For three screenings only, E Street Cinema in D.C. will be showing the sci-fi horror film The Fly (1958) to kick off their new special showcase, Capital Classics. Playtimes for the films will coincide with their Midnight Madness screenings on Friday and Saturday, with an additional screening held on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Capital Classics will feature films that all have some correlation with our nations’ capital, although, how The Fly fits into this idea is anyone’s guess.
The film’s story, originally told in short form in an issue of Playboy Magazine, opens with a woman who admits to killing her husband with a hydraulic press. She seems frightened and keeps talking about flies while explaining herself to the inspector and her brother-in-law (Vincent Price). In flashback, we see the story of how the death of her husband came to be. We watch as a scientist works on his new invention: a matter transporter. After finding that it works with inanimate objects and small animals, he tries it for himself. Unbeknownst to him, a fly slips into the transporter with him, and his head and arm are swapped with that of the fly.
Hoping to reverse the process, the wife looks for the fly. Her husband only communicates to her with typed messages and keeps a cloth over his head. After a while, several natural fly instincts begin to creep into the scientist’s behavior and it becomes clear that the clock is ticking. We already know what happens to the scientist, however, which kind of kills the suspense. Such is the problem of solving a murder in flashback.
All films from the 1950’s have aged, and none more so than in the science fiction and horror genres. The Fly is probably the best from that era however. The insertion of Price raises an apprehensive eyebrow, but his inclusion seems only relevant as an advertising gimmick. The film’s direction runs smoothly with only a few outdated hiccups along the way.
The animated television show The Simpsons has already given The Fly the parody treatment, as they have with almost every filmic property known to man. In 1986, the film was given the remake treatment by David Cronenberg. Surprisingly, it’s not that much different from the original. It was, of course, given a retrofitted outlook with a story involving a pregnancy. That gave way to a disturbing pregnancy scene as well as a few other alarming Cronengergian touches. That film was quite well done, if not a lot harder to watch. Younger viewers, or those who believe a movie made in the 1950’s might not hold their attention span, had best begin with the ’86 version of the film to test the waters.
The Fly will screen at E Street Cinema on October 28 and 29 at midnight and on the 30th at 11:00 a.m. For a list of E Street’s screenings, including Midnight Madness and the new Capital Classics, visit their site here. A map to the theater can be found at the left.