Sunday, 25 September 2011

Shapeshifters Film Review: Kurt Nuemann’s The Fly (1958)

 Fig.1 The Fly Poster

Kurt Nuemann’s 1958 film The Fly was a film produced in the midst of much change during its time in the 50’s when television programming was first introduced and experiments were being carried out with radiation. These events sparked a revolution within pop culture to the point where it seeped into films in the form of monsters and mutants and correctly stated in this review ‘The Fly was released in the midst of the 50’s monster-film craze, and make no mistake, it is an attempt to capitalize on that trend.’ (Sponseller, 2001). One such experiment of those times that influenced The Fly was Hermann Muller’s fly experiments; Muller experimented with mutating flies at the genetic level with radiation and other sources which was the result of technological advances that both enticed the human race and yet made them fear it. ‘Muller’s anxieties about the side-effects of human military and industrial development, and his works on fruit-fly mutations, themselves produced an interesting side effect in the late 1950s explosion of films about insects who mutate into alarming (usually giant or lethal) forms as a result of exposure to radiation.’ (Conner, 2006:155)
Fig. 2 Andre and Helene

The 50s was a time where sci-fi and horror film posters were overly exaggerated with cheesy looking scared faces aweing at grotesque mutilated aliens or monsters. However, compared to its rivals around the time The Fly seems conservative in nature, almost like a psychological thriller, not showing the mutation until near the end so in a way it didn’t exactly jump on the band wagon of shock and horror films. Nuemann very cleverly uses suspense to his advantage in this classic, instead of keeping you in the dark until the big reveal you get tiny clues as to the subject of the film which would be the flies. Every now and again throughout the film a fly would appear as subliminal annoyances that hinted at the fact that something awful would happen involving one.
Once Andre (Al Hedison) finally teleports and fuses with the fly the film takes a drastic turn from technological discovery to rival god to the desperate struggle of retaining humanity. ‘Andre pays lip service to God having given him and other scientists the ability to discover nature’s wonders; later, there’s a good deal of praying for God’s help to undo what’s been done.’ (Willis, 2000). And even though his mutation only consists of a fly head and hand the film focuses more on the change of his inner self and how the fly slowly takes control. Nuemann also shows in his film how once the insect takes over the human side reverts back to its brutal animalistic behaviour, shown very well when Andre can no longer speak and has to answer by clubbing his hand as yes or no. His last act as a human is to destroy himself instead of living as a beast.
Fig. 3 Death of Andre

So unlike other films of this genre in its decade, The Fly shows the other side of human boundaries, the more psychological and it gives the audience something to think about instead of being fed just visuals.

Sponseller, B. (2001)
(Accessed on: 23.09.11)

Conner, Steve. (2006) Fly London: Reaktion Books

Willis, B. (2000) Christian Spotlight On Entertainment
(Accessed on: 23.09.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Nuemann, Kurt (1958) The Fly Poster At: (Accessed on: 23.09.11)

Fig. 2. Andre and Helene (1958) From: The Fly Directed by: Kurt Neumann. [film still] USA: 20th Century Fox
Fig. 3. Death Scene (1958) From: The Fly Directed by: Kurt Neumann. [film still] USA: 20th Century Fox


  1. Hey Gabe,

    Gonna give you my two cents on this (dont kill me).

    The thing that is the hardest to navigate is your quotations. They are kinda dead locked into the text, could you possibly space (enter) them and put speech marks so people can see its quoted. Maybe bold or italic the entire section, just suggestions mate.

    Your citations are tight as are the bracket references in the text. Bibliography, Illustation lists very nice glad you know how to do that. I had no idea what it was till the first review lol.

    The link is missing to your second illustation (if i'm being fussy).

    You have done some decent research here mate, much more then me.

    From lines 1 to 2 you have this "in the midst of much change" that sounds a little wrong, try "in the midst of a great change" or something like that.

    "mutants and correctly stated in this review" here trade the "and" in for "which was"

    "awful would happen involving one." small error "someone" right?

    "instead of being fed just visuals." try instead of being handfed visuals. Just doesnt feel right.

    Just my passing thoughts mate, generally its a good review :) keep it up mate.

  2. Hey Gabriel,

    Your first review is an encouraging one! Pretty much everything is in place - present and correct, but Stitch is right about the quotes - just ensure your quotes are in italics and between quotation marks, and your reader's ability to navigate your text will be improved quickly.

  3. Great crit guys, Ill be sure to keep those things in mind.