THE FLY / RETURN OF THE FLY
I have to give 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment credit for bringing the concept of the DVD double feature into the mainstream at the bargain price of $14.98. THE FLY / RETURN OF THE FLY are a perfect fit that makes for a terrific evenings entertainment, as long as there’s a nice supply of hot buttered popcorn to go with the two features.
The 1958 version of THE FLY is a genuine genre classic, which many dismiss as an inferior film, because they have only seen bad television broadcasts of the movie. THE FLY was produced in CinemaScope and featured excellent production values, solid acting and an intelligent screenplay from James Clavell, who went onto write such novels as Shogun and Noble House. Unlike a typical genre movie, THE FLY plays like a mystery for about three-quarters of its running time, and only then, switches gears to become a potent science fiction/horror story. Almost the entire plot is revealed in a flashback sequence, which shows the events that lead to the death of scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison- billed as Al Hedison) and why his loving wife Helene (Patricia Owens) has confessed to killing him. The cast of THE FLY also features Vincent Price as Helene’s supportive brother-in-law François and Herbert Marshall as police Inspector Charas.
Unlike THE FLY, RETURN OF THE FLY is strictly the type of grade "B" programmer that generally played the bottom half of a double feature in the good old days of motion picture entertainment. So in that respect, RETURN OF THE FLY works very well as the second half of this DVD double feature. Without the need to keep the audience guessing, RETURN OF THE FLY doesn’t make an attempt inventive storytelling, going straight to work to tell a story of science gone horribly wrong. Picking up the story some years after the death of scientist Andre Delambre, with his son Philippe (Brett Halsey) finally learning the circumstances of his father’s death from his uncle François (Vincent Price). Deciding that he must vindicate his father, Philippe returns to work on the scientific experiment, which ultimately cost Andre Delambre his life. Unfortunately, Philippe follows in his father’s footsteps a little too closely and has as accident similar to the one that befell his father. The plot of RETURN OF THE FLY contains no surprises, but the film does up the ante on gore, shocks and violence. The production values are definitely lower on the sequel, with the movie being filmed in black and white, which signals that the studio intended this to be a cheap knockoff that would cash in on the success of the original.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a really nice job of bringing THE FLY and RETURN OF THE FLY to DVD. Each film is offered on a single side of the disc and both are presented in 16:9 enhanced wide screen, with their 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratios in tact. THE FLY looks quite good, displaying a crisp, nicely detailed image. The colors are somewhat subdued, but they do look a lot stronger than many films that were processed by DeLuxe in the fifties. DeLuxe color prints had a tendency to fade quite rapidly back then. Blacks are accurately reproduced, although the level of shadow detail doesn’t compare to that of modern film stocks. The print Fox has used to transfer THE FLY is in very good shape, with only a few minor blemishes being noticeable and very little appreciable film grain.
RETURN OF THE FLY has been given a good black and white transfer that is crisper and far more detailed than the film has looked in cropped presentations. The black and white image is pretty pleasing, with solid black and fairly pure whites. Contrast is generally good, although there are moments where the whites become harsh and threaten the stability of the image. The film element used to transfer RETURN OF THE FLY to DVD displays more blemishes than THE FLY, but they are not excessive. Digital compression artifacts did not become noticeable on either film.
THE FLY is presented with a Dolby Digital 4.0 channel soundtrack, which directly ports the film’s fifties mix into the new format. Dialogue is directional across the forward soundstage in relation to the characters on screen position. However, the actors’ voices are cleanly reproduced. Surround information is very limited, occurring only during a few key moments. Additionally, there are the expected frequency limitations that one finds in recordings that are over forty years old, although distortion is not a problem, making the track worth amplifying to recreate that fifties movie theater experience. A Dolby Surround soundtrack is also present on the DVD, as is a monaural track.
RETURN OF THE FLY has been re-mixed to Dolby Surround for this release, although there is a very limited use of the surround channels. For the most part, RETURN OF THE FLY sounds like a monaural film, which is fine, since the movie has few opportunities for sound effects anyway. The original monaural mix has also been included on the DVD. English and Spanish subtitles are present on both movies. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as theatrical trailers for the first three double feature DVDs released by Fox.
THE FLY / RETURN OF THE FLY is a fun DVD that is worth acquiring just for the top half of the bill. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done right by DVD collectors by issuing each of these wide screen films in 16:9 enhanced transfers. I personally look forward to more Fox double feature DVDs and hope that they may delve deeper into their catalog and deliver titles like THE LODGER and HANGOVER SQUARE.
reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied
or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.