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Return of the Fly (1959)
Where can one possibly hope to go in a sequel? It’s almost a rhetorical question (one I’ve asked quite a few times this year), but it’s a perpetually pertinent one in the horror genre because sequels are quite nearly expected and always possible whether they are implied or not. With the conclusion of the first film in the series the story was done, the tragedy set … or that’s how it seemed.
Another risky thing a series of films can do is jump ahead, or back, a number of years. It’s not a new idea, and it’s been done a few times with varying degrees of success. Here the story moves ahead 15 years. Vincent Price is retained, while Phillippe, the son of the ill-fated scientist who made the first experiments with the matter disintegrator is following in his father’s scientific footsteps.
While there is a bit of scientific zealotry, and borderline madness, what works especially well in this film is the inclusion of a most vile, very villainous character. It is he who ultimately brings the scares and chills into this installment, the seeking of revenge against him is but part of the suspense. Perhaps most importantly, his existence serves to buck this film from an identical narrative pattern to the first film.
While the first film kept the truth about the occurrences a closely-guarded secret amongst a few characters, here, years later, rumors have spread; a chase ensues and a few more now realize what this machine can do when ill-used. However, the knowledge doesn’t become widespread allowing the drama to play out with a fairly small number of characters.
In fact, it contributes to the drama by needing to keep the information about what’s really happening among only those who are in the know. As opposed to The Fly II, the follow-up to Cronenberg’s version, this is a highly successful sequel that keeps the spirit of the first while expanding the myth and throwing some twists into the story.