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Arts & Culture

The Creepy Crawlies: Bugs on Screen Film Series

A lobby card from the 1958 version of "The Fly"
Twentieth Century Fox
A lobby card from the 1958 version of "The Fly"

MoPA Pairs Exhibit with Insect Movies

Tonight the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park kicks off its The Creepy Crawlies: Bugs on Film Series with the original 1958 version of “The Fly” (screening at 7:00pm). The series continues with the Disney/Pixar animated film “A Bug's Life” on Saturday, August 8th at 1:00pm and concludes with the fabulous Japanese kaiju (giant monster) film “Mothra” on Thursday, August 13th. I highly recommend “The Fly” and the 1961 “Mothra” because you don’t get many opportunities to see these classics on the big screen.

The film series also ties in to MoPA’s current exhibit, Jo Whaley: The Theater of Insects, which will be on view through September 27. The exhibit includes approximately 40 photographs, along with a selection of insect cases and glassed archaeology trays that connect art with science. The photographs show vibrantly colored insects, artfully placed against weathered, manmade backgrounds. The result is a compelling marriage of natural and artificial, science and art. Whaley used real insect specimens but combined them with backgrounds inspired by the old dioramas found in Natural History Museums. So Whaley’s approach dovetails perfectly into the film series in which real bugs are the inspiration for tales of delightful animation and horror.

The 1958 American science-fiction horror film The Fly was based on George Langelaan’s 1957 short story of the same name that had appeared in Playboy magazine. The story involves a scientist, Andre Delambre (Al Hedison), who has an accident when he tries to use his new invention, a teleportation device. The film also stars Vincent Price. While the effects may be dated, the film is still great fun to watch. It falls into a subgenre of horror/sci-fi from the 1950s in which science goes wrong and man pays the price. If you look at the lobby card it not only warns of a monster created by "atoms gone wild" but it also alerts viewers to the special "Terror-Color" process it was filmed in. I love those old movie advertisements. Nobody writes copy like that any more and we just don't get gimmicks like "Terror-Color." Check out the original 1958 trailer below.

The Fly Trailer

I also want to highlight Inoshiro Honda’s 1961 kaiju film “Mothra” (or Mosura”). Mothra was a major addition to the Toho Studios' giant-monster films, joining my favorite Godzilla and Rodan. Mothra begins as a giant larva guarded by twin sisters (you gotta love these miniature ladies who sing the giant creature’s theme song). The larva metamorphoses into a giant female moth. Check out the original Toho trailer below. I know that many people only know of the Japanese kaiju films through badly dubbed versions of Godzilla they’ve seen on TV. But Japanese horror and sci-fi are a fascinating genre. Sure there’s a cheese element to some but there’s also a fascinating dimension because these films also reflect a culture that was devastated by two atomic bombs, and that fact can be clearly seen in a lot of their sci-fi and horror films. Plus the miniatures done for the special effects are truly remarkable. I love the whole kaiju genre and urge you to at least give it a try, although I must admit that I prefer Godzilla to the softer edged Mothra.

Mothra Trailer

For more information on the Creepy Crawlies: Bugs on Screen series go to or call 619-238-7559, ext. 236.

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