Color, 1958, 93 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall

B&W, 1959, 80 mins. 20 secs.
Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, David Frankham, John Sutton, Dan Seymour, Danielle De Metz

B&W, 1965, 86 mins. 7 secs.
Directed by Don Sharp
Starring Brian Donlevy, George Baker, Carole Gray, Yvette Rees, Burt Kwouk, Michael Graham, Mary Manson

Color, 1986, 95 mins. 39 secs.
Directed by David Cronenberg
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Color, 1989, 104 mins. 44 secs.
Directed by Chris Walas
Starring Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, John Getz
Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Via Vision (Blu-ray) (Australia R0 HD), Fox (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

By The Flyany standard, the series of films The Flybegun by (the former) 20th Century Fox in 1958 with The Fly is one of the most grotesque and memorable ever churned out by an American studio. The 1950s may be thought of as a cinematic era for atomic monsters, rockets, and flying saucers, but when The Fly came out late in the Eisenhower era, it was a conceptual shocker that had audiences reeling from its outrageous imagery involving the aftermath of a teleportation experiment gone horribly wrong. The exploits of the tragic Delambre family went on to fuel two sequels with diminishing box office returns, after which the concept laid dormant for over two decades until a surprising revisit from none other than David Cronenberg. His Oscar-winning 1986 overhaul was a rare example of a genre remake to earn more critical respect than its predecessor, with a pulpy but enjoyable sequel following in its wake three years later. All five films have been gathered up in a late 2019 Blu-ray box from Scream Factory, expanding greatly on a more stripped-down collection on Australian Blu-ray and bringing two of the titles to 1080p for the first time in the U.S.

Though Vincent Price was the big draw in the original '58 version of The Fly, he's really a supporting character here as François Delambre, who's called in when his brother, André (Hedison), is found dead with his head and one hand crushed in a press. André's wife, Hélène (Owens), admits to being responsible for his death but seems extremely concerned about the capture of a white-headed fly on the family property. In flashback she relates the story of how her husband was pioneering a teleportation device that proved capable of moving inanimate and ultimately living subjects from one pod to another. However, André's attempt to experiment on himself went awry when a fly infiltrated his pod, resulting in a horrific switcheroo she tries to undo with time rapidly running out.

Despite the utterly warped subject matter, The Fly was given the red carpet studio treatment including wide CinemaScope lensing, lush Deluxe Color, and a crackling three-channel stereo track in more prestigious venues. As a result, it managed to stand out in an already stellar year with the likes of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Horror of Dracula, The Crawling Eye, and Hercules, with an entire generation of The Flyschool kids running around squealing "Help me! Help meeee!" at random intervals. The film still The Flypacks quite a punch, using its sparing but memorable shock effects to accentuate a storyline (taken from a Playboy short story and scripted by future Shogun scribe James Clavell) that essentially functions as an unorthodox murder mystery whose detective, played by Herbert Marshall, plays only a partial role in its unraveling.

Many home video editions of this film have been available over the years, starting off with useless pan and scan VHS and laserdisc editions before moving on to a letterboxed laserdisc and, in 2000, a nice anamorphic DVD from Fox and, in 2008, a three-film collection (with its two immediate sequels) containing a solid helping of bonus features including a lively commentary with Hedison and Vincent Price expert David Del Valle, a 1997 Vincent Price A&E Biography episode (44m3s), the making-of featurette "Fly Trap: Catching a Classic" (11m3s) (including Hedison, Brett Halsey, Del Valle, Steve Haberman, Donald F. Glut, and Tony Timpone), a brief monster-themed "Fox Movietone News" story (54s), trailers, and galleries (stills, posters, and more) for all three features. Fox subsequently issued the film on its own on Blu-ray in 2010, with Return of the Fly instead shuffled off to Scream Factory's The Vincent Price Collection II paired up on the same disc with Dr. Phibes Rises Again (featuring another solid audio commentary with Del Valle, this time joined by Halsey), plus a trailer, TV spot, and gallery.

The 2019 Scream Factory box ports over all of the extras (apart from the gallery) including the featurettes and commentary while also adding an enjoyable new track by the reliable team of Haberman and Constantine Nasr, with tons of info about the crew (including some good opening thoughts on the fine score by Paul Sawtell and an uncredited Bert Shefter) and insight into the emotional impact added here compared to the original story. Image and sound quality are identical to the prior Blu-ray, which is good news The Flyas it already made for a solid a/v experience in the first place right down to the dramatic, wonderful separation of the DTS-HD 4.0 English The Flytrack.

Though retaining Price, Return of the Fly is a rather different beast as it quickly followed a year later with an eye obviously aimed for the teen market by revisiting the idea with the Delambre family's youngest member, son Philippe, now grown up to be played by recent drive-in staple Brett Halsey (from High School Hellcats and The Cry Baby Killer). It's no secret that this can't compete with the original thanks to its scaled-down production (including a switch to cheaper black-and-white photography and a much more sedate mono mix), as well as a tendency to pull its horrific punches as opposed to the first film (which wasn't afraid to stare straight into the void). That said, it's still enjoyable thanks to Price's dedicated performance and still has some of that grotesque magic including a nasty new twist on the human-animal mash-up concept.

This time Philippe is now an aspiring scientist in his own right, and after demanding the truth about his father's ill-fated experiments, he decides to exonerate his family name by continuing the scientific work in his grandfather's sprawling, virtually empty estate. Against the urging of François, Philippe is joined by a colleague and friend, Alan (Frankham), to toil away at perfecting the teleportation process (or "disintegration and reintegration," as these films put it). However, it quickly turns out that Alan The Flyhas his own The Flynefarious motives to make a lot of money off of Philippe's work, and our hero quickly finds out that becoming a scientific explorer can have truly horrific consequences.

Far closer in tone to the more standard monster movies of the era, this entry ticks off all the boxes for scientific gadgetry, a vaguely handled love interest courtesy of Danielle De Metz as Philippe's childhood friend, and a highly unlikely happy ending you won't buy for a second. Luckily it's also quite atmospheric and never dull, plus that guinea pig gag is really one for the ages. The Scream Factory edition gives this one the real special edition treatment, carrying over the earlier commentary, TV spot, trailer, and gallery, with the transfer and DTS-HD 2.0 English mono track (with optional English subtitles) replicating the earlier HD presentation. New here are two audio commentaries, the first featuring the 93-year-old Frankham in conversation with friend and actor Jonathan David Dixon about the production (including its lower budget and speedy shoot) with lots of memories about the actors and the studio system at the time as well as the film's film noir influence. Also new is a commentary by monster movie expert Tom Weaver, who does his usual thorough and well-researched job of parsing out the film's history and pointing out various quirks in the finished product (including a funny observation about some clunky writing in Price's opening line). He also peppers the track with actor recreations of interviews he conducted and goes into quite a bit about influential (and frequently uncredited) producer Robert L. Lippert, who played a major role in kickstarting '50s genre cinema.

Still the Curse of the Flyugly stepchild of the series, the British-made Curse of the Fly came as a shock to viewers who came in expecting more outrageous fly/human body-swapping and Curse of the Flyinstead got a dark, Gothic, perverse meditation on deformity. The Delambre family name is still here along with dubious scientific experiments, but the "fly" connection is otherwise chucked out the window. Thankfully, at least for viewers with open minds, the result is the eeriest and most poetic installment in the '60s cycle, even if Vincent Price and the titular insect are nowhere in sight. Here's a simple test: if you can get on board with Halloween III: Season of the Witch and Curse of the Cat People, this will be right up your alley.

In the eerie opening, lovely brunette Patricia (Island of Terror's Gray) escapes from a desolate Canadian mental institution under cover of darkness by smashing a window and skulking out clad only in her underwear. She winds up hitching a ride with Martin Delambre (Baker), who pinches a nightgown to restore her modesty. They hit it off and promptly get married, with the understanding that neither of them talk about their past; while Patricia thinks she's got a doozy of a secret, that's nothing compared to what's lurking at the Delambre estate. Martin's father, Henri (Quatermass 2's Donlevy), is still carrying on the family's teleportation experiments (and even beams himself to London from time to time), while Martin's brother, Albert (Graham), shares his sibling's lack of enthusiasm for these dangerous experiments. No one seems too thrilled with the recent marriage, perhaps because Martin apparently had a previous wife, Judith (Manson) -- whose connection to the hideous monstrosities secreted away within and behind the house will soon become all too horribly clear.

Completely different in flavor from its predecessors, Curse of the Fly boasts a number of efficient shocks, some gruesome make-up effects, and wonderfully atmospheric direction by the always-interesting Don Sharp, whose previous Hammer experience with Kiss of the Vampire and the simultaneous Fu Manchu films comes into play quite a bit here. All of the potent gothic conventions are crammed in Curse of the Flyhere: mad scientists, a disfigured first wife lurking about the estate, deformed hands clutching from secret Curse of the Flypassageways, two sinister servants (Yvette Rees and Kato himself, Burt Kwouk) who know more than they're telling, and a wild climax that doles out an exceptionally nasty fate to nearly everyone in the script. Composer Bert Shefter (the only big carryover from the previous Fly film) also offers an effective score, which ranges from the lyrical opening credits to some genuinely nerve-fraying atonal passages.

Despite the hopeful end title card which proclaims "Is this the end?," Curse of the Fly's lackluster box office performance ensured that most viewers would only encounter it for decades via substandard TV screenings which butchered its careful CinemaScope compositions; it never even merited a release during the VHS era. Fortunately this oversight was first rectified with a beautiful transfer courtesy of Fox Australia on DVD, with the nuanced monochromatic imagery has never looked better and should go a long way to winning over new fans. The film went on to make its Blu-ray bow from Australia as well, albeit with only the trailer as an extra; the Scream Factory edition sweetens the deal quite a bit, starting with a new Haberman-Nasr commentary. Clearly not fans of the second film, they make a strong case for this third entry as a fascinating and underrated contribution with insight into the film's unusual story approach, more about Lippert, the significance of Donlevy's casting, and the history of the scripting and production. A new interview with actress Mary Manson (7m38s), who plays Judith Delambre, chatting about how she ended up in this "very odd" role with quite a bit of protracted makeup work involved. A second interview with Renee Glynee (5m22s), who did continuity on the film, touches on her work here just after ditching Hammer and reuniting with Donlevy here. The trailer, TV spot, and a still gallery are also included.

After laying dormant for a very long time, The Fly returned with a vengeance as the second U.S. studio production for writer-director David Cronenberg (following 1983's The Dead Zone). The end result was a major hit and a big surprise for moviegoers, putting this in the same ranks as John Carpenter's The Thing and Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers among the top tier of revisits to '50s genre classics. In addition to spawning an immortal Curse of the Flycatchphrase with "Be afraid; be very afraid," it brought Cronenberg's body horror approach to the masses like never before and paved the way for his next foray into medical horror, Dead Ringers. The film also introduced a strong love story for the first time in his filmography, an aspect that ended up defining the direction Curse of the Flyof the film in its final cut with some of the more grotesque inessential elements falling by the wayside.

When scientific journalist Ronnie Quaife (Davis) meets oddball scientist Seth Brundle (Goldblum) at a media conference, the two hit it off thanks to their mutual attraction and her curiosity about his claims of a scientific breakthrough. As she soon finds out, he has developed telepods that can transmit matter from one location to another; however, he's having difficulty in using it on organic material with everything from steak to living creatures posing a challenge. Once he cracks the riddle, he decides to test the device out on himself with consequences quite a bit different from what audiences had experienced before.

The release of this film in '86 and its warm critical reception led to many attempts to read deeper significance into the story, most frequently as an AIDS metaphor given the plague sweeping the world at the time. However one chooses to read it, the script by Cronenberg and Charles Edward Pogue (whose own draft differs quite a bit) works beautifully with a strong emphasis on the humanity at its core all the way to the very downbeat, tragic climax. David and Goldblum (a real item at the time) have excellent chemistry together, and the creative freedom involved can be largely attributed to this being under the auspices of Mel Brooks' production company, Brooksfilms, which had scored big with David Lynch's thematically similar The Elephant Man.

Not surprisingly, this film has gotten the most elaborate treatment on home video out of the entire cycle over the years since its first DVD special edition, which was outfitted with a typically excellent Cronenberg audio commentary, a massive and very rewarding multi-part "Fear of the Flesh" documentary (19m55s, 82m32s, 33m39s, and additional interviews tallying 26m45s) with just about every participant and a wealth of behind-the-scenes material, and "The Brundle Museum of Natural History" (11m51s) with makeup effects legend Chris Walas walking through the film's concoctions (both used and unused) now housed at the home of Bob Burns. Quite a bit of valuable discarded footage is included as well: a second interview with Brundle (1m44s), the infamous deleted monkey-cat sequence (6m459s) along with its storyboard and script forms, a scripted attack on a bag lady, and the "butterfly baby" alternate ending (2m27s) understandably abandoned after a test Curse of the Flyscreening. Two extended scenes ("reconciliation" and "the poetry of the steak") are also added along with five film tests (opening titles, pod lighting and effects, Brundlefly makeup, exploding space Curse of the Flybug, and Cronenfly), a trivia track option, and various step-through text supplements: the original George Langelan short story, Pogue's original screenplay, the Cronenberg rewrite, a CineFX article ("The Fly Papers"), and two American Cinematographer articles ("New Buzz on an Old Theme," "More about The Fly"). After that, how about three TV spots, a teaser, a trailer, the original EPK featurette (6m58s) and Cronenberg profile (4m21s), and multiple still galleries (posters and lobby cards, publicity, behind the scenes, concept art, monkey-cat, space bug, arm wrestling, and makeup). All of that is present and accounted for on the Scream Factory disc as well, which shares the same excellent HD transfer complete with 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD English tracks (with optional English subtitles, as with the other discs in the set) which both feature an active, enveloping mix that works about the same with either option. However, you also get six major new extras as well including an audio commentary by author and film historian William Beard, Among the five new featurettes, don't miss the great "The Meshuggener Scientist" (13m26s) with Mel Brooks himself chatting about his affinity for some horror films (Frankenstein in particular, no surprise), his amusing big issue with the original film, and the reason he was adamant about casting Goldblum (whose piano skills came in handy as well). In "Beauty and the Beast" (22m49s), producer Stuart Cornfeld explains how his own love of romantic horror stories impacted his approach to this film and the way he brought the property to Brooks via Pogue's original script. Then an untitled piece with casting director Deirdre Bowen (14m37s) touches on her work putting together the cast just after having a baby and getting the script from Cronenberg, while the thorough "David's Eyes" (25m24s) catches up with regular Cronenberg cinematographer Mark Irwin to discuss their own artistic method of communication and his entry into the film business in Canada that led to much bigger things. Finally, "A Tragic Opera" (9m16s) features Cronenberg's composer of choice, Howard Shore, speaking (with a strong echo) about the approach they take together and the impact his then-recent binging on Italian opera trickled into his grandiose approach to this score. (Of course, this film in turn wound up being turned into a real opera by Shore and Cronenberg in 2008.) Keep an eye out for two Easter eggs, too, which have been around since the DVD. Interestingly, no release of this film even acknowledges the Bryan Ferry song recorded for it or its tie-in music video.

The Fly IIOf course, The Fly IIhistory repeated itself with an inevitable sequel soon following and revolving around the son of the original film's unlucky scientist. This time Eric Stoltz takes the lead as Martin, the son of Seth and Ronnie (who dies in childbirth) who appears to be a normal human being despite a highly unusual entry into the world. However, he ages both physically and mentally at an accelerated rate while being raised by Bartok (Richardson), the financier behind the Brundle project. Now appearing as an adult despite his age, Martin befriends one of the facility's employees, Beth (Zuniga), only to discover that Bartok has a much darker plan in mind involving the telepods and a scheme to profit from Martin's own unusual genetic makeup.

Critics were less than kind to this film when it opened, unfavorably compared it to Cronenberg for its failure to grapple with similar philosophical issues or etch its characters with the same amount of depth. That's true, obviously, but this one doesn't even really aim for that goal; instead it's a pulpy, fast-paced B-movie at heart that ultimately plays more like a feature-length episode of Tales from the Crypt right down to the macabre poetic justice of its final shot. Walas took directorial reins here for the first time in his career (the same year he helmed a Crypt episode, appropriately enough), though he would only go onto direct one more feature, the nutty dark comedy/horror hybrid The Vagrant. Christopher Young also delivers a typically top-notch score here in his fun modernist mode with lots of wild experimentation and even some Bela Bartok influence, which is jokingly referred to in one of his track titles. In short, divorced from the lofty expectations of its predecessor, this is an entertaining little popcorn monster movie that delivers the gooey goods where it counts as long as you keep your expectations in check.

This one also got the special edition DVD treatment from Fox including a very production-oriented audio commentary with Walas and Burns with lots of tales about the technical aspects and locations, a gargantuan video interview with Walas (80m19s), an interview with producer Steven-Charles Jaffe (35m16s) about the path to getting this one made among multiple concepts for a sequel, and a "Transformations: Looking Back at The Fly II" featurette (48m31s) with the director and producer talking at additional length about the film (complete with lots of VHS-shot production footage). On top of that the disc also has a Leonard Nimoy-narrated overview of the series called "The Fly Papers: The The Fly IIBuzz on Hollywood's Scariest Insect" (57m38s) for AMC, a video film production journal (18m4s) of raw behind-the-scenes footage, a "Composer's Master The Fly IIClass" (12m42s) with Young in his studio, a storyboard to film comparison (6m59s) with optional Walas commentary, the original EPK (5m10s), and extended EPK interviews with Walas (2m41s), Stoltz (3m35s), and Zuniga (3m31s). A goofy deleted scene (1m28s) at a burger join shows Martin getting even with some obnoxious kids, followed by a less satisfying alternate ending (1m10s), a teaser, the theatrical trailer, and galleries for stills and storyboards. All of that is present on the Scream Factory disc, which also adds six new featurettes in the process. Cornfeld returns for "Fly in the Ointment" (8m12s) to chat about the road to getting this film made without the involvement of most of the original participants, while "Original Visions" (14m6s) features screenwriter Mick Garris (one of four on the film, also including Frank Darabont) recalling how he ended up on this film thanks to his Steven Spielberg connection and became part of a series he (partially) admired. He also goes into some of the differences in the version he prepared, including more of a focus on the "Brundlechild" and his abilities. One of the other screenwriters, Ken Wheat, turns up for "Version 2.0" (22m13s), explaining how he and his brother Jim came on this project after Silent Scream and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor with their genre expertise coming in handy after aborted plans to work on earlier iterations of Fright Night II and Apt Pupil. An untitled interview with cinematographer Robin Vidgeon (15m20s) goes into the look of the film achieved via the choice of film stock and the decision to fill the film with sunlight, with the experience in some ways echoing his earlier gig with first-time director Clive Barker on Hellraiser. A new interview with Young, "Big and Gothic" (18m34s), catches up with the composer noting how his good timing going into UCLA led to his career starting off with New World and featuring a number of key genre films including this huge orchestral assignment after finding the right gateway through Roger Corman projects. He also notes his favorite track from the score and notes a fun little in-joke in the soundtrack sequencing. (Dig the choice of T-shirt here, too.) Finally, special effects artist Tom Sullivan appears in the last of the punny-titled featurettes, "Pretty Fly for a Fly Guy" (17m45s), explaining how he came on this film just after a terrible personal tragedy and approached this film with gusto after admiring the Cronenberg film. Again the image quality here is excellent and true to the look of the theatrical presentation (very colorful and kind of gritty), with DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 options really showing off the music in all its thunderous glory.

Reviewed on January 18, 2020.