it at a time when I couldn't quite comprehend what "scary" was. Much like 'Temple of Doom' and the heart-ripping scene, I watched it later and wondered what the hell was wrong with me.
Anyway, when I eventually learned to appreciate older titles, I thought a good way to start would be to check out titles that have known famous scenes. In this case, the chilling "help me, help me" scene. I eventually managed to check it out while over at a friend's house when it came on TV. At the time, I felt it sort of dragged, but that famous scene actually did manage to get under my skin. This viewing is the first since then, passing probably almost twenty years. So, did I learn to appreciate it more than I did upon first viewing? Well, yes and no. But more on that later.
The film opens with the dead body of scientist, André Delambre (Al Hedison), crushed in a hydraulic press. His wife, Hélène (Patricia Owens) confesses that she's the one who killed him, but hesitates to give a motive for fear of sounding crazy. Her behavior also shows a bizarre obsession with flies, particularly one with a funny white head. When André's brother, François (Vincent Price) fibs about having the fly she's looking for, he uses it to get her motive for the murder out of her.
The rest of the film, until the end, is presented in a flashback where André, Hélène, and their son Philippe (Charles Herbert) are living happily, while André is working on something that could potentially change the world - a matter transporter he calls "the disintegrator-integrator". He starts with inanimate objects, moves on to animals (including the poor family cat) and eventually, himself. After that experiment, however, he refuses to come up from his basement lab. We all know by this point it's because he tried his experiment with a fly in the chamber with him, and it lead to him getting the head and arm of a fly, and vise-versa. Everything now depends on Hélène finding the white-headed fly mentioned earlier.
There's plenty to appreciate here as a simple B horror movie from the 50s. It does a good job at being shlocky, and Vincent Price is one of those names you could put in anything and it's automatically a bit cooler. I also enjoy David Hedison's performance as the man-sized fly. He does a lot with his body language, like twitching his head, and delivers a sort of alien-likeness to the role. I don't know that I'd consider it any sort of must-see horror classic for its time, but it's worth checking out if you can bear in mind you're there to have fun, and not to take anything seriously.
If you were to ask me which version of 'The Fly' I like better, I honestly don't know which one I'd gravitate towards. They're both sort of "just okay" to me. Cronenberg's grosses me out, but the casting is great. Meanwhile this version has the famous scene that once managed to give me chills, but I still think it drags a bit in parts. For the record, in an hour and a half long movie, there's not much to see horror-wise until about an hour into things. But to be fair, once it gets going, it gets fun. Again, it's a B movie, and not to be taken seriously. With the right mindset, one can still have a good time with this.