It’s easy to be nonplussed by a proposition like Return Of The Fly. It’s a sequel as remake, with all the hit elements of the original repeated on a slashed budget with only one star – Vincent Price – returning. The serious sci-fi buffs tend to sniff at it because it was directed by Edward Bernds, a journeyman who directed Three Stooges films and the camp classic Queen Of Outer Space. This baggage aside, the film is a solid little potboiler and offers viewers a nostalgic glimpse back at what it was like when major studios would crank out their own second-half-of-a-double-bill quickies.
Return Of The Fly begins with a funeral: not for the hero of the last film but for his wife, who died young from the strain of the last film’s events. Francois Delambre (Price) looks on mournfully as Philippe (Brett Halsey), the son of the deceased, vows to resume work on his father’s long-abandoned teleportation device. Francois reluctantly agrees to assist once it is obvious that Philippe won’t be deterred. Things seems to go well until a secretly criminal colleague (David Frankham) plots to steal the plans. This kickstarts a chain of nasty events that result in another half-man, half-fly mutation as Philippe struggles to save his nephew from oblivion.
Simply put, Return Of The Fly is the essence of a programmer: Bernds, who also wrote the script, dutifully repeats both the plot structure of The Fly and a lot of the key highlights. To his credit, he does not waste time (the film is a tight 80 minutes) and adds a little unexpected spice by weaving in a crime/sabotage subplot that has some fun gangster-flick overtones. Brydon Baker’s crisp Cinemascope photography adds a little extra production value to the mix to make up for the recycled sets and studio backlot locations and the blood-and-thunder musical score seals the film’s late-’50s sci-fi/horror vibe.
Best of all, Price does a nice job keeping the film aloft. Halsey makes for a solid protagonist but it is Price who not only connects the film to its predecessor but uses his formidable dramatic chops to add some much-needed gravitas to the proceedings. Bernds wisely allows him to take center stage in the film’s third act and Price’s professional work gives the finale a nice lift.
In short, Return Of The Fly is the kind of recycling-based sequel it is often accused of being – but it gets the job done with economical skill and confidence, throwing in a solid Vincent Price performance as a bonus. It’s the kind of competent little quickie that major studios just don’t make anymore – and anyone fond of studio-sponsored b-movies will find it to be decent fun-on-a-budget.