The Fly Who Couldn’t Fly
Once upon a time in the Fly-pen of the great city of Flyte was gathered all the newborn larvae. It was a protective place where the larvae could hatch and eventually go off into the blue yonder searching for places to fly to and fro. Crawling tree and wall with legs, antennae and wings to avoid becoming a spot of goo on what is black, white and read all over.
Even before transforming into a red blotch, perhaps accidentally flying into a teleportation chamber created by a Theoretical Physicist attempting travel through time and space by disassembling the atoms of objects and reconstituting them in another location. A wonderful premise first explored in the 1958 Science Fiction classic, The Fly, starring the late master of the macabre, Vincent Price, cherished character actor with a diverse array of film credits as Cecil B. DeMille’s overly flamboyant biblical interpretation of The Ten Commandments. This film had a cast of thousands, including Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brenner as the Pharoah. He starred in Edgar Allen Poe’s , The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit And The Pendulum and William Castle’s 1959 Epic ghost-fest, House On Haunted Hill. Price was also known to younger generations as the voice in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. He had the last line at the very end of the highly acclaimed 1948’s Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein: “Allow me to introduce myself, I’m the invisible man.”
A gourmet cook, respected art collector, historian scholar, and philanthropist, Price acted in classical film and Shakespearean theater with his distinctive and commanding voice, but his sensitive portrayal of dementia in film remains his major legacy. A childhood idol and major influence of director Tim Burton, his 1990 warmhearted take on Frankenstein’s monster in “Edward Scissorhands” provided the actor’s small but pivotal role as its creator in what was to become his final performance.
Although his characters were riddled with oddities, in “The Fly”, he played a normal person – the brother of the scientist, aptly flown by David Hedison who performed a ballet of fright as a transformed accident of a man with the head and arm of a fly. The film was an astounding success, earning over $3,000,000, and Hedison went on to roam the seas as Captain Lee Crane of the submarine Seaview in the television series, Voyage to The Bottom Of The Sea.
In the final climatic moment of “The Fly” – filmed in CinemaScope and Terror-Color by De Luxe in just eighteen days – Price and the Inspector overseeing the crushing death of the scientist, hear a tiny voice coming from a nearby spider’s web. They then make the dreadful discovery of a tiny creature in the form of the scientist’s emaciated head and arm sown onto the body of a fly, shrieking “Help me! Help me!” as it is about to be devoured by a large spider. The inspector, horrified by the sight, mercifully crushes the prey and predator with a stone. An unforgettable image that gave new meaning to transporter malfunctions – a theme suggested in Star Trek less then ten years later as the inspiration for the Transporter Room of USS Enterprise 1701.
A terrifying portrait of science gone amiss; a mistake asking to be made, perhaps akin to cloning; a little known fact of trivia that made the Star Trek saga possible and a post mortem to the fly who couldn’t fly.
For more on the Life and distinguished career of the late Vincent Price see the following links: