Archive for The Fly


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 7, 2011 by dcairns

Max has his ass watered.

Over at The Daily Notebook, this week’s edition of The Forgotten casts a sympathetic eye over unfunny ethnic comedian Max Davidson, captured at the height of his limited powers in an excellent DVD double-disc edition from Filmmuseum Munchen. It’s amazing how affectionate I can get about a guy who’s basically about as funny as fibreglass.

Meanwhile, at Limerwrecks, THE FLY gets another ode in its honour.

When you’re feeling fly-blown and flea-bitten,

By the muse you get suddenly smitten,

A lim’rick or haiku,

Whatever may strike you,

Some doggerel has to be written.

The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Fifth

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 4, 2011 by dcairns

It’s Monday, which means it’s time once again for me to court your baffled silence with another enthralling episode of my inexplicably unproduced screenplay, THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF. This week’s edition features a heavy nod in the direction of Lindsay Anderson’s IF… as we meet a man in a filing cabinet. A friend who read the thing entire asked if perhaps I was breaking one of the unwritten laws of comedy by making the straight characters as silly as the surreal ones. He was probably right, but who wants to write a scene with Zeppo Marx and Bud Abbot? 

For those not in tune with popular movements in modern screenwriting, I have another “poetic” contribution to the Vincentennial over at Limerwrecks. Topic: THE FLY, as fitting a subject for five-line doggerel as any I can think of.


So — last we saw, Edinburgh’s police exhibit/archive The Blue Museum had been vandalized by a master-criminal freshly escaped from the nineteenth century: policeman mannequins dressed in tacky lingerie. Sheena McQueen, cop reject, has stolen a file on this miscreant, and her cat, Edward Woodward, has been savagely blacked up as a result. Sheena has left said cat in the care of Howie, human exhibit at Edinburgh Zoo, and alerted Detective Inspector Turner of the Lothian and Borders Police to these unruly shenanigans. Clear? Now read on…


Sheena peels the lingerie from a Victorian bobby –


Victoria’s Secret Police.

Tring! DI. Turner and PC. Thrower enter. Turner nods briskly to Sheena but doesn’t stop – both men proceed to the back of the museum.

Sheena moves towards the rear of the museum.


Ah, DI. Turner. All is in readiness. Descend with me to the Files Room.


Sheena sidles in just as Netherbow, Turner and the constable disappear below stairs. Sheena creeps to the top of the stairs and crouches to watch.


Howie sits in his cage facing Edward Woodward the cat. Edward Woodward is still in blackface. Howie has a banjo. Edward Woodward has a banjo.

Duelling banjos!

Howie plays the first part of the tune.

Edward Woodward stares at him mutely. For a long time.

Howie plays the third part of the tune.

Edward Woodward stares some more.


There’s no keeping up with you.


Sheena watches from the top of the stairs.


Still no sign of the If File?

Sheena looks guilty.


I’ve turned the place upside out, Detective Inspector. I can’t conceive of what –


The business at hand, then.

Netherbow goes to a filing cabinet and opens a long drawer.

Inside, morgue-style, is Inspector Rathbone Shinty, still dressed in the height of Victorian fashion. He is adorned with cobwebs.

Sheena jolts in astonishment.


Inspector Rathbone Shinty. A hundred and fifty years old. Is it possible he can tell us anything?


He was mesmerized at the instant of death. He ought still to have all his faculties.

Sheena looks dumbfounded.

Turner leans very close to the dusty inspector, clears his throat, and then yells in the cadaver’s ear.



Shinty’s mouth opens and a long-legged spider crawls out.

Then a musty gasp exhales. Shinty stirs slightly. His skin makes a sound like dead leaves.

A voice, distant and desiccated, wafts from the cracked and barely mobile lips.


So If has returned… I knew he would.




Mr. If is attempting to become… unreal. But has only half-succeeded. As a semi-real person, he has… unspeakable power. Should he become completely… unreal, he might… start a chain reaction which would… unravel the universe. Fact and fiction would… blur, and the world might well… come to an end… of some sort. He must be stopped. Stopped.

And with that, Shinty’s face caves in. His suit crumples. His hands twitch and flake.



The strain was too great.

Thrower doffs his cap. Netherbow clasps his tit theatrically.


Break, break, oh heart!

Sheena, transfixed, comes to her senses and finds herself leaning dangerously far forward at the top of the stairs.

Turner, Netherbow and the constable pivot in surprise at a loud CLATTER.

Sheena slides down the last few stairs on her belly, reaches the bottom, and looks up.




A silhouetted Mr. If, in opera cape, surveys the cityscape.


Soon, soon, my pretty world. Nothing was, and nothing will be again.

He reaches out as if to touch a distant street… a car drives up it and If brings his fingers together as if to pinch the apparently tiny vehicle.

He moves his hand to his lips, clutching a tiny car. Muffled screams and honking as he delicately chews the miniature motor.


Mmm, the 1982 Datsun. A very good year.

FREEZE FRAME on his evilness.

Will Sheena get her stripes? Will Howie change his spots? Will Mr. If eat the universe? Tune in next time, or you may suffer baldness and stammering. Good evening.

Insect Asides

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2010 by dcairns

THE RETURN OF THE FLY — I thought maybe I’d seen this, but when I stuck it in the Panasonic and was surprised to find it was in b&w, I knew I hadn’t. And since it appears in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, and since I’m sworn to see every film illustrated in that green-tinged tome, I had to see Edward Bernds’s sequel.

We begin at a funeral, and I assume this to be that of the protag from Film 1. “He died as he lived, with a massive insect head on his shoulders…” I imagine a coffin with a massive bulbous bit at one end, and another tiny coffin next to it, for the “help me” fly-guy. But no! This is the funeral of Mrs Fly, who died of grief some years later. Now her adult son has returned to continue dad’s work in teleportation, rather like Eric Stoltz in THE FLY II.

Again the setting is, pointlessly, Montreal (or is there an assumption that if you lived in Montreal you’d HAVE to invent the telepod just to get out?). Again, Vincent Price is on hand as a gloomy best friend, rather a waste of his horror movie talents, but Uncle Winnie is always welcome. Here, he has to explain how Mr Fly Snr wound up with a fly’s head and arm (arm?). I have to admit I’m curious about how this will play out — he can’t just get ANOTHER arthropod in his telepod, and ANOTHER fly head stuck on his neck, can he? And yet, if a fly isn’t involved somehow, it’s rather a cheat on the title, isn’t it?

Whizzkid Brett Halsey has a morbid horror of houseflies, we soon learn, which is reasonable enough considering his family history. Soon he’s disintegrating rats and leaving them whirling about as disembodied molecular streams overnight, but his lab assistant, a shifty Cary Elwes type Englishman, is plotting to con him out of his invention. At this point, I start to hope we’re going to get a human-rat fusion, and when an unwelcome snooper gets disintegrated and then reintegrated, we do!

Horror upon horror!

What director Bernds lacks in vowels, he makes up for in truly fucked-up imagery. I think I’m in love.

Disgusted with his new-born rodent detective, the proto-Elwes disposes of the man-handed rodent by stamping savagely upon its little furry torso (and we actually see it BULGE beneath the pressure!), but the dead detective with the giant joke-shop paws can’t be gotten rid of so easily. Bundling the furry-fisted flic into the trunk of a gigantic finned monstermobile, he arranges the proverbial watery grave for both man and Merc’.

But! What seems like mere seconds later, wunderkind Brett Halsey (a no-name actor who literally HAS no name, just a series of random syllables) is roundly pummeling the bad guy — only to get knocked unconscious and placed in the transportation booth. Adding bio-insult to injury, the villain deliberately picks a fly out of the sugar bowl and casts it into the booth with young Halsey, consigning the pair to a conjoined future. Poor Halsey, hoist by his own telepetard.

The bad guy flees, shooting Uncle Winnie in the nearest spleen, and then the cops arrive and start shooting at Halsey-fly, who runs away into the grounds, catching his vast head on overhanging branches. Perhaps as a side-effect of having a fly’s leg, he runs like a man carrying an Olympic torch clenched between his buttocks. The sight of the fly-headed man clambering over a low fence is inexplicably hilarious (inexplicable that it should be any funnier than him just walking).

Meanwhile, a housefly with the head of Brett Halsey is buzzing about, going “Help me!” Why do man-headed flies always say that? Maybe, like Roald Dahl’s vermicious knids, they only know how to say one thing. More importantly, why have I never seen this film before? It’s like THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE made by a talented director who cares, rather than a fast-fading Roy Del Ruth, staving off extinction by perambulating a muppet through a mock-up everglade. And yet it’s exactly as bad as THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE. Which is amazing! Orson Welles was right — it has no limitations!

The human-head is represented at first by what looks like a real fly wearing a tiny Don Post Studios mask, then by a cheap superimposition, with a translucent Halsey visage shimmering where a set of mandibles ought to be. Either approach is aces with me, as long as he gets more to do than cry “Help me!” in a Mickey Mouse falsetto.

OK, so now fly-head is off on a mad quest for vengeance against people who, as a transplanted insect, he has no possible knowledge of, gamely maneuvering his space-hopper cranium through doorways, clanging it against metallic ceiling lamps, and pincering everyone in his path. Bernds’ script, hitherto a model of Holmesian logic, now falls at the hurdle of imagining “the murderous thoughts of a fly.” Not only is he attacking his body’s enemies, he knows how to open doors, something I never saw a fly do. Fiona suggests maybe flybody and flyhead are each sharing one hemisphere of the scientist’s brain, and this is slightly borne out by the romantic interest the big fellow shows in nubile Danielle de Metz. I never saw a fly do that, either. Yet the good guys still hope to persuade him back into the pod so his various bits can be jumbled back together.

In one way, fly-guy shouldn’t be funny at all — with his outsized head, big hand and misshapen, dragging foot, he has the proportions of John Merrick. But the filmmakers seem somewhat sensible to his comedy potential — time and again his physical awkwardness is highlighted, as when he has to nudge his big clawed foot to get it over a bannister he’s climbing, or when his enormous head gets caught in some net curtains. Throughout his bug-eyed ordeal, he remains neatly dressed in a natty suit, an unbuttoned collar his only concession to comfort (I can imagine Groucho’s response: “A trained scientist, running around open at the neck? With a fly’s head? The idea!”) At times, the effect puts me in mind of the late Frank Sidebottom.

Bernds eschews the multi-faceted fly-eye POV shots which are a principle distinguishing touch in Kurt Neumann’s original, presumably considering such playfulness beneath his dignity. Have another look at that guinea pig and see if you think his concern is justified.

A happy ending! Even for the fly! Next came CURSE OF THE FLY, which I saw ages ago. British-made, it has a really striking opening with a woman smashing through a window and running in slomo through the woods… and then it gets a bit dull. Dependable journeyman Don Sharp directed, Brian “Quatermass” Donlevy plays another member of the ill-starred Delambre family of scientists, and the movie was British-made.

I should investigate the world of ’50s Twentieth Century Fox sci-fi horror — there does seem to be an interesting, crazed camp sensibility going on. Meanwhile, I can’t leave the subject without a nod to MANT! ~

From MANT! directed by the fictitious Laurence Woolsey, from MATINEE, directed by the factual Joe Dante.