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Made in 1959, Return of the Fly is the imaginatively titled sequel to The Fly, made a year earlier, (not to be confused with the Cronenberg/Goldblum 1980s remake). The original was directed by Kurt Neumann, but for the sequel Edward Bernds took the reins and also wrote the screenplay (although both films were based on the stories written by George Langelaan. Bernds himself was a prolific film-maker, who cut his teeth as the sound man for Frank Capra during the 1930s. Not that Bernds made any particularly classic films of his own. Nevertheless, Return of the Fly has a professional gloss and the script is written well.

Story-wise, the film picks up fifteen years after the original. In the original, Andre Delambre, a scientist, invents a matter transference machine, but when attempting to transfer himself, has his matter mixed up with a fly. His body and arm are changed into a fly’s, whilst the fly itself gains his head and arm. Both end up dead. The sequel sees Andre’s son Philippe, continue his father’s work. Philippe himself has become a formidable scientist and it becomes his passion to complete his father’s work. His uncle, Francois (played by Vincent Price), was in the original and so knows the dangers involved in such work. He acts as a voice of reason and restraint in contrast to Philippe’s youthful enthusiasm and naivety. Philippe convinces one of Francois’ scientists (Holmes) to come and be his assistant and together they recreate Andre’s machine. Alas, Homes turns out to be an English murderer, on the run from the British authorities. He sees the financial potential of the machine and so attempts to steal the plans. Things are complicated however, when a detective catches him in the act. Holmes kills him, then puts the dead man in the machine, but his matter gets mixed with a guinea pig resulting in one of the highlights of the film, namely a corpse with guinea pig arms and a guinea pig with human hands (which Holmes then stands on, before throwing a heavy box on it). Philippe also catches Holmes out, so Holmes knocks him out and then puts Philippe in the machine with a fly. Thus, exactly the same thing happens again, as in the original. Cue man wearing a fly-head and arm running about some countryside and then exacting revenge on Holmes and his accomplice. Fortunately, Philippe (with fly-head) returns to the lab, and the fly (with human head) is found. Francois (who had been shot by Holmes as he made his escape) is able to operate the machine resulting in the mix-up being undone. Thus, in contrast to the original, the son survives instead of dying like his father.

Having already seen the original, one gets the distinct feeling that Return of the Fly was something of an attempt to squeeze some more cash out of the idea. The original had been moderately successful and the studio (20th Century Fox) probably guessed that there would be an audience for a sequel. However, money was saved in several ways in the sequel – it was shot in black and white, whereas the original was in colour, and the script was written in such a way as to ensure that several sets from the original could be reused with just a few cobwebs added to them. Vincent Price’s character is meant to be fifteen years older, but as the film was made only one year after the original, he looks exactly the same. Nevertheless though, the film is mildly entertaining and moves at a quick enough pace. The acting is good and gives some credibility to the ridiculous story-line. The movie is not in the least bit scary, but there are worse ways to pass ninety minutes.

Incidentally, The Misfits wrote and recorded a song about the film. Bob Dylan, Chris Martin, or anyone else who wishes to be considered as a lyrical genius should take note of these inspired lyrics:

“Return of the fly Return of the fly With Vincent Price Yeah, return of the fly Helene Delambre, Helene Delambre Francois, Francois Return of the fly You guinea pig Human hands and feet Yeah, you guinea pig Helene Delambre, Helene Delambre Francois, Francois Cecile, Cecile Cecile, Cecile The return of the fly With Vincent Price You guinea pig Yeah, return of the fly Return of the fly With Vincent Price You guinea pig Yeah, return of the fly”

Classic.

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