A lot of genre fans get their feathers ruffled over remakes, especially when the film being remade is a classic. When it was announced that David Cronenberg was going to be updating Kurt Neumann's 1958 Vincent Price vehicle of the same name, people were skeptical for obvious reasons the original is a very beloved film and a very well made one. Thankfully, Cronenberg knocked this one out of the park and, like John Carpenter's remake of The Thing it stands as not only one of the best horror movies of the 1980s but one of the best remakes of all time. The fine folks over at Fox know this, and have finally opted to give the film's many rabid fans the special edition DVD release we've all been chomping at the bit to get for so long, and thankfully, it doesn't disappoint in the least.
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a quirky but brilliant scientist who has created the world's first teleportation system. Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) is a journalist who writes for a scientific journal sent by her boss to meet with Brundle to get the details on his creation. The two meet, they hit it off, and Seth takes her back to his lab which also happens to be his loft/apartment. What Veronica witnesses when they arrive is pretty amazing stuff Seth is able to put an object in one of the teleportation pods and send it to the other one on the other side of the room by reducing the object to particles and then having the device reassemble it upon arrival. Seth proudly proclaims to her that his invention will change the world and she's pretty hard pressed to disagree with the strange man.
A day after their first meeting, Seth wants to see her again. When they meet he asks her not to publish her findings on his work right away, to hold off a little bit until more work is done. In return for doing this, he'll let her document his progress and use her writing as the basis of a book. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Veronica accepts this proposition and soon Seth explains to her why he wants her to hold off before going public with all of this the machines cannot teleport living things, only inanimate objects.
Seth continues to work away on his computers and machines, trying to find the right code that will allow him to successfully teleport a living creature and make his creation complete. As Veronica is there, recording each and every detail of the procedures involved in his research, the two start to fall for one another and soon enough they can no longer deny the mutual attraction. This is unfortunate for Veronica, who used to go out with her editor at the journal and who is now growing quite jealous of the time that she's spending with Seth. When Veronica leaves one night to try and smooth things over with her ex, Seth finally cracks the code he's been working on and decides to use himself as a human guinea pig. He steps into the teleportation device, flips the switch, and successful rematerializes on the other side or so he thinks. What Seth doesn't realize is that a fly got into the pod with him and that upon rematerializing, his DNA was mixed with the fly's DNA and that now he is no longer truly human.
Going into further details about the plot would be a grave injustice to anyone who has not yet seen this masterpiece of modern horror, so let it suffice to say that it gets really, really ugly.
Cronenberg's knack for bringing medical and body horror to life on the silver screen is brought full force to this film. Though he had made more interesting films before this one and has made more polished and more experimental films since, his version of The Fly is such a success on so many levels that it's hard not to instantly identify the director with this film, even if he probably should be better known for Videodrome, Naked Lunch or Shivers.
The focus of the movie is on transformation, not only of Brundle into the Brundlefly but also of the relationship between Seth and Veronica. Two very different dynamics and two very different evolutions to be sure but both are extremely important to the success of the film and without those two key elements it just wouldn't work as well. The transformation into the fly is important for obvious reasons it provides the horror, the reason for the make up and gore effects, and is the perfect vehicle for Cronenberg's obsession with what the human body can become (see eXistenz for the next step on that journey). The transformation of the relationship between Seth and Veronica, however, is important for very different reasons as it morphs from cold, clinical and professional to passionate and dangerous and romantic. This provides the pathos, it makes you care about the characters and shows that Brundle isn't just a cold machine of a man but a human being or at least he was. The believability of the relationship between the two characters makes it easy to suspend our disbelief and as such the scary bits are scarier, the gross bits are more grotesque and the tragedy of it all is all the more biting. Goldblum and Davis are perfect as the leads and both really nail their roles. While they've both been very hit or miss in a lot of the projects they'd take on in later years, here they're fantastic and the casting choices, as unorthodox as they may seem, are brilliant.
The Fly isn't all metaphorical scientific melodrama, however make no mistake this is a horror movie. The effects are excellent in the film, even now almost twenty years after the fact, and the stand out set pieces where Brundlefly has to dissolve some of his food before he can eat it are still incredibly obscene and work beautifully especially the first time you see the film when you really don't expect those types of things to happen in the movie.
The cinematography does an expert job of capturing the coldness of the loft/lab. The cool steel of the teleportation pods (modeled after the cylinders on Cronenberg's motorcycle) are unfeeling and unsympathetic to anyone or anything. When the fly makes it in and Seth merges with it, you're not surprised as those machines just look mean and nasty and ugly and uncaring. The rest of the film matches this tone from the decay of Seth's body to the cool blackness of the bedroom where he sleeps. The sun doesn't shine in The Fly, it's a dark and gloomy picture one that, in less capable hands could have really misfired and came off as a joke, but that here stands the test of time as a masterpiece of modern horror.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that Fox has whipped up for this release is very nice indeed. The film has always looked a little dark in spots but that was on purpose and thankfully, that darkness is well preserved on this new DVD. Light scenes show excellent color reproduction while black levels are strong and deep throughout. The level of both foreground and background detail in the widescreen image is exceptional and there are only trace amounts of edge enhancement and line shimmering present. Mpeg compression artifacts are never a problem, and overall things look very nice. There are trace amounts of print damage here and there that show up in the form of the odd speck of dirt or dust but these don't reveal themselves often enough to be a serious concern. Contrast levels are also dead on. Fans should be impressed with how the film has been treated here it looks fantastic.Sound:
Fox presents The Fly in a couple of different audio options. First and foremost are the two English language 5.1 Surround Sound tracks in both DTS and Dolby Digital format. There's also a French language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track thrown on for good measure. Removable subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish and an English closed captioning option is also present.
If your receiver can make it happen, take the time to check out the film in the DTS mix as it is a noticeably fuller mix than the Dolby Digital track, though both sound very good on this release. Dialogue is crisp, the score sounds absolutely beautiful, and the sound effects are plenty squishy when they need to be. The low end fills up nicely during key moments and there aren't any problems with shrillness or strange directional effects seeming out of place. Most of the dialogue comes out of the center and front channels allowing the rears to build up behind you with atmospheric effects and the like.Extras:
Fox has, wisely, chosen to spread the extra features across two discs rather than cram everything onto one that already sports a hefty sized DTS track. Here's how it all plays outDISC ONE:
There's only one supplement on the first disc in the set, but it's a good one and it comes in the form of a commentary track from the director of The Fly, David Cronenberg. Anyone who has taken the time to listen to one of his director commentary track in the past knows that he's always an interesting guy to spend some time with and this track continues his tradition of delivering thought provoking and interesting commentaries for his films. He covers a lot of ground on this track and even if there is the occasional moment of dead air time, there's still a lot of worthwhile information to find in here as he covers pre and post production difficulties, why Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis were chosen for their roles, and how some of the FX work was done. He does a fine job of filling us in on all of the basics surrounding the genesis of the film and his insightful comments are a very welcome addition to the DVD.DISC TWO:
Here's where the bulk of the extra features are. First up is an absolutely amazing documentary entitled Fear Of The Flesh The Making Of The Fly. At a whopping two hours and forty odd minutes in length, this massive segment covers everything you could possibly want to know about the making of the film and those who made it all happen. Fox has chosen to break this documentary down into three sections, each dealing with a different portion of the film: Larva covers the pre-production, Pupa the middle ground and shooting of the film, and Metamorphosis the post work. There are tons of clips from the movie in here but also footage from the dailies, some great test footage and very raw takes from moments familiar to anyone who has seen the movie, and different deleted scenes as well as four different finales that were considered for the movie but never actually used. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum are both on hand and give extensive recollections of their time spent on set and their subsequent feelings on the final version of the film as well as what it was like working with one another and with Cronenberg. Plenty of crew members are also on hand to talk about their work. They discuss who was to originally direct the film and why, they cover some of the changes that Cronenberg made to Pogue's original script, and they cover a lot of the effects work in quite a bit of detail. Sadly, the video quality on this documentary isn't so hot and the image is quite soft looking whenever we're treated to the new footage. Fox really should have put more effort into making this massive project look as good as possible and it's a downer that they didn't but everything is still perfectly watchable (it's presented in anamorphic widescreen and in 5.1 surround sound, oddly enough).
Deleted and extended scenes are up next! The four deleted scenes are a second interview with Seth, the notorious cat/monkey scene (storyboards and script pages are also included for this sequence), a sequence involving some interaction between the fly and a bag lady (which was never filmed and is presented only as a series of storyboard images), and Veronica's butterfly baby dream sequence. As far as the video quality goes on this material, it's all over the place with much of it sourced from old archived VHS tapes so it doesn't always look perfect but it's great to finally get to see a lot of this material after having heard about it for quite a while.
The two extended scenes include a nice option that highlights what parts were cut and what parts were left in and are basically just dialogue and character interaction scenes. They're entitled Reconciliation and The Poetry Of Steak and the filmmaker's did the right thing by trimming them down as they don't add much to the movie at all, however it's definitely nice to see them included here.
One of the more interesting supplements is the inclusion of some effects test footage. These were snagged right off of the original negative for the film and it's very cool to see them in this form. Included for your enjoyment are test versions of the opening credits, pod effects work, Brundlefly make up tests, the exploding buy, and a nice bit entitled Cronenfly that features the director taking on Goldblum's role. The combined running time of this footage is just under eight minutes in length.
A second featurette is also included, entitled The Brundle Museum Of Natural History. This runs for about twelve minutes and it focuses in on the effects work and the props used in the film, many of which have been preserved by Rob Burns. They also examine in more detail the infamous and still disgusting hand erosion scene as well and also exhibit some of the conceptual art developed for the film.
Let's move on to the promotional materials section! First up is a teaser spot, followed by the full length theatrical trailer. Also look out for three different television spots for the film, as well as the entire press kit for the movie as well. As a nice little bonus, Fox has also included trailers for The Fly 2 as well as for the original Vincent Price film as well.
In the Promotional Featurettes section we see that the vintage Featurette that was made to promote the movie around the time of its release is included next, and it's an interesting if very promotional feeling look behind the scenes of the movie. Also included is a Profile On David Cronenberg which is a brief biography on the director that details his work up through this point in his career. At under five minutes it's not as comprehensive as most of us would have liked but it's still nice to watch for fans of his work.
Wrapping up the extra features are some interesting text and image based supplements five still galleries (Publicity, Behind The Scenes, and Visual Effects, Lobby Cards And Poster Art, and Concept Art), George Langelaan's original short story (originally published in Playboy magazine!), Charles Edward Pogue's original script, and David Cronenberg's screenplay rewrite. There are also three magazine articles relating to the film included here: one from Cinefex magazine from 11/86, and the second and third from two separate issues of American Cinematographer. There's an absolutely massive amount of reading material on this disc and Fox has done a nice job in choosing a very readable and very easy on the eyes font to present it in which makes reading off of your TV less of a chore than you might think. Everything is all wrapped up under some very slick interactive menus that add a nice touch of class to the whole superlative package.Final Thoughts:
Cronenberg's The Fly has never looked or sounded as good as it does on this release. The film itself holds up incredibly well and Fox has truly gone above and beyond by putting together such an excellent package as this for a movie that really deserves it. I don't hand out the DVD Collector Series rating too often, but this release really deserves it.