The Fly on Blu-ray
Sometimes, all it takes to successfully remake a film is a little bit of talent.
These days, the onslaught of lousy remakes has given the word a bad name (and we have some bad names for many of those remakes), but let us not forget David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly, one of the most deservedly revered remakes, well…ever.
The film gets going right away, with Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) inviting Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) back to his humble abode (he has a laboratory/apartment in what appears to be a Toronto industrial park) for an exclusive look at his invention. It’s a teleportation device, the primitive prototype for what would become the more famous transporter from Star Trek, and it could very well change the world. It's big and clunky; rather than just standing on a circle and saying "energize," a transportee has to enter a pod and be reassembled in another pod.
Pretty cool for the time, though. Heck, we remember when cell phones were bigger than some of today's notebook computers.
Quaife, a journalist, sees this as the story of a lifetime and agrees to hang out with Brundle (well, they're falling in love anyway, so it isn't too difficult a decision) to document his work for a book later, when he's ready to show his invention to the world.
Alas, at the beginning he can only teleport inanimate objects (we can think of a few celebrities he could have used as guinea pigs here). When he tries sending through something living, it ends up a quivering mass of gross-looking flesh (we can think of a few celebrities we could have used as examples here). It's obviously a tough problem for Brundle and his computers to work out.
But of course he does, or we wouldn't have a movie. He sends through an ape, which appears to have survived the ordeal in fine fit. It calls for a celebration, with champagne and all, but before they can party hearty Quaife runs off to scrape some old business off her shoes - that old business being her old boyfriend. Brundle is left there with champagne getting warm and paranoia about losing his love paramount on his mind. Well, maybe 20th Century Fox on his mind....
After a few more flutes of bubbly, he decides to show the world - he'll go through his teleporter himself to show everyone how he's about the change the world. And he ends up changing himself.
Unfortunately, in his haste, Seth entered the machine without realizing that a simple housefly had accompanied him. He’s about to undergo the most horrifying transformation ever experienced by a human being since Al (David) Hedison did it in the original film from the 1950's.
What follows is a tale of horror, yes, but there's a lot more to it than that. It's as much a tragedy as a horror film, and despite some gross out scenes near the end Cronenberg has crafted a wonderful human drama that transcends the genre.
It's also very believable. There’s a lot of 1980's vintage scientific mumbo-jumbo (which is both smart and technically plausible, even to using voice recognition with his computer before such a technique became feasible), and our protagonists go through a barrage of mental (and in some cases, physical) strain. There are lengthy bouts of dialogue, but it’s not simply endless droning. Pretty much every word of every line in the film is appropriate, and helps develop the story. And the performances are first rate.
Goldblum and Davis, especially, bring remarkable humanity to their roles, Goldblum in particular. His driven scientist isn't just a white coat, but a real person with dreams and foibles.
Of course if it ain't on the page it ain't on the stage, and in this case the script is surprisingly well-written (for a horror movie, anyway). And Cronenberg's direction is nigh on perfect, and even the visual effects are impressive, especially for 1986.
The Fly features a great buildup that increases the tension as it progresses, and it ends with an imaginative and completely satisfying climax. Cronenberg and co-writer Pogue make us care enough about Brundle that we watch in horror - and compassion - as he transforms into something extraordinary. He's more than a monster; he's a victim of circumstance and of his own obsession.
It isn't often that a remake can outdo the original - and the original Vincent Price/David Hedison is also a most worthy effort - but this is one.
The Blu-ray disc does the film justice. The 1080p HD resolution is top notch; there's some grain, but overall the picture is about as good as you could want. It's sharp, with excellent color and depth, and looks almost as if it were shot last week (except that the cast has aged).
The audio is presented in dts HD 5.1 master (lossless), and though there isn't a lot of surround it's still very good. Dialogue comes through very cleanly, and the music and effects offer good dynamics and tonal balance.
There's also a good selection of extras, including a commentary track from director David Cronenberg. There's also a featurette "The Brundle Museum of Natural History," a trivia track, search feature a "fly swatter" game, deleted/extended scenes and more.
We didn't expect as good a version as this on Blu-ray. After all, in the grand scheme of things The Fly is still a fairly minor entry, and it would have been easy for Fox to have cut corners. But they didn't.
We're very pleased
Fans of the film should not be without this edition.
The Fly, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.