The Fly (1986)
By: Trist Jones on April 14, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
20th Century Fox (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1m English DTS 5.1. English (FHI) Subtitles. 92 minutes
The Movie
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis
Screenplay: David Cronenberg, Charles Edward Pogue
Country: USA
I've sat through a lot of horror films. I'm not quite as strong stomached as most of you out there and some of the reviewers here, but I have also seen my fair share of explicit, implicit and just plain disgusting gore. I think when you watch these films as much as some of us here at Digital Retribution do, we tend to overlook just how much and how differently scenes of gore and violence affect people, as over the years of subjecting ourselves to whatever challenge the genre has to offer, we may have become slightly desensitised to it all. After so many years, I'd forgotten just how effective David Cronenberg's masterful remake of The Fly truly was.

The story has been parodied by just about every cartoon show that's been on TV, so anyone not familiar with the films will likely be familiar with the story at least; man invents teleportation device, man tests teleportation device without realising a fly is in said device with him, man comes out the other end a horrible monster. The original version of The Fly was slightly more dramatic than it's B-movie sequels, but Cronenberg's version took a very unique look at the idea and, in Cronenberg's very distinguished styling, made a B-grade monster movie an A-grade science fiction horror film with a very well choreographed dramatic grounding.

A very young Jeff Goldblum stars as the brilliant but undiscovered scientist Seth Brundle, who is coming close to the scientific breakthrough of the century; teleportation via molecular transference. Starring opposite Goldblum is Geena Davis as Veronica Quaife, a freelance journalist looking for the next big story in science. Brundle, after a series of tests with varying success, gets slightly drunk and decides to test his machines on himself. Here's where the story truly begins. Of course, the fly gets into the teleporter with him, and the two become one on a molecular level. What follows isn't the monster fare seen in prior iterations, but a film that deals with a man succumbing to a life-threatening problem and the relationship between him and the woman he loves.

It's this viewpoint Cronenberg takes on the material that makes The Fly truly stand out. Brundle's transformation into what he ultimately becomes is played out like a man dying of cancer (obvious differences aside), and Geena Davis excels in making us truly feel for both her and Brundle. In all seriousness, you could take the majority of this film, change the horror or science fiction elements into a terminal disease, drug addiction or mental illness, and you would have an equally compelling dramatic piece. There's an intellectual normality to this film that gives it a solid grounding in reality, and the "less is more" stance regarding Seth's progressive transformation is executed brilliantly.

Still, it wouldn't be Cronenberg without the particulars his fans all know and love. The constant referral to 'the flesh', particularly by Goldblum's character, echoes Cronenberg's previous films (Videodrome comes to mind immediately) and the use of body horror is perhaps more evident in The Fly than in any of his other works (I won't spoil it, but the hospital sequence is a prime example). I mentioned earlier how exposure to films like this had desensitised me… I didn't realise exactly how much until the friend I was watching it with started screaming loud enough to be heard from opposite ends of the house, through closed doors, above running water. It's when you sit through something like that that you realise that, shit, this stuff is pretty full on.
The transfer is clean, without any noticeable blemishes, but the film itself does show it's age. The print is good, but it clearly hasn't been restored, as it isn't quite as crisp as films os a similar vintage (Jaws and Ghostbusters are both good examples of this, even Aliens which was released the same year).
The audio is the standard go for DVD's these days. Dolby Digital 5.1 (a DTS is also included), though it doesn't sound quite as clean as some other releases. There's also an audio commentary option with David Cronenberg, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Now, this commentary is easily the best commentary I've heard on a DVD since the commentary on the 1999 release of Ghostbusters (and each subsequent release). Cronenberg talks about just about anything and everything regarding the film, so if you thought his interview segments were a little light in the extras disc, this more than compensates.
Extra Features
So far, the best array of extras I've seen on a DVD since the Alien boxed set. You get the standard promotional materials, trailers, teasers, poster campaigns and such, which are all fun to watch and look at, but it's the deleted scenes and documentaries that really make this DVD stand out.

The Fear of the Flesh: The Making of the Fly is an epic series of retrospective interviews clocking in at two and three quarter hours. Everything you could possibly want to know about the film is divulged along with plenty more as key cast and crew members recount their experiences throughout the production, right up until its release. Sadly, Cronenberg himself doesn't make an appearance, but his absence is more than forgiven by his outstanding commentary.

The Brundle Museum of Natural History is a relatively short, but nonetheless interesting feature dealing with the special effects of the film.

Four deleted/extended scenes can be viewed, including two extended sequences, along with Brundlefly vs. Baglady, the Butterfly Baby dream sequence, and the infamous Monkey-Cat sequence, which is pure Cronenberg (but still slightly hilarious).

You get a series of special effects and make-up tests, along with text extras which includes both the original screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue and the Cronenberg draft, but you also get the original George Langelaan short story (which, for trivia buffs, first appeared in an issue of Playboy). There's also a huge gallery of images including concept art, which is always worth looking at, but even more so in the case of The Fly.

Finally you get two easter eggs, one if you highlight the Larvae option and press left in the Documentaries menu, and the other by doing the same in the Deleted Scenes menu at the Cat-Monkey option. The first is a pretty funny interview with Goldblum where he recounts early costume experiences, and the second is the "How Does Brundlefly Eat?" video.
The Verdict
All in all this is easily the best DVD package I've picked up this year. The film is, and always has been fantastic, and the extras here are sure to satisfy everyone from the average moviegoer, to the hardcore Cronenberg collector. It's also identical to the U.S. release (terrible Aussie cover art aside!). Just make sure you're careful who you watch it with.
Movie Score
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