Monday, August 8, 2016
Franchises: The Fly. Return of the Fly (1959)
Helene Delambre, the widow of Andre Delambre, has died after years of being emotionally tormented by the horrible memories of her husband's ill-fated experiments, and whose mysterious death has left many lingering, unanswered questions in the public mind. Following the rain-soaked funeral, Philippe, the now adult son of Andre and Helene, asks his Uncle Francois about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his father's death and his mother's initial accusation of murder. At first refusing to tell him, Francois eventually takes Philippe to the old Delambre Freres foundry, down into his father's abandoned laboratory. There, he tells Philippe about Andre's research, his eventual success with teleporting solid matter, the accident that turned him into a hideous creature with the body of a man and the head and arm of a fly, and how his mother helped him to kill himself. After hearing the story, Philippe, who has read his father's papers and has done some work in the field himself, tells Francois that he wants to rebuild the Disintegrator-Integrator in order to vindicate his father and prove that his theories were right. Francois flatly refuses to help, one reason being quite obvious and another being the cost of such an undertaking, but Philippe is determined to do it any way he can. He, along with his friend and Delambre Freres employee, Alan Hinds, relocate to his grandparents' old home outside of Montreal, which Philippe inherited, in order to resume Andre's work in the mansion's large wine cellar. However, as their work progresses and Philippe's money begins to run out, he forces Francois to back them by threatening to sell his half of Delambre Freres, a move that would destroy the company. Francois reluctantly agrees to give Philippe the money and also decides to work with him, mainly to protect him from the dangers of rebuilding the machine and continuing to try to dissuade him. Little does Philippe know that he has more to worry about than his uncle's fears: Alan, who also goes by the name of Ronald Holmes, is wanted for murder by the British police and intends to steal and sell the plans for the Disintegrator-Integrator to the highest bidder, arranging for funeral home director/illegal dealer Max Barthold to help him with it. Work progresses on the machine and, despite some initial issues with gigantism in the reintegrated live subjects, it begins to shape up nicely... until Alan's past catches up with him and he's forced to dispose of a member of the British police who's been tracking him. His actions in doing so arouse Philippe's suspicions and when Alan realizes he's been caught, he pulls a gun on Philippe and a fight breaks out. In the fight, Alan knocks Philippe out and, rather than killing him, puts him into the disintegrator cabinet with a common housefly, disintegrating them both. After Alan escapes, severely injuring Francois by shooting him in the side, the others attempt to save Philippe by reintegrating him, only for him to be restored with the enormous head and limbs of a fly. The creature breaks out and escapes when the police arrive, while Francois is taken to the hospital. Now, in order to save his nephew, Francois must get in touch with Inspector Beauchamp, who assisted Inspector Charas and knows the truth, and pray that Philippe isn't gunned down by the police, and that he still has his human conscience, before they can find the small fly with his head in order to restore him with the machine.
If you've seen the original film a good number of times, as I have, there are a couple of noticeable continuity errors that the sequel has with it, in addition to the sudden appearance of the character of Inspector Beauchamp. For one, at the beginning of the movie when Francois and Philippe visit Andre's old laboratory, you can see the messages that he wrote for Helene on the chalkboard in the first film. You'd think that would be an example of good continuity but, remember, Helene told Inspector Charas that she rubbed it out, as well as that Andre burned his notes. Philippe, however, says that he's studied some of his father's notes without his mother's knowing and during the experiments, he often refers back to them. How can that be possible? And what's more, how could he have drawn up a bunch of plans and papers for Alan Hinds to steal if Andre burned everything? As it is with the dicey science in these movies, the real answer to this question is that there'd be no story to tell, so you have to just let some things go.
Paul Sawtell returned to do the score, this time bringing along fellow composer Bert Shefter, whom he often worked with, but their music here doesn't come close to matching the creepiness or memorability of the original. Since this film isn't disturbing like the original, Sawtell must have felt that it needed a different musical sound, or maybe he was a composer who didn't like repeating himself, but either way, like everything else, this score is more in line with what you often got in science fiction and monster movies around that time. Unfortunately, that means it's not as memorable as the original's music. The main title, which is by far the most distinctive part of the score, begins a high-pitched, flute sort of sound, obviously meant to emulate the sporadic, unpredictable flying of a housefly, and then leads into a horn piece that's a bit like the main theme to the original, only nowhere near as loud, bombastic, or threatening. Honestly, except for a sort of slow, apprehensive piece that plays in a couple of sections, like when Max is pacing nervously around his funeral home after Alan's plan goes south, I don't have much else to say about the music because it's very forgettable. It's a real shame, too, considering what we got before, and by the same composer.