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Monday, June 29, 2009

Return of the Fly

The Hollywood money-squeezing machine is obvious in this clearly exploitive sequel to The Fly ('58). Shot in budget-friendly black & white, 20th Century Fox re-used the original sets and a rehash plot, Return of the Fly (RotF) looks like (and was) a quick attempt to squeeze a few more box office bucks from the original's popularity. Fortunately, though, there was enough talent in the group that this sequel has merits of its own. Even though filmed in black and white, the widescreen CinemaScope format has a polish to it. RotF doesn't surpass the original, but for fans of the original, it was another ride.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Phillpe Delambre is determined to vindicate his father by successfully completing the experiment. His uncle Francois refuses to help. Phillipe hires Alan Hines from Delambre Frere, and uses his own finances. The funds run out before the equipment is complete. When Phillipe threatens to sell his half of Delambre Frere, Francois relents and funds the completion. After some tweaking, they use the transporter to "store" and later rematerialize test animals. Alan Hines turns out to be Ronald Holmes, an industrial spy. Ronnie tries to sell the secrets to a shadowy cohort named Max. Before Ronnie can get away with the papers, a British agent confronts him. Ronnie knocks him out and uses the transporter to "store" the body. When rematerialized, the agent has guinea pig paws. The guinea pig has human hands. Ronnie kills rodent and puts dead agent in trunk of his car, which he sends into the river. Phillipe confronts Alan/Ronnie about all the oddities. Phillipe is knocked unconscious in the fight. Ronnie opts to hide Phillipe as he had the agent, but in a twist of malice, catches a fly to put in with Phillipe. Ronnie escapes into the night. Francois rematerializes Phillipe, but he (predictably) has a fly head, one fly arm and one fly leg. There is also a fly with Phillipe's head. FlyPhillipe runs into the night. He goes to Max's and strangles him. He waits for Ronnie to arrive, then strangles him too. FlyPhillipe returns home. Inspector Beecham found and caught the ManFly. Both it and FlyPhillipe are placed in the device and successfully reintegrated. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
Everyone expects the story to somehow get a fly head on a man's body again. RotF manages to do the expected with enough twists and action to make an entertaining movie. The photography has a lush but moody "noir" feel.

Cold War Angle
The only hint of the Cold War is the suggestion of other nations being buyers of defense secrets. The story itself is much more of a dangers-of-science tale.

Storage Device -- RotF gets credit for highlighting the notion of a transporter device also have a storage feature. The original movie hinted at this, but did nothing with it. In RotF, it was a central plot feature. Once in the mainstream, this storage feature would reappear in later TV shows such as Star Trek and Stargate SG1.

Hollywood Recycles -- Production costs were saved by shooting in black and white, but also in recycling the props and sets from the first movie. Even Phillpe's own basement lab (why is it always a basement?) is full of recycled props.

Prop Splurge -- The one place RotF tried to improve on the original is the fly-head costume. Almost too large, the new fly head looked much more fly-like than the modest fly mask in the first movie.

Car Spotters -- Note the impressive land-yacht limousine at the film's beginning. A 1956 Chrysler Imperial limo. Massive. A more interesting find is Phillipe's little French sports car. Much less common to American eyes, is his 1957 Simca Aronde Oceane convertible.

Killer Flies? -- At one point, feverish Francois urges Inspector Beecham to find FlyPhillipe quickly before the "murderous brain of the fly" takes over. The what? Common houseflies are opportunistic scavengers at most. More vulture than raptor, the fly hardly merited such hyperbole. Perhaps the writers felt the need for more plot pressure.

Bottom line?
Fans of the first movie get another dose, albeit with more emphasis on the horror than the cerebral. There is more shock and mayhem, and very little of the original's exploration of a man's loss of identity. Still, the pace is good and the plot has enough new elements to stand on its own. RotF is an apt sequel.

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