Hollywood Gothique

Scaredy Cats: The Fly (1958)

Sorry, Caturday blogging arrives one day late this week. Sometimes there just are not enough hours in the day. Anyway, this week we take a look back at a monster movie classic from 50 years ago, THE FLY, starring Al (David) Hedison and Vincent Price.

Pity poor Dandelo, one of the most unfortunate felines in the history of science-fiction cinema. In this classic monster movie produced and directed by Kurt Neumann, the beloved family pet meets with disaster when he becomes the unwitting subject of a teleportation experiment by his over-enthusiastic owner, Andre Delambre (Al Hedison).

Delambra is no mad scientist ; he loves his pet, and he places it in his mater transmitter only because, in a fit of zeal, he is absolutely convinced that it will work. Unfortunately for Dandelo, the experiment goes awry: the pet dematerializes on cue but never reappears, reduced to a “stream of cat atoms” floating through space, accompanied by an illogical but effectively eerie caterwauling that strikes a guilty chord in Delambre’s conscience.

Dandelo’s mishap prefigures the disaster that will befall his master, who ends up with the head and claw of an insect after mistakenly transmitting himself along with a fly that snuck into the teleporter. In the short story by George Langelaan, on which the screenplay by James Clavell (Shogun) is based, Dandelo’s head reappears on Delambre after he takes a second trip through the transporter in an attempt to remove the fly’s head.

The film dispenses with this extra bit of business, so that Delambre retains his fly-like appearance until he commits suicide by having his wife crush his deformed head and arm in a factory press. Consequently, Dandelo remains a disembodied phantom, never seen again. Somehow, the sequel, Return of the Fly, overlooked the possibility of having Delembra’s son redeem his father’s work by reconstituting Dandelo.

You can read a full-length retrospective on the making of this film, including interviews with Hedison and Price, at Cinefantastique Online.