Tuesday, July 02, 2013

THE RETURN OF THE FLY (1959)


After the huge financial and critical  success of THE FLY 20th Century Fox immediately rushed a sequel into production. Signing star Vincent Price to return and reducing the budget to guarantee a profit, RETURN OF THE FLY was shot in black and white and released in 1959- merely a year after the release of the first film. Often criticized as a very poor follow up, fifty-five years after the fact the sequel is actually not a bad little movie. It certainly hasn't got the originality of the first, or its interesting flashback structure, but as a '50s creature feature it has plenty of charms to recommend it.

 The movie picks up the story 15 years after the end of the first film. Helene Delambre has died and at her funeral, a reporter asking questions about the mysterious events surrounding her husband's death accosts her now adult son Phillipe (Brett Halsey) and his uncle Francois (Price). Inspector Beachum — who we are told helped Charas on the Delambre case all those years ago — warns off the reporter. Phillipe confronts his uncle and demands to be told the truth of his father's death. When the whole tragic tale is laid before him Phillipe reveals his intention to continue the work on the disintegrator/integrator machine. Francois is horrified and refuses to financially back the work as too dangerous. Undaunted, Phillipe pushes forward with the help of electronics expert Alan Hinds (David Frankham), hired away from Delambre Industries. Alan seems a godsend in the effort to recreate the original machine until we learn that he's a criminal on the run from the British police, wanted for theft and murder. The ruthless Hinds strikes a deal with a local fence to sell the plans for the teleporter to the highest bidder but on the night he is ready to steal the necessary papers, Phillipe stumbles across his plot and attempts to stop him. Phillipe is knocked unconscious and Hinds decides that the best way to get rid of him is to put him in the machine and disintegrate him. Knowing of Phillipe's fear of flies (brought on by the knowledge of his father's accident) he sadistically places a housefly in the chamber with the helpless man. Hinds escapes with the plans and shoots Francois in the process. When Phillipe is reintegrated he and the fly have switched body parts in the same manner as his father. Cue musical sting!
Return of the Fly holds up very well as a good B-movie right up until Phillipe comes out of the machine. While many have criticized the first film for its oversized fly headpiece, this film compounds that perceived error by making the headpiece huge and quite unwieldy. I have to strain to keep from laughing at poor Brett Halsey (or whoever they stuck that thing onto) stumbling through the woods in day for night shots whacking that oversized fly helmet on low hanging tree limbs. There's even one shot in which I swear the fellow is holding the contraption onto his shoulders as he leans too far to one side. But I have to admit that as bad as I find these moments, I still like the film. For the most part it's a good follow up to the superior original with some good ideas and a nasty streak courteous of the vicious Mr. Hinds. And while the second film is better paced than THE FLY, it still commits the sad error of not utilizing Price enough. He gets some good scenes in the last 20 minutes, as he fights to help his nephew even though he has a bullet wound, but Price should have been more central to the story.


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