After The Fly gave us yet another, classic reason not to dick around with science, it was inevitable that someone was gonna come along and give things another go despite the obvious pitfalls that exist. Now, while I’m obviously chatting about the characters within the film who should really know better than to stick their pinky toe into the great unknown realms of screwing with the natural order, l could just as easily be referring to the filmmakers who decided to carry on with a story that initially seemed incredibly open and shut.
However, despite all the pitfalls that comes with making a sequel that kind of does a disservice to the original by existing in the first place, Return Of The Fly ends up being a suprisingly fun, if predictably unnecessary romp that ends up being way more camp than classic.
Phillippe Delambre, the now-grown son of the original Fly boy has had to wrestle with his family’s legacy in the years since his father’s “suicide” by pneumatic press, but after his mother’s funeral he finally presses his uncle Francois on the real truth behind what actually happened all those years ago.
Now I don’t know what Phillippe was expecting to hear but the news that his dear old dad accidentally used his teleporter invention to swap his head and arm with a common house fly to create a Diptera Whatthefuckius and eventually enlist his wife to aid him terminate his life when a cure can’t be found, doesn’t seem to phase him all that much and instead demands to see his father’s old laboratory.
His anxiety levels rising to that of a typical Vincent Price good-guy performance, Francois relents but refuses to bankroll or aid Phillippe in any way when the determined young man decides he wants to follow in his father’s fly-steps, but he does agree to keep a watchful eye over the whole endeavor – which he immediately botches when the driven scientist hires a notorious industrial spy by the name of Alan Hinds (aka Roland Holmes). Somehow not being exposed by the fact that he has not only an english accent but a pencil moustache to boot (surely a dead giveaway), “Alan” vows to sell the plans for the teleporter to the highest bidder and even uses it to impressively and disturbingly fuck up an agent on his tail.
Inevitably, Hinds/Holmes turns his attentions on the unsuspecting Phillippe, knocking him out and sticking him in the transporter with a house fly out of sheer spite (the man really is a massive turd), but what staggers out of the machine afterward may prove to be the gruesome downfall of everyone involved as Delambre is forced to relive his father’s mistakes in the worst way imaginable.
While the idea of banging out a quickie sequel to a legitimate classic may initially seem as tacky as fly paper, Return Of The Fly turns out to be a suprisingly fun example of tongue in cheek hokum that does away with the original’s musings about the dangers of pushing science too hard and just dives right in with a monster movie with heavy spy thriller overtones.
The shuffling into the spot light of the orginal lead’s son to literally take up his father’s buggy mantle may be A to B plotting at its most lazy, but it’s also streamlined and instantly explains why a man would ignore such obvious dangers to prove a point and the addition of the marvelously caddish Roland Holmes adds a new dimension as to why human beings continually manage to totally screw up everything they get their hands on. Once again, Vincent Price’s job is to look as worried as he can while things turn spectacularly to fly-shit all around him but at least he gets to play a more integral role this time around instead of just being told a story although it does mean he has to get shot a bit…
However, the best thing about Return Of The Fly is how it takes its 50’s monster movie plot and then decides to go as ghoulish with it as it possibly can with results that literally veer between genuinely creepy and utterly hilarious. Take Roland’s disposal of the snooping British agent on his tale as he teleports him out into the ether with no immediate return address only to bring him back to find hes had his gene’s mixed with a guinea pig that had been beamed out earlier that day. As the poor bastard – now rendered an utter vegetable with the added bonus of having giant rodent claws where his hands and feet used to be – lays slumped in the telepod, Roland strides up to the other victim, a guinea pig with human hands and feet and just fucking steps on him in order to do away with this nuisance. It’s utter weird, yet bizarrely haunting in an unsettling, throwaway kind of way and works at taking things up a notch.
But the loss of subtlety comes at a price.
The original was so memorable due to the tragic (and highly freakish) ending, whereas Return Of The Fly audaciously shoots for a highly unlikely happy ending where a quick spin through the teleporter is enough to sort out Phillippe’s DNA like a magician’s cabinet. Things aren’t helped much either by the the design of the Philippe-fly (Flylippe?) who sports a gargantuan, bug-eyed insect head that makes it astonishingly funny to watch him vainly try to make it through any doorway he’s presented with, whereas on the flip side; the tiny fly with the human head is actually quite cute this time round as he patiently calls for help with the vocal chords of Alvin from the Chipmunks.
While the sequel is a fun monster mash, it’s these exact reasons that The Fly is a memorable parable with 50’s trappings and Return Of The Fly is a goofy bug hunt – literally in this case as the police ineffectually hunt Phillippe during the second half proving that it’s surprisingly hard to locate a man-fly dressed in a suit and sporting a noggin the size of a medicine ball – hell, even the producers didn’t even bother to produce it in colour like its predecessor…
Still, it was an easy way to waste a healthy 70 minutes of my life (thus proving my time is utterly worthless) and it certainly wasn’t any worse than a lot of the other paper maché monsters that were roaming the landscape in movie during the decade.
Its fly may be down, but that doesn’t stop this ridiculous sequel from beating its wings…