Update 9/05: Separate special editions are now available. Recommendation lowered accordingly.
There are classics and then, on very rare occasions, there are classics born of classics. The original version of The Fly (1958) featured the great Vincent Price as the brother-in-law of the first hapless scientist who accidently becomes all-to-acquainted with a common housefly. Nearly 30 years later, the fiendishly perverted David Cronenberg put a completely different spin on George Langelaan's original short story. Dave injects into his screenplay healthy doses of pseudo-science, eroticism and good old fashion gore. And at long last, Fox presents The Fly (1986, 95 minutes) and its under-appreciated sequel, The Fly 2 (1989, 105 minutes), on a single two-sided disc.
The Fly: Seth Brundle (the ever-twitchy Jeff Goldblum) is a geekazoid inventor who manages to pick up Geena Davis, er, Veronica "Ronnie" Quaife at a party. Ronnie is a journalist looking for a story, and Seth, well he's hoping to impress her with his enormous pods. Before she can split, he zaps one of her silk stockings from one telepod to another, and her eyes get big as Pulitzer medals. She high-tails it to the slimeball editor of Particle magazine, who also happens to be her ex, and who also happens to think she's been con'd. Seth scoops her up and the two begin a tawdry romance amid his slightly-mad-scientist goingsons. It seems he can't teleport living objects without them coming out on the other end looking like road pizza. After roasting its brother, Seth successfully beams a baboon across the room, and he and Ronnie giddily dance around. But she abruptly weirds out about her ex-boyfriend -- that editor guy -- and runs off. Brundle gets drunk and talks to the monkey a bunch. Then strips nekkid and decides to teleport himself before having the ape checked out. And as anyone knows, a fly zips into the pod with him and BINGO! Ya got yourself a helluva creature feature. There's stuff in this thing that'll make your skin crawl. My Vomit Meter just swirls around in circles during a couple of scenes. And what's REAL shocking is that YOU CARE about the disgusting beast Seth becomes. Goldblum's metamorphosis is so powerful that it earned Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis an Oscar for best makeup. It's one of the few remakes that rivals its original, and arguably David Cronenberg's best work.
The Fly Notables: No breasts. One corpse. 21 gallons goo. One beast. Barfly diddling. Arm snapping. Inside-out baboon. Gratuitous "high-tech" computer graphics. Wall crawling. One giant maggot. Teeth tumble. Jaw rolls. Ear tumbles. Much-o digestive-acid fu.
The Fly Quotables: Snotty, but sexy wanna-be journalist Ronnie (Davis), doesn't think much of Brundle's work, "Designer phone booths? Very cute." But she winds up sleeping with him anyway, "How can you keep going? You can't have any fluid left in your body!" And later regrets it, warning his next squeeze to "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Seth asks Ronnie out, "I've come here to say one magic word to you -- CHEESEBURGER!" But later, something doesn't agree with him and he wants her to bug off, "I'm saying I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man, and loved it. But now, the dream is over, and the insect is awake. I'm saying I'll hurt you if you stay." One of my favorite film sleazeballs, John Getz as Stathis Borans, can't take Ronnie's "NO!" for an answer, "What about sex? I'm not saying love or affection. Just stress relieving sex. You and me."
The Fly Time codes: Seth's serenade (4:30). The first big gross-out effect (18:15). Brundle's fashion sense (21:00). The critical mistake (34:05). Marathon nookie (45:20). Arm rasslin' (50:20). Seth starts falling apart (57:30). "Mmmmm! Yummie donuts!" (1:05:10). Brundle Museum of Natural History (1:15:14). The final transformation of Brundlefly (1:28:00).
The Fly 2: One of the twists of the first flick, was that Geena Davis, er, Ronnie got knocked up with Seth's mutant baby. So the sequel cranks up in the delivery room. It's a gruesome scene that lets you know EXACTLY where the flick's heading -- and that's completely thanks to first-time director Chris Walas, who won an Oscar for his gross-outs in Numero Uno. The company Seth Brundle worked for talked Ronnie into having the baby, but she flat lines after SEEING it. Boy-genius Martin Brundle is raised within the labs of Bartok Industries, where he grows at an accelerated rate into a grinning Eric Stoltz who's celebrating his 5th birthday. Bartok, the guy (Lee Richardson), has aligned himself as a sort of father figure for Martin, but his intentions are, of course, less than admirable. In the last five years, Bartok's eggheads have tried unsuccessfully to make the infamous telepods work. But all they manage to do is scramble up the genetic code of a golden retriever. So, now that Martin's all grow'd up, and probably more of a genius than his daddy ever was, Bartok sets him to work tinkering with the pods. All work and no play makes Martin a dull boy, so naturally, there's a love interest in the form of Daphne Zuniga as Beth. And like his dad, when Martin gives in to the temptations of the flesh, weird stuff starts happening, and not just in his pants. Son of Brundlefly begins his metamorphosis and escapes from the labs and goes looking for Beth. Together they look up the only other cast member from the first flick who'd agree to be in the sequel -- John Getz as Stathis. He got his foot and hand dissolved in the last movie, and now he collects antiques. Despite wearing a phony beard, Getz is just as smarmy in the sequel, but can't do much to help Martin whose transformation becomes more and more evident. Beth freaks out and calls the Bartok goons when Martin falls asleep in his cocoon. And just wait til you see what pops out of that sucker. YEEEEACK!!! Numero Two-o ups the body count, and more graphically, ups the slime-o-rama factor. Embrace that fact, and you've got yourself a fantastic time. Great ending. Where's Numero Three-o?
The Fly 2 Notables: No breasts. Six corpses. Three beasts. 42 gallons goo. Fingers tumble. One mutated cactus. Gratuitous fly casting. Multiple hypodermic closeups. Defibrillation footage. Gratuitous budding-romance montage with dancing to K.D. Lang's "Lock Stock And Teardrops." One dead mutant dog. Ransacking. One foot chase. Gratuitous bug zapper. Forceable showering. Tazer attack. Spine snapping. Cranium squishing (extra messy).
The Fly 2 Quotables: Bartok explains the telepod project to young Martin, "Five years and millions of dollars later, and what we have is the world's most expensive juicer. The greatest invention in the history of mankind, and we can't get the damn thing to work. We're like a bunch of chimpanzees trying to figure out how to operate a car." Martin throws a fit and breaks up with Beth, "Stay out of my sector! You no longer have clearance." And later, after they've made up and he starts to fall apart, he snaps at her, "I'm getting BETTER!" Stathis tells Martin what he thought of dear departed daddy, "He bugged me."
The Fly 2 Time codes: Return of the telepods (15:40). Martin watches an interview of his dad, which is likely an outtake from the first movie (23:45). A love interest enters the picture (27:19). Martin loses his virginity at 5-years-old (45:50). His metamorphosis begins (48:10). Enormous stream of digestive goo to the face (1:27:55). Bartok meets a fitting fate (1:39:50).
Audio/Video: Both are presented in their original widescreen (1.85:1) ratios. The Fly features a BEAUTIFUL, clean transfer, while Son O' Fly is a bit grainier, especially in darker scenes. Both get nifty new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks and Howard Shore's intense score soars in The Fly.
Extras: Not much. Static menus with no audio. Fullframe trailers for the original The Fly, Return of the Fly, The Fly remake, The Fly 2, Fantastic Voyage and a widescreen trailer for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Final thought: Grossly lacking in extras and presentation, yet the flicks themselves are a certain addition to any CineSchlocker's library. Cronenberg's Fly is an undeniable classic, and its sequel is a slimy treat for gore fans. Collector Series.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.