Film and Literature: The Fly (1958) Adaptation

Hey Everyone,

This is Nick and I’m here to bring you all something new. As most of probably know, many films are created based on either novels, short stories, or other types of medium. In doing this we get to see our favorite books, such as the harry Potter series, Twilight series (if you’re really into that), and many others. Films created based off of a book or short story are called adaptations. Now, why bore you with some of this technical jargon? Well the reason is simple, one of my classes at school is basically centered around this idea of comparing the literature to its corresponding adaptation. My professor has selected ten books/films for us to read and watch and then write a response based on our opinions of the adaptation from literature to film. And I figured that I should share all of these opinions with you, the fans and people of the interwebs! If any of you are interested in watching these films after you read any of these entries, all the films are available for viewing on Netflix. So without further ado, here is the first one.

Literature Title: The Fly (1922), Author: Katherine Mansfield

Film Title: The Fly(1958), Director: George Langelaan

The Fly

In order to fully be able to understand and analyze the adaptation of “The Fly”, I decided it was best to read the short story, written by George Langleon, before viewing the actual adaptation. In regards to the short story, I have to say that at first it was hard to tell what the story was going to be about. Given the vague title and the fact that it started out with a murder scene, the direction of the story could have gone in anyway. However, once I reached the part of the story where Andre unveiled his transporter, I easily pieced together where the story was going. Having seen many similar adaptations of this story on various TV shows, such as The Simpsons, it was an equally recognizable plot. However, it was interesting to see where the plot behind those other adaptations originated.

The story itself became ten times more interesting when I actually got to watch it on a screen as opposed to just having to picture the story playing through in my head. First off, I was truly surprised that they were able make a story that short into a film that was an hour and a half long, that was my first clue that some changes had to have been made. If they had stayed completely true to the story, which I know is impossible for any adaptation to do, there is no way they would be able to make that long of a film. But, as far as the details of the story in the adaptation as compared to the details in the short story, I’d say that it stayed pretty true to how the story was written, with a few minor changes that didn’t really ruin the story but seemed a little unnecessary. One of these changes that honestly annoyed me the most was the fact that in the short story, the character Charas was referred to as Commissaire Charas while in the film he was merely referred to as Inspector Charas. Honestly, I don’t know why that point bothered me so much, but it seemed like such an unnecessary detail that I don’t understand why it needed to be changed in the first place. On the topic of name changes, the name of the son was also changed between the short story and the film. In the short story, the son’s name was Henri and in the film his name was Phillipe. Again, another one of those changes that to me seemed unnecessary and just the director changing details for the sake of changing details.

Another minor detail change was towards the end of the film when Andre went back into the transporter in a final attempt to reverse the fact that he had been mutated with a fly. In the short story, he came out with a cat nose and cat ears because what happened in a previous part of the story when he attempted to transported Dandelo the cat but the process failed. So when he went into the transporter that last time, the floating matter of Dandelo merged with the mutated Andre and he obtained the extra cat mutation along with the fly mutation that already afflicted him. However, the film cut those extra additions to his mutations out of the story. The last most noticeable change to me from short story to film is the way in which Helen recounted the whole scenario leading up to the murder of Andre. In the short story she wrote the entire story in a letter in which her brother read, while in the film she recounted her story vocally to both her brother and Inspector Charas. To me personally, as a media production major, it would have been a more creativity choice to keep it the way the short story had done it. Doing it in such a way as to where to the character who was playing Helen would have been narrating the story to us so we get a more interesting perspective at how the events played out, similar to the feeling portrayed in the short story. One more little detail change is how much more active the son seemed in the film compared to how much he appeared in the book. That may not necessarily be truly, he just seemed to be more important in the film compared to the short story.

Despite all of those changes between short story and film, I still think that the adaptation was engaging and pretty well worth the watch, as well worth the watch as a 50’s movie can be. However, even though it was made in the 50’s, some of the special effects were pretty impressive for the time period. All of the lights and gadgets that lit up whenever the transporter as activated, despite the excessive amount of times that exact scene was shown, where actually very well done and visually appealing to the viewer, especially in the colorized form of the film that was added on to Netflix. The most impressive of the effects had to be the fly head on Andre’s body. I wasn’t expecting such a realistic looking effect in such an old movie, obviously when compared to the effects of today it isn’t all that impressive, but still good for its time. Finally, the most fascinating part of the adaption to me comes down to another production aspect of it. In the lab when the fly head is seen by Helen, that point of view shot from Andre’s mutated fly head is truly a creative aspect. Especially since the shot switches between the normal shot of her screaming then to the shot from the fly point of view in which you see multiple of her.

All in all, The Fly adaptation from short story to film was one that entertained viewers and stayed true to the plot, which would please any die-hard The Fly short story fans, just with few minor changes that probably shouldn’t have been changed and weren’t necessary to change.


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