Camp David


By • Jul 1st, 2007 • Pages: 1 2 3

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Among the handful of those unforgettable utterly surreal moments to be found in modern cinema, one particular sequence has been absorbed instantly into Pop Culture. This film was produced at the height of the science fiction craze of the 1950’s, and the sequence I am referring to occurs during those final screen moments in the life of scientist Andre Delambre, whose head and left arm are fantastically reduced and attached to a common house fly. The mutant insect is fatally caught in a spider’s web while elsewhere his human body is saddled with the head and arm of said house fly enlarged to human size, creating a tragic half-human creature trapped in the lab where this horror was accidentally created in Kurt Neumann’s production of the 1958 sci-fi horror thriller THE FLY. Now for this scenario to work one must simply suspend all logic as to why the heads of the fly and the scientist change size so drastically on each other’s torsos, not to mention why the scientist is still thinking with a human brain while the human head on the fly can still find the will to speak those terrifying last words “Help Me…!”

This now justly infamous “spider web” sequence where Andre’s head and arm rest on the body of a tiny house fly enduring the unbearable agony of entrapment, screaming for its life in a voice so small it almost cannot be heard by the human ear, all the while a very large spider advances closer to its prey. Anyone who has seen this film can never forget this moment and, regardless of how silly the premise, the sheer nightmare quality of this situation will haunt your dreams forever.

20th Century Fox has decided to release for Halloween this year a boxed set of the three films that make up the saga of the Delambre family and their obsessive quest for scientific knowledge in the “wild Country” of teleportation of matter. The first two films feature Vincent Price, while the third replaces him with Brian Donlevy. THE FLY, RETURN OF THE FLY and CURSE OF THE FLY are all in Cinemascope with only the first film being in color, with a decent budget and production values the others must do without. Having said that, all three films possess their own unique charms, and a large host of admirers in this ever unpredictable genre of cult cinema, so this forthcoming release should please those people out there in the dark who just cannot get those two words out of their minds.

My involvement with this project came about early last month when a gentleman named Roger De Siva asked for a copy of my DVD “VINCENT PRICE – THE SINISTER IMAGE” to screen over at Fox as a possible supplement for the boxed set. While this was going on, I was asked to participate in their documentary regarding the three films and, later, on a very different one regarding Vincent Price for another boxed set of just Price films from the MGM/UA library. After nearly a month of trading emails and phone calls, the powers that be in development informed me that Fox could not include my interview because Price and I discuss too many films that are not made by 20th Century Fox. Well all I can say is it that is their loss, as well as that of the fans who might have enjoyed hearing about the career and films of Vincent Price from the master himself.

The good news from all this is that while I was waiting to see what was going to be included in this project, I was invited to conduct the audio commentary with the “fly” himself, actor David Hedison, for the newly remastered DVD of THE FLY.

I had met him a few years before at an autograph show in Beverly Garland’s wonderful hideaway hotel in the valley. Mr. Hedison is still a distinguished looking man with a finely cropped beard. He appears tanned and silver haired, the very picture of health.

We recorded our conversation on a Friday afternoon at a lively audio house in Hollywood known as MARGARITA MIX, aptly named for they indeed do mix a fine libation after the fact, in an atmosphere of relaxation with great show-biz vibes in abundance. We even ran into David Duchovny in the next booth, obviously doing an audio commentary himself.

David Hedison was in fine form for the duration of the taping which took us nearly three hours. He had not seen the film for years so it was a fresh approach for him and he had fun with it. It was interesting to watch him look at himself as he appeared on film half a century ago.

Most of the cast and crew long gone, he still regretted the fact that the producers would not allow him to do a progressive make-up, gradually turning into a fly, which would have been even more horrific, not to mention a real acting challenge. To this day he still cannot forgive the producers for speeding up his voice on the soundtrack during the web sequence, making him sound more like a chipmunk than a man. He played his part in and out of make-up, even when his head was covered in a black cloth.

I especially loved the moment where David cried out “That is not my hand typing that letter; it is the director, Kurt Neumann” The commentary is never dull and we had a ball watching this underrated sci fi classic of the fifties unwind in front of us. All we needed to make it totally wild would have been those little robots from the Mystery Science 2000 series on hand to add their ad libs as well.

A few days later a package arrived at my office with a signed photo of David in full make-up, which had an inscription that of course ended with the essential “help me” after the signature. So, in this writer’s humble opinion, whether David Hedison is at the bottom of the sea or trapped in a spiders web, this guy is ALWAYS tops in his field in my book.

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  1. […] Uncle Ernie in TOMMY, that is! I have already penned a memoir about those times entitiled “The Bitter Tears of Count Yorga” in the July 2007 installment of my monthly column Camp David over at Films in Review, but I […]

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