The Fly

Written by Charles Edward Pogue

Directed by David Cronenberg

1986


Review by Leonard Norwitz


Studio:

Theatrical: Brooksfilms

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 48.01 GB

Feature Size: 24.10 GB

Bit Rate: 26.45 Mbps

Runtime: 96 minutes

Chapters: 37

Region: A


Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

French mono

Spanish mono


Subtitles:

English, Spanish, French, Korean & Chinese


Extras

• Commentary with Director David Cronenberg

• “Fear of the Flesh” The Making-of “The Fly” (164 min.)

• The Brundle Museum of Natural History (12 min.)

• Deleted & Extended Scenes (14 min.)

• George Langelaan's Original Short Story

• Original Screenplay & Cronenberg's Re-write

• The Fly BD-J Flyswatter Game

• Promotional Featurettes

• Original Teaser, Trailers, and TV Spots


Amaray Blu-ray case: 1 disc

Release Date: October 9, 2007

Comment

David Cronenberg, a name was once synonymous with "Disturbing" – with a capital "D."   And his 1986 remake of the classic short story and 1958 film, starring Vincent Price is no exception. Back in those days, Cronenberg depended a great deal on shocking effects, as if he couldn't tell the inner drama without them.  Yet, while those effects reached the depths of wretch in The Fly, the human drama becomes more clarified.  In future years, he would depend less and less on effects as he mastered what he wanted to say about the emotional truth behind them. 


The important difference between this Fly and the 1958 version is the relationship between the male and female protagonists.  The wife in the earlier film is kept properly in the kitchen while the husband goes about his experiments in secret.  In the later film, Seth and Veronica research his work together.  At first, she maintains a certain playful distance because she is worldly (which he is not) and a journalist.  But the adventure itself, to say nothing of the sex, changes her attitude about Seth as well as what becomes of him.  It is no surprise that Cronenberg does not flinch at the notion of "insect politics," an idea that couldn't have been brought to the screen in 1958 even if someone had thought of it.  But what sets Cronenberg's film apart the 1958 version and, for that matter, most horror films, is the love story and his willingness to see it to its logical conclusion.


     


Many get caught up in The Fly's gut-wrenching effects - and, make no mistake, they are as gruesome, even loathsome, as any in the medium – and/or take a certain refuge in its allegorical aspects.  Those things are all there.  You don't have to look for them.  But it's the love story, so in our face from almost the first frame, that hits us, if we let it, at a molecular level.  Veronica is involved as few journalists, as few love partners, ever get to be – until perhaps a life threatening illness presents itself, as it does here.  Contrary to most real-life experience, Veronica is complicit – an accessory before and after the fact, though in real life, partners often feel guilty enough to imagine requiring punishment, as if the ravaging effects of illness aren't enough.  Thus the gruesome effects begin to make sense as necessary and not merely exploitive nasties.  Veronica may not feel guilty, but she certainly accepts a certain level of responsibility.  The honesty and directness that Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum bring to their characters make their tragic journey one that's truly hard to look at. We don't get to see that in a monster movie every day.


     


The Score Card

The Movie : 9

Science journalist, Veronica Quaife, meets Seth Brundle at a science convention.  Brundle promises her to show her something that will "change the world and human life as we know it."   Later that night at his laboratory/loft, he delivers.  Veronica wants to tell the world – not, thank God, because the public has a right to know – but because she is genuinely excited about his breakthrough: Seth has been able to electrically teleport an object across the room.  He persuades her to put off publishing until he feels finished, until he can do with the animate what he is able to do with the inanimate, while she gets to document the adventure.  It's an intimate association that leads to insight, invention and tragedy.  By accident, a fly is in the telepod when Seth puts himself through and the two bond at the molecular level.  The results have been made famous in a number of venues, but none so desperate as in Cronenberg's film.


     


Image : 6/8

I have always thought I remembered a kick-ass soundtrack and image when I first saw the film in a West Los Angeles theatre in 1986.  The 2005 SD DVD was of pretty good quality, and the surprise is that the BD looks much the same, not a whole lot better: more resolved, with more dimensionality – you know, those things we come to expect from high definition – just not knock your socks off better.  I felt I had to squint a bit to see the improvement in some scenes.  At first glance, for example, in the opening crowd shot at the hotel convention, the image is simply not sharp. Perhaps the film isn't sharp as well, or has degraded over the last twenty years.  That resource being no longer available, I checked out a few scenes for BD/DVD comparisons.  Some, like the exterior shot of Sathis Borans' building appeared to be identical – soft, not quite sharp it seemed.  Others, such as interior master shots of Brundle's loft or close ups of just about anything are lovely, though far from razor sharp: acceptably clear and textured, very filmlike, with a fine, but noticeable grain.  Strange.  The print is reasonably, but not entirely, free of specks, but there are no transfer issues of concern.


     


Audio & Music : 7/9

As I just mentioned, my recollection of the theatrical experience of the soundtrack was particularly dynamic – possibly because it was the first time I saw a film in a THX-certified theatre.  I think it helped that the room was not especially large, making the impact and intimacy of the drama all that much more tangible.  The transfer of such an experience to home theatre worked well for me, even if it wasn’t quite as dynamic and made only occasional use of the surrounds (e.g. xxx teleportation.)  The whispered dialogue could have had a little more spark.


     


Operations : 6

When I first watched this movie on Blu-ray, it was with the glacially slow BDP-S300, and found that adventure more sluggish than usual.  Not a problem with the OPPO.  One unusual feature of menu navigation for this disc is that the Special Features windows appear completely different depending on where you access them before or during play of the feature film.  As usual with Special Features, one can't get out of some of them without stepping through all the chapters.  Be sure your player has the latest updates in order to play the Flyswatter Game.


     


Extras : 7

Even though it doesn't say so on the package, this BD50 dual layer disc does port over all the Special Features of the 2005 SD edition, though the image quality of the 164-minute making-of documentary is pretty much low-fi despite its being upscaled to 1080p by our HD playback components.   Not surprisingly, I found Cronenberg to be engaging, even personal at times, informative and intelligent.   One of the better audio commentaries by a director.


     


Recommendation: 7

A modest image and sonic upgrade over the 2005 two-disc edition, now complete on a single BD50.


Leonard Norwitz

LensViews

October 14, 2007

Revised: July 1, 2010



     








          
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