The Fly (1986)
- Street Date:
- October 9th, 2007
- Reviewed by:
- Aaron Peck
- Review Date: 1
- December 27th, 2007
- Movie Release Year:
- Fox Home Entertainment
- 95 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated R
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Critics (myself included) often harp on Hollywood's seemingly endless obsession with remakes, but that's only because we tend to forget the good ones. Sure, the vast majority of "re-imaginings" are either cynical cash-ins on superior originals or well-meaning but misguided homages, but every once in a while, a filmmaker comes along who finds a way to breathe new life into an old chestnut. Such was the case with 'The Fly,' David Cronenberg's 1986 update of the original 1958 Vincent Price chiller, which is not only a fitting tribute to its source but superior to it in almost every way.
Written by Charles Edward Pogue ('Psycho III,' 'Dragonheart'), the 1986 version of 'The Fly' takes only the basic set-up of the original and spins a whole new (and far scarier) story. Goldblum stars Seth Brundle, an idealistic if eccentric scientist obsessed with perfecting teleportation. After a chance meeting at a party, he falls for ambitious journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis), and they soon begin a passionate romance. Veronica starts to document Seth's progress, until a teleporting experiment goes horribly wrong, and Seth inadvertently fuses his genetic DNA with a housefly. At first, he seems normal -- but changes gradually begin to occur. As Seth battles the warring genetics inside him, Veronica can only sit by and watch helplessly as his body and mind disintegrate.
"The Fly' works on every level intended. It's a great piece of paranoid science fiction, it's a genuinely horrifying tale of the body in revolt, and -- most miraculously of all -- it's a moving and sexy adult love story. Cronenberg is able to achieve such a successful frisson of elements because he innately understands that no matter how fantastical some elements of his story may be, the best horror films are those that are firmly rooted in reality. Even if we don't understand (or buy into) the nuts and bolts of the teleportation, we do believe in the character of Seth Brundle. Ultimately, the technology is not important to Cronenberg anyway -- it's just a vehicle to examine the erosion of compassion as the threat of death encroaches. That 'The Fly' ends on such a bleak note yet somehow remains romantically optimistic is some kind of minor miracle.
As impressive as Cronenberg's accomplishment on 'The Fly' is, the film would be nothing without Goldblum. It’s easily his greatest film performance, and quite frankly he should have earned Oscar attention for his efforts (unfortunately, like Christopher Walken's similarly fantastic performance in 1985's 'The Dead Zone' -- another underrated Cronenberg gem -- the Academy often turns up their noses at unabashed genre films). Although Goldblum at times appears to be on the verge of lapsing into his patented geeky shtick (hello, Ian Malcolm), instead he pulls out the heart and humanity of his character beyond just the dorky hair and bad suits. And with the help of some still-effective special make-up effects, he so completely inhabits the pitiful creature by the film's final scenes that it's truly gut-wrenching (and terrifying). The sublime brilliance of Goldblum's performance is that he finds the monstrous in the human, but never turns into a monster.
’The Fly’ is certainly David Cronenberg’s most accessible and commercial work, leading some of the director’s more hardcore fans to allege that it verges on a sell-out. I’m personally of the opinion that it ultimately comes off only as a savvy move, not a cynical cash-in. With 'The Fly,' Cronenberg just happened to find material perfectly suited to his visual sensibilities and thematic preoccupations -- that it attracted major box office would seem to be a happy accident. What's so wonderful and effective about 'The Fly' is that all the story elements are in place, the performances are perfect, and Cronenberg is able to masterfully brew them all together to create a powerful tonic of science, horror and romance. So why blame him? Genre films -- and remakes – just don't get much better than this.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'The Fly' comes to Blu-ray in a remastered 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer, presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. As a big fan of the movie, I've owned it in several of its past video incarnations, including the most recent 2005 special edition DVD. While this Blu-ray edition doesn't look bad by any means, it doesn't look fantastic, either.
My biggest disappointment is that the source still shows its age. It's pretty clean aside from film grain typical of the period, and there is only a slight amount of dirt and blemishes, but the image just lacks pop -- blacks are solid, but contrast remains flat. Shadow delineation is also rarely better than average. Likewise, colors never leap off the screen, with even the most vibrant uses of reds and blues looking fairly ho-hum. Fleshtones, while generally accurate, don't reveal much detail, even in close-ups. Overall depth to the image is just fair, and I never felt like I was looking at a truly three-dimensional picture. The transfer is also generally soft and lacking in sharpness, though at least some of this is indicative of the source material. At least Fox has done a fine job with the encoding, as there’s no edge enhancement or apparent compression artifacts. Again, this one’s not awful – I just hoped for more of a high-def upgrade than this Blu-ray offers.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Fox offers up a nice enough DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) for 'The Fly,' even if the film's age prevents it from taking full advantage of the high-res format's capabilities.
'The Fly' isn't particularly aggressive, so envelopment is sporadic. The big effects moments (particularly the pod teleportations) send a few nice jolts to the rears, but that's about it. Atmosphere is limited to minor bleed in active crowd scenes (the opening party, the famous arm wrestling scene, etc.), although the terrific score by Howard Shore is nicely dispersed across the entire soundfield. Dynamics are pretty good for a 1986 flick, with a full sound to the upper ranges. Bass is flat, and dialogue also lacks distinction (especially deeper, hushed tones), although I never had to adjust the volume much. 'The Fly' sounds perfectly fine considering its age, but this track certainly doesn't "pop" like a more modern mix.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
"The Fly' hit DVD back in 2005 in a fully-stocked two-disc special edition that featured just about everything a fan of the film could ask for. Happily Fox has not short-changed Blu-ray fans this time around, porting over every last one of the extras from that earlier package. Sadly, none of this material has been upgraded for HD (it's all 480p/i/MPEG-2 only), but it's such a comprehensive package that it’s hard to complain.
- Audio Commentary - Director David Cronenberg flies solo on this track, but he's such a commentary veteran that he makes it seem effortless. A methodical and sometimes slow speaker, he's riveting nevertheless, covering all the bases in a very articulate and intelligent manner. He speaks at length about his attraction to the material (pulling no punches in his thoughts on the original film), working with screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue, the casting, and of course the metamorphosis of the titular creature. A great commentary.
- Documentary: "Fear Of The Flesh: The Making Of The Fly" (SD, 164 minutes) - This massive documentary is so inclusive that it runs longer than the film itself. Oddly, Cronenberg himself did not contribute a new interview, but just about everyone else involved in the production did, including screenwriter Pogue, stars Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz, composer Howard Shore, editor Ronald Sanders, director of photography Mark Irwin, and creature designer Chris Walas (who directed the 1989 sequel). This doc is incredibly comprehensive, and combined with Cronenberg's commentary, leaves no stone unturned. Unfortunately, even as a huge fan of the film, I have to admit that the lethargic pacing of this one may make it a tough watch for many. Fox attempts to break up the monotony by dividing the doc up into three parts ("Larva," "Pupa" and "Metamorphosis" -- cute touch), but better editing could have easily shaved at least 30 minutes off the runtime with no loss of content. If you break this one up over several viewing sessions, however, it's well worth the investment.
- Featurette: "The Brundle Museum Of Natural History" (SD, 12 minutes) - A short addendum to the documentary, this is an amusing (and rather gross) tour of the practical effects used in the film to create the Fly. Effects artist Rob Burns is our guide, as he kept many of the props, including some of the bloodiest gags.
- EPK Featurette (SD, 5 minutes) - This is the original making-of featurette used to promote the film at the time of its release. As you might expect, it's quite dated, and essentially an extended commercial.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes (SD, 14 minutes) - Six scenes are included in all, and for once, the deleted material is actually substantial. Though much of it is presented in poor quality or in storyboard form, fans will lap it up, as many of these sequences have been buzzed about for years, including a dream sequence for Davis' unborn Fly-baby, as well as an interaction between a Fly-ified Goldblum and a bag lady.
- Test Footage (SD, 8 minutes) - This assemblage of various outtakes and other pre-production footage is also rather rough, but there are some neat finds here too, including one sequence with Cronenberg subbing for Goldblum as the Fly, some early effects tests of the teleportation pods, and an alternate version of the opening credits.
- Still Galleries (SD) - Just a ton of stuff here. There are five main image galleries ("Publicity," "Behind The Scenes," "Visual Effects," "Lobby Cards & Poster Art" and "Concept Art") which total well over 150 stills.
- Text-Based Extras(SD) – Featured here is the original George Langelaan short story that both the original and remake versions of 'The Fly' were based on, both Pogue's script and Cronenberg's rewrite, and three magazine articles published in Cinefex and American Cinematographer back in 1986.
- Theatrical Trailers (SD) - The film's original theatrical teaser and trailer are included, plus three full-frame TV spots.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Though this is already an over-stuffed disc with all the standard-def extras, Fox has kindly thrown in a couple of couple of exclusives for this Blu-ray edition of ‘The Fly.’
- Trivia Track - Another nice collection of pop-up factoids from Fox. This one is a mix of some light production detail (nothing you won't learn from the included commentary and documentary), plus some amusing scientific mumbo jumbo about flies, radiation and other data straight out of a '50s public service announcement.
- Interactive Game: "BD-J Flyswatter" - This BD-Java-enhanced time waster is Whack-a-Mole with insects. If you've ever played it at a carnival, you know what to do -- just move the on-screen cursor around with your remote, and start swatting away. Unfortunately, even on my PlayStation 3, the movement of the swatter was too slow and clunky, and I quickly got frustrated. I guess this game is still cute, but I can't imagine anyone playing it for more than a couple of minutes.
We've one egg so far hidden on 'The Fly.'
From the main menu, go to the Supplements submenu, then go to the "Promotional Material.' there, you will see an option for some previews, entitled "If you want to see more you may want to try..." Highlight the selection, but don't press Enter on your remote. Instead, press Left, and you will see a small fly icon. Select and hit Enter, and access a hidden trailer page called "The Summer of 1986." Enjoy trailers for 'The Fly,' 'Aliens' and 'Big Trouble in Little China.'
(Thanks to Charles for the tip!)
'The Fly' is a top-notch remake, and for my money is far superior to the campy original. It’s also certainly David Cronenberg's most accessible and entertaining picture. This Blu-ray release is a great deal for fans -- although I would have liked stronger video and audio, the supplement package alone is worth the price of admission. Even if you already own the previous DVD release, this Blu-ray is worth picking up.
- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- BD-Java Enhanced
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
- English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit)
- French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
- English SDH
- French Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- Korean Subtitles
- Cantonese Subtitles
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Still Galleries
- Theatrical Trailers
Exclusive HD Content
- Interactive Game
- Trivia Track
- Personal Scene Selections
- Search Content Index
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