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20th Century Fox presents
Seth Brundle: What's there to take? The disease has just revealed it's purpose. We don't have to worry about contagion anymore. I know what the disease wants.
DVD ReviewIf you grew up post-1960 and were a horror movie fan, it was difficult to avoid the freaky magic of the original 1958 Kurt Neumann-directed version of The Fly (itself a variation of the George Langelaan short story). What was creepier: seeing Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's David Hedison with a big fly head or the tiny fly with the human head trapped in a spider web, soon to be crushed by a merciful Vincent Price? It may have taken nearly thirty years, but director David Cronenberg dramatically updated the story in 1986, managing to boost the gore and visual effects content (in a pre-CGI world, no less) while presenting a sympathetic lead character.
In 1986 Cronenberg was at the tail end of his rather unconventional horror period (Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome), and about to launch into his more acclaimed left-of-mainstream series (Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Crash, eXistenZ). The Fly sits as a kind of evolutionary link between these two Cronenbergian approaches to storytelling, because while it is certainly gory horror film (and the effects hold up quite well today), it also carries a strong performance from Jeff Goldblum as the molecularly tormented scientist Seth Brundle, who, even under mounds of pulsating latex, conveys a wonderfully desperate sadness.
It is Brundle, cooped up in an oversized warehouse lab on the dark side of town, who perfects the telepods, a pair of mechanical beehive-looking devices that can disintegrate an item in one and reassemble it in the other. Instant teleportation. Brundle decides to share his invention with science writer Veronica (Geena Davis), and the two develop a burgeoning relationship, despite the fact that her editor is her jealous former lover (John Getz).
When an inebriated Brundle moves up to human experimentation, using himself as a test subject, he fails to notice a fly has entered the telepod, and when the teleportation is complete the two entities have seemingly merged. What follows is the slow transformation from human to fly, with Cronenberg ladling on some gross visuals, such as the self-named "Brundlefly" vomiting gobs of goo onto doughnuts in order to pre-digest his food.
Goldblum makes Brundle into a rather compassionate sort, and his odd mannerisms and speaking style fit the role of the scientist with the lazy social skills and the overpowering dose of fly DNA. His love for Veronica follows the typical doomed genre path, but somehow instead of revulsion it is really pity that Cronenberg and Goldblum make us feel for the character, and Brundle's increasingly erratic and dangerous behavior becomes surprisingly sad instead of horrifying.
And that's difficult to do when you're devouring a human hand with acidy fly vomit.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: After an alarmingly grainy and somewhat blurry Fox logo at the beginning, the new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is often quite striking for a 1986 feature, though there are still some small imperfections.
But what's good about it? A lot, actually, considering its age. Though image detail is a tad soft overall, colors and fleshtones have a pleasing warmth to them, save for a few darker sequences early on where skin hues run slightly red. But when the transfer is on, it's on, with well-defined shadow depth that reveals detail in places like the Brundle lab. No major compression or EE issues to be found, though some moderate dirt and grain appear at times.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Primary audio choices are either Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or DTS. Differences between the two tracks are minimal, though the biggest variance is in the richness of Howard Shore's score on the DTS side, where the music elements seem to offer a deeper, more dramatic punch. Dialogue is clear, with both tracks offering plenty of mood-enhancing directional movement across the front channels, with rear channels kicking in with some occasional non-discrete cues. The sub channel is big and boomy when it needs to be—as when Brundlefly bursts through a huge glass block window—and recurring effects like the doors of the telepod opening and closing also have a fine rumble.
A Spanish language mono track and a French language 2.0 stereo track are also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Fly II, The Fly, The Return of the Fly
3 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Feature/Episode commentary by David Cronenberg
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Disc 1, in addition to the feature, also contains a commentary from director David Cronenberg. He might not be the most vibrant speaker, but his info is structured well and his remembrances for a film hitting the 20 year mark seem fresh. We learn that the telepods were based on his Ducati motorcycle engine cylinder head, the Jeff Goldblum character is named after a racecar driver, the hassles of the early days of motion control effects and that "there's no such thing as a tame baboon".
Disc 2 is where everything else is housed, with extras neatly divided into six sections: Documentaries, Deleted Scenes, Written Works, Film Tests, Promotional Materials and Still Galleries.
Documentaries contains the big daddy, a whopping new documentary entitled Fear Of The Flesh (divvied into subsections Larva, Pupa and Metamorphosis), which runs either two hours and fifteen minutes or two hours and forty-one minutes, dependent on whether or not you select the branching option, which diverts off into greater detail on things like Cronenberg's rewrite of the original screenplay. The picture quality is a little shaky in spots, but aside from tracing the complete history of the film—from script to release—this is crammed with behind-the-scenes clips, test footage, deleted scenes and alternate endings. This is exceptionally well made, and at nearly three hours, it's in-depth and informative, elevating it to that special level of A-list DVD docs. Also in this section is The Brundlefly Museum of Natural History (11m:52s), where we get a look at original design concepts and maquettes, as well as an extended look at the big "hand dissolve" sequence.
The Deleted Scenes segment runs just over 15 minutes, and contains four excised clips and two extended sequences. The deleted scenes run the gamut of quality, from a mercifully scrapped alternate ending restored from a VHS dupe (Butterfly Baby) to script only (Brundlefly vs Bag Lady) to workprint (Second Interview) to fully scored and remastered (Monkey-Cat). It is the Monkey-Cat footage that should hold the most interest for fans, and though the effects are not terribly frightening, the setup is essential for the third act. The scene also has storyboard and script option available. The two Extended Scenes—Reconilliation (01m:59s) and The Poetry of Steak (03m:39s)—are not much more than longer versions of existing scenes, offering some additional dialogue, though nothing particularly pivotal to the overall narrative. Each of the two are available with an optional "cut indicator" feature, which is a red box to indicated what was chopped.
Written Works is really a nerdy treat, in which George Langelaan's Original Short Story, Charles Edward Pogue's Original Screenplay and David Cronenberg's Rewrite are provided for cross-examination and comparison. Also in this section is an article from a 1986 issue of Cinefex, and a pair culled from American Cinematographer.
Then it is on to Film Tests. with five pre-production sequences transferred from original negatives. These include Opening Title Treatments (01m:54s), Pod Lighting and Effects (02m:01s), Brundlefly Makeup (02m:17s), Exploding Space Bug (:50s) and a shot of the director, wearing antenna and wings, walking the walls in Cronenfly (:48s).
The Promotional Materials section features trailers (including the original The Fly and The Return of The Fly), a set of television spots, two standard issue 1986 EPKs—Featurette (06m:59s) and David Cronenberg Profile (04m:26s)—as well as an extensive One Sheet and Lobby Card Gallery.
The large Still Galleries is the final area, and it is divided into such self-explanatory sections as Publicity. Behind The Scenes, Concept Art and Effects.
The disc is cut into 36 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsThere will always be a special place in my heart for the 1958 Kurt Neumann version—and its classic "Help, me-e-e-e, help me-e-e-e" climax—but David Cronenberg and Charles Pogue reinvented the original George Langelaan short story into something that doesn't just rely on goopy gore, though there is plenty of it here. Unlike the typical horror film, there is a strong emotional heart to the way things play out, a sort of dark love story that is tragic and doomed from the get go.
This 20th Century Fox two-disc set really earns the "Collector's Edition" moniker, buttressed by the all-new, feature-length documentary.
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