The Movie: 'The Fly' (1958)
The Scene: "As God is my witness, I saw the thing. It's unbelievable, " utters Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall), shell-shocked from witnessing the ashen, hairless, toothless face of Andre Delambre on the body of a tiny fly, pleading for help while trapped in a spider's web. It's the second big reveal in the 1958 sci-fi shocker, the first being the other half of Delambre's experiment -- a human form with the hideous head of a fly. Earlier in the film, Delambre's teleportation experiments went horribly awry, splicing his body together with that of a fly, creating two new beings that are neither man or insect.
Delambre's tinny cry of "Help me! Help me!" is one of horror's most recognizable bits of dialogue (especially when imitated correctly, in a high-pitched whine). It's a testament to director Kurt Neumann that this incredibly chilling moment still maintains its power to creep us out, even after half a century's worth of jokey references and David Cronenberg's memorable gross-out remake.
Why It's Iconic: The performance of actor David Hedison as the mutated Delambre does a lot to sell this scene. By today's standards the spider that approaches Delambre looks stiff and puppet-like, but Delambre's reaction is so genuine, his terror so real, that the impact of the scene remains. The modest special effects work in the film's favor, serving the scene completely, and not existing as effects for effects sake.
It's often that these types of big moment "centerpiece" special effects shots don't serve the story in any real way, and when they don't have a real meaning to the narrative, time is not usually kind to them. They exist as showcases for whatever was cutting edge at the time, and date quickly when new special effects tech is created. Here in 'The Fly,' they're a well-earned exclamation point to a riveting story, and offer one of horror's most memorable -- and genuinely weird -- images of all time.
Imitators/Flatterers: Two of the most memorable homages to this scene are in animated cartoons. 'The Simpsons' parodied it in 'Treehouse of Horror VIII" and 'The Emperor's New Groove' used the scene in a tiny throwaway gag involving, of course, a fly caught in a spider's web. Oddly, there's no homage to this memorable moment in its 1986 remake. (Although the line of dialogue IS in there; have you found it?)