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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > The Fly - Collector's Edition (1986 DTS Set)

The Fly (2 DVD DTS Set)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



As part of the interesting cycle of film co-produced by the SLM Company (Aliens and To Live & Die In L.A. are reviewed elsewhere on this site) as well as Brooksfilm’s own productions (The Elephant Man), David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly is still talked about today and has been reissued in a new two-DVD set with a bunch of extras and somewhat of an upgrade on the film itself.  The 1958 original was a color CinemaScope genre classic that brought us one of the classic movie monsters, spawning a sequel and remaining a legend to this day.  Cronenberg’s remake has proved to be more than worthy of that legacy.


“Be afraid, be very afraid” is one of the all-time classic lines in the Horror/Monster vernacular and many who hear it now do not even know it comes from this film.  It is every much the classic that “help me, help me” still is from the original.  Jeff Goldblum is the scientist here on the verge of creating the holy grail of teleportation.  He gets motion sickness from traveling, which is his prime motivation for living in his lab (way before the idea was common) and is very close to his breakthrough.  Like all scientists, he will eventually try this on himself, and things will go wrong.


The film holds up well as it nears its 20th Anniversary, though when it first came out, its obviousness and predictability was a double-edged sword.  It gave audiences what they wanted and was a hit, as well as remaining one of his most accessible and commercial films.  However, it was also a missed opportunity that allowed for a strange sequel (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and stunted a potential franchise that could have gone on as long as Alien if the follow up films had been more ambitiously backed by the studio.  With that said, Cronenberg’s work here is still distinctive enough and is far more structured and intelligent than so many films in the genre we have seen since.  The teleportation pods were much slicker than your usual “glass booth” design and holds up very well, seeming “on time” today.


Geena Davis is the girlfriend who will get caught up in the madness and a love triangle will also ensue.  She has great chemistry with Goldblum, in part because they were an item, but Cronenberg knew how to pull that back for the characters.  The breakthroughs in make-up were the big thing then the way digital graphic animation is today and was above average then, oddly “charming” now (like the puppeteering of the robo-skeleton in the first Terminator) in look ambition and slight limits that would not necessarily have been noticed then.  To its advantage, it looks more physical, organic, slimy and palpable; something digital has failed to do in this genre over and over and will continue to fail in for many years to come.  That is why despite all of its flaws, Alien vs. Predator (reviewed elsewhere on this site) has its moments of impact do to the make-up work.


Though not a masterpiece of the genre or Cronenberg’s best film, it is an interesting success in that a unique filmmaker like Cronenberg was able to do a successful commercial film and not compromise his position or form as an auteur.  Though The Dead Zone, Cronenberg’s still-stunning 1983 film version of the Stephen King novel (versus the hideous, lame TV series of the same name) endures as his best mainstream success (even with as much as I really like A History Of Violence, another fine Cronenberg work), The Fly shows a total grasp, understanding and even love of the genre and that is why it ultimately stands the test of time today.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is a bit of an improvement over the first DVD release, but is not severely different.  Cinematographer Mark Irwin, C.S.C., creates a dark yet balanced atmosphere that does not gut out the color totally and shows a real flare for color and light within the genre and some of it is pure Cronenberg just the same.  The old Dolby A-type analog surround has been upgraded to new Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes, but they just cannot hide the fidelity limits of the recording of the time.  Music is heightened, but other audio (like dialogue in particular) has not aged as well.  Sometimes, the result is slight harshness in both mixes, but it is the best the film has sounded to date.  Maybe DTS HD at a later time will resolve those issues, but cheers to Howard Shore’s score that has aged very well.


Extras include a very pleasant and exceptional commentary by Cronenberg himself on DVD 1, highlighted by all kinds of insight and even a rather extensive comparison between his remake and the original.  DVD 2 has even more, including the three-part documentary Fear Of The Flesh, text of the original short story, screenplay and Cronenberg’s rewrite, four deleted scenes including the alternate ending, five segment piece of test footage, three interactive articles, five stills section (one sheets/lobby cards, publicity, behind the scenes, concept art, visual effects), two teasers, one trailer and one featurette for this film, trailer for its sequel, trailers for the original films from the late 1950s and The Brundle Museum Of Natural History featurette.  That is an ace job by Fox and the film is interesting enough to have and deserve all of these extras. 



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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