So a few days ago I revisited an old childhood classic: 1958’s The Fly. To me, this film will always be on my top black and white horror movies of all time because of the fond memories that I had with it. Of course Creature from the Black Lagoon, Them, The Tingler and Night of the Living Dead will always have their place but The Fly was the one that embedded itself into my memory. I remember watching this movie on TCM back in 1997 (this was before I saw The Thing ’82 and The Blob ’88) with my grandma. It was late at night and I sat in the bedroom easy chair as my grandma was sitting up and my grandpa was lying in bed. I remember it clear as crystal.
The first thing that terrified me was a sound effect and when it comes to older films, sound is very crucial to the story. Sound is usually what scarred people back then rather than the music or the action, which is why I stand by my claim that raw horror is always the best kind of horror. Well, in the scene where Andre test his teleportation device by feeding the family cat through it, the sound the cat makes when it’s molecules aren’t properly put back together is horrifying. The cat is in a sort of limbo state and its meows are very low and it echoes through the basement. That sound haunted my dreams for a long time because I hate when cats meow like that and considering this was the same year that my cat was sick, it reminded me of how much pain and discomfort he was in.
Perhaps the scariest part of this movie for me was the grand revealing of the fly mutation. You see, back then I always had a fascination with bugs and every time I looked at entomology books I would always get chills from the way fly and cicada heads looked like. The small head and overly large eyes seemed alien to me and gave an unearthly look to them, which is why when I saw the head of fly on a human’s body… it was just frightening. I guess it retrospect, seeing the fly head dehumanized the doctor and it made him look like he was an alien, a monster hidden from the world. Even seeing the claw that he kid in his pocket didn’t ease my imagination because back then I would always try to picture how much of his body was turned into a fly.
As a kid, I wanted to see the mutation right when it happened but Neumann does a clever job of keeping the audience in suspense and I can tell you, I could not bare the suspense. I sat there glued to the screen waiting for the veil to come off and every time Andre lifted up the veil to drink the soup I would cover my eyes hoping that he didn’t lift it all the way up. Talk about keeping you on the edge of your seat.
The Fly will always be a classic for me and I even loved the remake to no end but the original will always have its place in my heart. It’s one of the first black and white movies that I saw as a kid and it set in motion my, then, daily horror movie nights. It’s because of The Fly and The Tingler that I only watch black and white horror movies at night because for some reason they are just better at night, perhaps it has something to do with the black and white. I only wish that I could go back in time and relive those memories… they were some of the best nights of my life.