The original movie was directed by Kurt Neumann, based on the short story by George Langelaan. The remake was directed by David Cronenberg , and was not based on the short story. That said, research has shown that the remake deserved more than it received in prizes. This brings up the point of wether or not we should compare these two movies based on their common heritage, or as two different views of an initial idea, the book.
The original movie, dating back to 1958, shows horror in a more metaphorical way. You do not see the gory, fluid infested transformation of Jeff Goldblum, but rather apprehend it through the character evolution of Helene, wife of Andre. Through her we see our own fear of change. Not many times will you jump up in the air gasping for air in that movie, but is is a subtle fear that slowly creeps into the mind. What is under that cloth? Yet I have heard more laugh then gasps of fear, which doesn't surprise me. My supposition is that we are to biased based on the evolution of movies that occurred in the last fifty years. We have seen so much mindless crap, excuse my language, that seeing a movie that plays around with emotions conveyed through the acting rather than the visual effects does not shock us anymore. Jeff Goldblum's acting was superb, but could he have conveyed as much if wore the same costume as David Edison? The speechless acting, while hiding his shame under a cloth, adds to the magic of this film. Anyone will remember a crooked decomposing carcass of a man fused with a fly, as it touches our most primal fear of fluids and insides, but can anyone remember the shock on a woman's face when she sees her husband's head turned into a fly? Lets not forget the context of the time. The late 50's where all about the arms race, the power and influence of nuclear weapons, this rampaging communism that no one seemed to know how to stop and all of this influenced the psyche of the people living during that time.
For who are we to judge what a man fused with a fly should look like? We decided, at least in the last 20 odd years that it should look like a piece of decomposed flesh, vomiting bodily fluids to digest its prey. What point of view did people from the 50's have. That I do not know, but a mask of a fly seemed to be a good enough representation. This is the beauty of the film, that so much was achieved with so little.
Side note: I do not have internet at home, so can only write during the day at university, limiting my writing time slots.