Fly, The (1986): Cronenberg’s Version Better than Original

The Fly (1986) A
The Fly II (1989) C

This special edition of “The Fly” and “The Fly II” includes two discs. In Disc One, there’s a full-length audio commentary from director David Cronenberg, who also co-wrote the script, with Charles Edward Pogue.

Disc Two includes many fascinating materials: new documentaries that cover the three stages of “The Fly” production (Larva, Pupa, and Metamorphosis) with enhanced viewing mode; deleted scenes with storyboard and script comparisons; never-before seen alternate ending; rare test footage of makeup and visual effects; the Brundle Museum of Natural History featurette; George Langelaan’s original short story; Charles Edward Pogue’s original script; Cronenberg’s screenplay rewrite; interactive articles (stills with video clips) from Cinefex and American Cinematographer; promotional featurettes, still photo galleries; publicity, behind the scenes, concept art and visual effects, and original teasers, trailers, and TV spots.

Obsessed with the horrifying implications of science, technology, and the human body and mind, Cronenberg has created several personal films over the past three decades. “The Fly” is his first masterpieces, a film that belongs up there with his other great works: “Crash,” “Dead Ringers,” and “History of Violence.”

With the remake of the 1958 “The Fly,” Cronenberg found the right outlet for his consistent preoccupations and thematic obsessions, producing his most controlled, mature, and insightful work to date.

Enhanced by a more personal relationships between the characters, the new version pairs a young science magazine reporter, Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) and a shy, awkward scientist, Set Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), who’s involved in a secret experiment to transport matter that will change life as we know it.

Though brilliant intellectually, Brundle lacks finesse, grace, and social manners. Hence, his endearingly clumsy efforts to seduce Veronica look like a high school nerd trying to impress the prom queen. The pair gradually falls in love, and they make a heartwarming couple.

Brundle continues his experiments, trying to advance from transporting objects to transporting living organisms. Driven by ambition and curiosity, eventually, he transports himself, failing to notice the little fly that had traveled through space with him.

“The Fly” succeeds on many levels, as an effective horror film and as an allegory of AIDS. Cronenberg has never elicited a better performance from his players. Jeff Goldblum, who’s usually relegated to second bananas, is excellent in a rare leading role. Geena Davis, his girlfriend (and then wife) makes an impressive appearance in one of her first major roles; in two years, Davis would win a Supporting Oscar for “The Accidental Tourist.”

One of the few remakes that transcend the original, “The Fly” takes the idea to new directions while exploring its potential. Whereas the first, much simpler and narrower film degenerated into a campy fly hunt, the remake opts for a slow metamorphosis from man to fly.

The story, much like the 1958 predecessor, is about a scientist named Seth Brundle, who fails to notice the fly that sneaks a lift when he teleports himself between the designer phone booths in his warehouse lab. But instead of ending with a gigantic insect head, Brundle is fused with fly at a molecular-genetic level, triggering an insidious process whereby his character is changed along with his body.

What makes the story more than gore-fest is the touching relationship between Brundle and journalist Veronica Quaife. Their respective attitude to the disease is representative of any modern scourge of the flesh, from cancer to AIDS to plain old age. “The Fly” gives Cronenberg the opportunity to examine the implications of such a process, mediating upon our fear of disease, death and change.

The Grand Guignol climax is not for squeamish viewer or frail stomach; some critics complained that the movie went too far over the top. The major achievement of the film, however, is the poignancy of the central love story, which has with real nerves. As a couple, Goldblum and Davis are so convincing and appealing that we dread the notion of their love turning into tragic horror movie.

Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis received the Makeup Oscar for “The Fly.” The results, thanks to makeup artistry are grisly indeed. Walas first received acclaim for the makeup effects of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and Cronenberg’s 1981 “Scanners.” He also created the title creatures for “Gremlins,” before directing the 1989 sequel, “The Fly II.”

In “Fly II,” a standard horror flick, Frank Darabont was one of the four writers (Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, and Ken Wheat). But the original director and leads have nothing to do with it. A nasty opening scene in which an unconvincing Geena Davis look-alike gives birth to Brundle’s son, Martin (Eric Stoltz). Martin looks normal on the outside but inside his genetic wiring is seriously crossed. Growing up under the clinical eyes of the sinister Bartok industries, Martin goes from boyhood to manhood in no time. Martin dates Beth Logan (Daphne Zuniga), who doesn’t know about his dad being creepy-crawley. When Martin’ skin begins falling off, she becomes suspicious, and helps him sort out the mystery. The Fly II, best known for its latex and squishy special effects, was both an artistic and commercial flop.