Written by: Don Sharp
Directed by: Harry Spalding
Starring: Brian Donlevy, George Baker and Carole Gray
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Piece by piece...atom by atom...humans invisibly transported through time and space!
Curse of the Fly is one of those frustrating movies that youíre not quite sure how to take. Itís not a bad little sci-fi yarn, but, as a film in The Fly series, itís pretty terrible on two fronts; for one thing, it wreaks havoc with the seriesí continuity. Not only does it disregard the second film, but it also retcons the events of the first film in a wholly unnecessary manner. And on top of that, thereís not even a giant fly in this one! Instead, Curse presents a story thatís only marginally connected to the previous films, so much so that this just feels like some weird, alternate universe follow-up that ultimately serves as the odd one out in the entire Fly legacy.
The only connection it has to The Fly is the ever-cursed Delambre family, still reeling from the effects of the events of the original film (sort of) that happened a few decades ago. Henri Delambre (rather than Phillipe) is now presented as the son of Andre, and heís now an old man with a couple of sons of his own. Together, theyíve refined their forbearerís teleportation device, as they can now teleport materials across the Atlantic; however, both of the boys have grown weary of the family business--the younger Albert has recently fallen in love, and his brother Martin happens to literally run into a girl (Carole Gray) one night on his way home. Theyíre soon married, but the honeymoon is short-lived because Martin (like his father) has inherited a genetic curse from his grandfather, plus he and his father are hiding a sordid past thatís lined with failed experiments.
Your level of cynicism may determine how you approach Curse of the Fly. Given what we know of cash-grabbing studio executives, itís easy to look at this as just that: a cash grab that saw Fox dust off a well-known property and apply its title on an entirely different script they had lying around. With the exception of the Delambre name, the teleportation device, and a requisite mid-movie exposition dump, thereís little to connect it with The Fly series. Or you can look at it as an oddball second sequel thatís striving to do something a little different within the confines of the series; after all, Return of the Fly was a rather different beast from its predecessor since it twisted its central concept into a straight monster-on-a-rampage movie. If Return was that, then Curse is reminiscent of one of those classic old-dark-house movies with a dash of dark romance; itís sort of like The Uninvited, Rebecca, and The Island of Doctor Moreau got into the teleportation machine and got their DNA all jumbled up.
The result is a little uneven, but it mostly works, particularly because the story just keeps unraveling and spooling out to reveal more secrets; we know that Martin and his father have some kind of affliction and those failed experiments, but the depth of both of these is revealed as the film burns on. We catch glimpses of their own deformities, plus those of the hideous, malformed creatures theyíve hidden away in their weird mansion, which is also stalked by a couple of bizarre Asian housekeepers. The identity of one of these malformed people (portrayed by Mary Manson) eventually oils the plot and provides the central drama for the film, which is a tad listless beforehand. Curse ends up being about an ill-fated romance thatís bucked by tragedy on both sides since Martinís new bride has some secrets of her own. When he meets her, sheís actually running around in her undergarments in the middle of the night, having escaped a mental asylum.
What doesnít work here is how these characters are arranged, as it can never quite settle on who the victim is. Both Martin and his father are of course treated as tragically ambitious scientists warned against playing God, but Grayís character is the true victim that spends most of the time bed-ridden and being driven out of her mind. And this is not to mention how Manson is also stalking the grounds and threatening to foil everyone involved. Siding with her and Gray is easy enough, but this bunch of Delambres is the most unsympathetic of any presented in The Fly series. This obviously flies in the face of what the series had established up until this point since the previous films firmly presented the Delambre men as being well-intentioned-but-overreaching scientists; here, though, they fall just short of being outright villains, particularly Henri with his ďends justify the meansĒ mentality, even if it results in the deaths of a few people here and there. Most odd is how Martin and Henri should be much more sympathetic; after all, they inherited the titular curse from Andre, so they were literally born into this.
Thereís still a few other things to like about Curse, such as its lush black and white Cinemascope photography and its quaint, shadowy sets. Its performances are all adequate enough too, even if you do really find yourself missing Vincent Price. In the end,, though, it falls under the category of being a pretty decent standalone film that just happens to be a bad entry in its series; horror fans who have grown up with franchises are used to continuity errors, but you can drive trucks through the ones presented here. In fact, youíre probably just better off considering it as a non-canon movie; otherwise, nothing that you saw in the previous two films really mattered. All of this perhaps explains why Curse of the Fly was largely unseen for 40 years; for whatever reason, it was never released to VHS or Laserdisc like the first two films, so it languished in obscurity, and I hope no fans mythologized it too much since itís merely pretty good at best. Fox finally packaged it as part of The Fly Collection about five years ago, where it was properly restored and given a decent presentation--the anamorphic transfer is a little soft with some murky black levels, but itís altogether fine. Its sparse extras are housed on the collectionís fourth disc, and thereís only some promo material for Curse. Any enthusiast of this series will of course own that collection, but this final film in the trilogy (which retroactively turns it into a two-part series) is likely the one youíll watch once and then ignore. Rent it!
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