FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Apart from being a black and white sequel to a color film (good to know FOX disrespected their franchises even back in the 50s), the most surprising thing about Return Of The Fly was discovering how much of 1989’s The Fly II took from this film. I always assumed the two sequels were nothing alike (like the two Halloween IIs), as they were sequels to films that had their own identity and thus would branch even further apart, but this was oddly quite similar.
For starters, both films follow the son of the original “Fly” following the death of his mother. The circumstances are different (well, storywise anyway; in both cases it probably had more to do with the availability of the actress playing the mom), but it’s interesting here because the sole returning cast member from the first Fly is Vincent Price, who I would think they would want to pit as a mad scientist. Instead he once again takes a backseat as his nephew meddles, gets in over his head, and is turned into a man fly, much like Price’s brother in the first film. In fact he has even LESS to do here; while he got to at least play a bit of a hero in the first film, here he gets shot around halfway through and spends most of the rest of the movie lying in a hospital bed. I love Price, but they give him nothing to work with here. Interestingly, according to the IMDb trivia, he agreed to do the film based on the first draft of the script, which was then heavily rewritten, losing the things that appealed to him. I don’t doubt it; I can’t imagine he’d be excited about anything in this finished film.
Another similarity is that (spoiler!) this time it has a happy ending. Like in the other film (by the way, I’m only comparing because I assume most of you folks have seen that one but not this one, or like me saw the 1989 one first – if you saw them in order then this probably doesn’t interest you in the slightest and I apologize), our Fly-man is successfully reversed at the end. As far as I’m concerned this sort of thing would just fuck them up even MORE, but what do I know about fictional movie science? It takes a while for him to become Fly-man, and he only has two guys to go after (the sequel added in random guards to up the body count), so there’s not a hell of a lot of action here, but at least it ends happily for our young lovers. But not the poor housefly; the look it gets at the end from one of the other characters makes it pretty clear it’s about 2 seconds away from being smushed with a newspaper, as if it was HIS fault that this stuff happened.
Hell it even has a horrifying animal scene! While few scenes in movie history are as gut-wrenching as Fly II’s “dog”, this one has a bit with a guinea pig that is pretty disturbing. A guy is mixed with the poor thing, and he sports giant paw-arms while the rodent has human hands. One of the villains steps on it, and it just squeals and howls for like 20 seconds straight until he finally opts for something a bit heavier than his foot to finish the job. It’s the only bit of action in the first 50 minutes though, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
Needless to say, it’s not really a great followup. It’s enjoyable enough, but it’s obvious that they didn’t have the dough to do much, and thus drag their heels and contain the characters into the same sets from the first movie for the most part. It’s basically a few flashback sequences shy of being the Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 of its day, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. And I could forgive the cheapness if they at least took advantage of the fact that it's a sequel, but the pacing actually feels SLOWER than the original film, which is just totally against sequel "law".
On the other hand, at least there’s a body count. No one really died in the first; the fact that a few folks die here is pretty much the only instance of the sequel kicking things up a notch. The makeup is also fun (read: kind of goofy, but charmingly so), and since the cat is out of the bag he doesn’t feel the need to hide it this time around. Hell, I’d even argue that the B&W film stock is not really a detriment; sure it was done for budget reasons, but since most of the other 50s mad science/monster movies were B&W, it feels a bit more natural.
Basically it’s a great “double feature” sequel, which is probably why it’s on the same disc instead of on its own release. There’s little need to watch it on its own, but if you’re watching the original and have the time, or if you’re a repertory theater and can’t afford the Cronenberg remake, this is a perfectly acceptable 2nd feature, for those die-hards that want to stick around for another 90 minutes. Same as the 1989 one, really.
What say you?
P.S. Hopefully it won’t take me another 2+ years to get around to seeing Curse Of The Fly!