Sunday, August 14, 2016
Franchises: The Fly. Curse of the Fly (1965)
Patricia Stanley, a troubled young woman who was being treated for a severe mental breakdown, escapes from the Fournier Mental Hospital one night, clad in only her bra and underwear, and is immediately discovered and picked up by Martin Delambre on his way to Montreal. After stealing some clothes for her, he takes her to the hotel in the city he's staying at, putting her up and giving her money until she can get back on her feet. Meanwhile, he prepares to send some new equipment to his house in Quebec, as he and his father, Henri, along with his London-stationed brother, Alan, are close to perfecting the teleportation that generations of the Delambre family have devoted their lives to working on. They've already managed to enable it to teleport subjects across the Atlantic but hasn't come without a heavy cost, as radiation burns on Henri's body can attest to, as well as other, far more horrific mutations. Martin spends a week in Montreal with Pat, whom he falls in love with and proposes marriage to, not revealing the nature of his work to her or the horrible effects it's had. He also keeps secret a disturbing condition of rapid aging, caused by inherited, recessive fly genes, that can only be curtailed by regular injections of a special serum. He and his new wife head home to Quebec, where Martin is forced to install the new lab equipment immediately in order to teleport his father back from London. Once he's arrived, Martin tells Henri about his marriage, a fact that the elder Delambre is not happy about, seeing it as unfair to the girl as well as dangerous to the secrecy of their work. His latter concern soon proves justified when Madame Fournier reports Pat's escape from the mental hospital to Montreal detective Inspector Ronet and in his search for her, he hears of Martin and digs into the family's past. Upon arriving at the Delambre house with Fournier and meeting both Martin and Henri, as well as learning of the marriage, Ronet contacts the now hospitalized Inspector Charas, from who he learns Martin is already married to a woman named Judith who is not known to have divorced him or died. As it turns out, Judith is one of the people horribly mutated by the teleportation device, who are all kept locked in a separate building like animals. She's not too fond of Pat's presence or of her playing the piano in the house she once played, and the same goes for the Chinese housemaid, Wan, who acts hostilely towards Pat and begins attempting to frighten her into madness. With the police now snooping around, learning of the family's "curse," and Pat herself learning more and more about the true nature of her husband's work, Henri decides they must proceed with their work and use the teleporter to escape to London while disposing of all evidence of their experiments. Pat realizes too late that she's married into the wrong family and, as her fragile mindset is pushed to the breaking point by what's going on, she must try to escape the horrific madhouse while she can.
Inspector Charas (Charles Carson) returns after having been absent from Return of the Fly, now old, hospitalized, and apparently very sensitive to bright light as he now always wears very dark glasses. His role in the film is to do little more than to get Inspector Ronet (Jeremy Wilkins) up to speed about the Delambres and also to inform the audience about the ailments that Martin and Henri suffer from due to their grandfather's past blunders. Ronet has even less of a role than simply being a detective who gets involved with Delambres and their past due to his investigation into Pat's escape from the mental hospital. All he does is snoop around, digging up what he can on them in order to get a search warrant, and when he finally does, he shows up at the mansion at the end just in time to comfort Pat after everything that she's been through. Finally, there's Madame Fournier (Rachel Kempson), who's a little interesting in that she talks about she and everyone at the institution had been giving Pat the best treatment they could and also speaks like she is concerned for her well-being, but her monotone voice and way of reiterating the seriousness of Pat's condition in an attempt to convince the Delambres to send her back, as well as Pat's fear of her, suggest that there might be something more sinister going on that's never explained. And I apologize for the lack of images in this section but I could not, for the life of me, find any of these characters. In fact, it took me an ungodly amount of time to find that image of Tai and Wan and even it isn't ideal.
In case you haven't figured it out by now, Curse of the Fly is definitely a contender for one of the most unusual sequels ever made, mainly because there's no fly-monster to be found here. As a result, it's inevitable for it to be compared with films like Halloween III: Season of the Witch and Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning but, in my opinion, the best comparison is with The Curse of the Cat People, the 1944 sequel to the well-known Val Lewton film. While that film is a continuation of the story and characters of Cat People, it goes in a completely different direction and is much more of a ghost story, rather than being another film about a person who fears they may be turning into a panther. That was done because Lewton didn't want to simply do a repeat of his earlier film and that's possibly how Robert Lippert, the uncredited producer on all three of these films, and writer Harry Spaulding felt. When you get right down to it, that kind of mix-up with a fly can only happen so many times, accidental or not, so the filmmakers probably decided that it would be best to go in a different direction, with the curse in question alluding to the horrors that have befallen the Delambre family ever since Andre's first doomed experiment. But, even as sequel, the film takes a number of liberties with its connections to its predecessors; moreover, it seems to follow the events of The Fly, to a point, and completely ignores Return of the Fly. In the scene where Inspector Charas tells Ronet the story of what happened to Andre, it matches up for the most part: he mentions Andre's experiments with teleportation, the disastrous experiment that the fly got caught up in (he shows Ronet a picture of a fly-man, which is actually taken from Return of the Fly; let's not even try to get into how in the hell he got such a photo), how he thought Helene was insane when she told him the story, and how he realized the truth. However, then Charas says, "Later his son reversed the experiment and put the fly and the monster in the glass case and restored them to their original conditions." At first, I thought that maybe that was an oddly-worded reference to what happened to Philippe in the second film and how he was restored to normalcy but, when you think about it, it doesn't add up. If Andre was Martin's grandfather, then, logically, it follows that he was Henri's father, meaning that we're now in a continuity where Andre had a different son from Philippe, who was his and Helene's only child in the original, and that he apparently managed to reverse Andre's mutation. Maybe since they were unable to get Vincent Price, who was under contract to American-International Pictures and doing the Edgar Allan Poe movies with Roger Corman around this time and who acted as the one link between the two previous films, they felt they needed to rewrite the history of the series, even though I don't think it was necessary.
Plus, they still create plotholes for themselves in their revisions. They say that both Henri and Martin suffered from the cold and from bouts of rapid aging, meant to have been passed down to them from Andre due to the mixing with the fly... but, that would have to mean that Henri wasn't born until after the mutation and, what's more, if he was the one who eventually reversed it, that would have to mean he was conceived while his father was mutated. God, can you imagine Helene doing it with that fly-headed man? Even that scenario, as unsettling as it is, doesn't work because of the very short life-spans of flies and the amount of time that would have to pass for Henri to grow up and become knowledgeable enough to figure out how to make things right. Maybe that could mean that Philippe really was Henri's father and the recessive fly-genes came from him as a result of the mutation he went through but, again, that doesn't seem to be the case given what Charas says, how Philippe is never mentioned, and how Andre is referred to as Martin's "grandfather" rather than his "great-grandfather." And Albert's not having these problems is not explained at all. We're just told that he's completely normal. People complain about the science of the original film but for me, the convolutions in this story are much more maddening when you try to piece everything together.
In an interesting tradeoff, Bert Shefter, the friend of original Fly composer Paul Sawtell who assisted him on the score for Return of the Fly, became the sole composer for Curse of the Fly. That said, though, he mainly reuses his friend's score for the original and only comes up with a few original pieces of music. And I'm not exaggerating when I say he reuses the entirety of Sawtell's score: you hear everything, from the main theme when the title comes up, to Andre and Helene's love theme, which is here used for the intimate scenes between Martin and Pat, and even the nightmarish piece for the fly-man's destruction of the lab when Martin begins suffering from another attack of rapid aging at the end and really starts to lose it. Shefter makes them sound a tad bit different by either slowing them down or speeding them up, depending on the piece, and he also reuses one small part of the Return of the Fly score, but still, there's not much music here that you haven't heard before. While it is nice to hear the themes from the original score again, something I missed in the sequel, and their presence, like the tone, is something that, surprisingly, makes the film fall more in line with the first one, it still makes you wonder why Shefter didn't just come up with something completely original. I don't want to call him lazy since, more than likely, the low budget didn't leave him much choice, but it would have been nice to hear more new stuff along with the old music. What few new themes that are here are mostly forgettable horror music and a less memorable love theme for Martin and Pat that isn't used much but he does manage to come up with a nice, poignant piano piece that's first heard during the opening credits and is reiterated a few times throughout the film. It's obviously meant to be a theme for Pat, one that harkens back to her ill-fated attempts in the past to become a great concert pianist. Pat herself plays a nice little tune on the piano in the Delambre house, albeit one that greatly upsets Judith; I don't know if it's a piece that existed before or was made specifically for the movie but it sounds nice and relaxing.