Return of the Fly: “The Thriller-Chiller That Will Really Bug You”…

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Return of the Fly directed by Edward BerndsReturn of the Fly directed by Edward BerndsReturn of the Fly directed by Edward Bernds

Sometimes, it’s just NOT a good idea to continue on with your father’s business. Take Philippe Delambre, for instance, in the 1959 sequel to the previous year’s The Fly, the perhaps inevitably titled Return of the Fly. When we last saw Delambre, he was a little boy living near Montreal, aggrieved over his scientist father’s death, a man who had been turned into a humanoid with the head of a giant fly, AND a little insect with the head of a man! When the sequel picks up, it is a good 10 years later at least, and Delambre is a young adult, attending his mother’s funeral in the pouring rain along with his uncle, Francois (Vincent Price, the only actor returning from the original, and who, that same year, starred in one of this viewer’s all-time favorite horror films, The Tingler). Young Delambre decides, against his uncle’s wishes and ardent remonstrations, to pick up where his father Andre (David Hedison) had left off, to thus prove to the world that his disintegrator-reintegrator gizmo CAN be a boon to mankind. The results, as any viewer might imagine, are not good.

Whereas simple bad luck had caused Delambre Sr. to be joined with an insect in the first film, in the sequel, it is a result of treachery and deceit. Delambre Jr. (played by Brett Halsey, who almost comes off looking and sounding like the young Gregory Peck) has the bad sense to hire as his assistant Ronald Holmes (David Frankham, who would go on to appear with Price two years later in Master of the World), a British purloiner and seller of industrial secrets. In this case, he hopes to sell the secrets of the device to a mortician/fence, Max Barthold, played by the great character actor Dan Seymour. When Holmes is caught in the act by a British inspector hot on his trail, he sticks the unfortunate into Delambre’s device along with a guinea pig, the result being two amazing amalgams, in an instance of the film delivering up some pleasing grotesquerie: a man with the claws of an animal, and a guinea pig with the head of a man! But when Delambre gets wind of what Holmes is up to later on, the villain knocks him out and places him in the device … along with a fly, just for spite. And the viewer has a pretty good inkling of what the results might be…

Return of the Fly directed by Edward BerndsReturn of the Fly, unlike its predecessor, was filmed in black & white and makes good use of its CinemaScope print. It was originally part of what must have been an amazing double feature, paired as it was with The Alligator People to stun and flabbergast the kiddies at their Saturday matinees. The picture has a running time of only 80 minutes and moves along quite efficiently; there is very little in the way of flab here. Director Edward Bernds was a seasoned pro by this time, having already helmed Lord-knows-how-many Three Stooges shorts, as well as oodles of Blondie and Bowery Boys films, not to mention two eternal sci-fi favorites of millions of baby boomers, World Without End (1956) and Queen of Outer Space (1958). His picture offers up fine performances by all its players, including French actress Danielle De Metz (who had recently so impressed me by dint of her performance in the “Guillotine” episode of Thriller) as Philippe’s lady love, Cecile, who turns out to be quite a grade-A screamer, and by John Sutton (who would appear with Price that same year in The Bat), here playing a Canadian inspector. Price, of course, is as marvelous as ever, here in a very sympathetic, avuncular role. And as for the title monster, well, he/it looks even more impressive than he/it did in the first film, with a MUCH larger head on his humanoid body; it is a very cool-looking monster, indeed.

Return of the Fly was “the thriller-chiller that will really bug you,” according to the film’s trailer, and despite the atrocious play on words, the film really does manage to both thrill and chill. I only have one complaint with the picture, actually; the fact that we never really find out just HOW Philippe, with that giant fly head, manages to discover the connection between Holmes and Max, and track the two down at Max’s mortuary parlor. But that is a minor matter. This really is a very fine sequel, and a very interesting continuation of a true horror classic. And the film even provides the viewer with a happy ending of sorts, fly-by-night as it might be. I mean, after all, there IS that belated sequel of six years later, The Curse of the Fly, buzzing in the wings…

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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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