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The Fly I & II

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 for an exclusive look at his invention. It’s a teleportation device, and it could very well change the world. Unfortunately, in haste, Seth enters the machine without realizing a simple housefly has accompanied him. He’s about to undergo the most horrifying transformation ever experienced by a human being.

While it can be summed up in a couple of sentences, David Cronenberg’s The Fly is not entirely simple. There’s a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo (all of which is both smart and technically plausible), and our protagonists go through a barrage of mental (and in some cases, physical) strain. There are lengthy bouts of just 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 (though not so much that you can’t miss a few seconds here and there).

The Fly works so well because it’s expertly made in every sense. The script is surprisingly well-written (for a horror movie, nonetheless), the directing is perfect, the lead actors hold their own very well, and even the visual effects are impressive, especially for 1986. The movie features a great buildup that increases as it progresses, and ends with a completely satisfying climax. We also care enough about this man to watch in sheer terror as he transforms into something extraordinary. We haven’t seen the original, but it would be hard pressed to be better than this horror classic.

(Editor's note:we have seen the original and it's an apples-to-oranges comparison.They're both worth seeing, but the Cronenberg version is the better.)

The special edition DVD has included brand-new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital & dts 5.1 audio tracks. Both are fabulous, with the picture showing no signs of age, and color and detail showing up beautifully. The audio tracks feature a surprising amount of surround use for an older film, and the dialogue, sound effects and score all mold together well. Disc 1 of the 2-disc set includes an audio commentary with Cronenberg, on which he discusses his approaches to the film, his reluctance to cast Geena Davis, and even some of the problems in the film upon reflection (though we wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t have pointed them out).

Disc two kicks off with a two-and-a-half-hour (ish) documentary that takes us from “Larva” (pre-production), “Pupa” (production), and “Metamorphosis” (post-production). Typical of this kind of doc, it features plenty of interviews with the involved parties, mixed in with some behind-the-scenes footage. It’s very extensive, and probably answers every question one might have about the making of The Fly.

These docs are generally better for an older film, as those involved get the chance to reflect on the past, rather than something they just did a few months ago. We get a few deleted scenes, an alternate ending, some rare test footage (bo-ring!), photo galleries, and some promotional featurettes. Also included are the original short story, Charles Edward Pogue’s original screenplay, and David Cronenberg’s rewrite.

Fans of the film should not be without this special edition.

The Fly, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
95 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital & dts 5.1
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz
Produced by Stuart Cornfeld
Screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg
Directed by David Cronenberg

Many will instantly dismiss The Fly II as a typical sequel, which it both is and isn’t.



Many will instantly dismiss The Fly II as a typical sequel, which it both is and isn’t.

Picking up shortly after the first film left off, the sequel starts off with Veronica Quaife (not played by Geena Davis this time) giving birth to some kind of horrible creature, an event so traumatic that she doesn’t survive. Young Martin Brundle (no relation to the race car driver) is then raised by Bartok Industries, which treats him pretty well, despite the fact that he never really gets to go anywhere. Martin grows at an accelerated rate, a disease that only he and his father have ever had, which means that he will be fully grown by the time he is five years old (which helps to get the movie going more quickly).

Martin, like his father, is a genius, and when he’s old enough, Bartok industries offers him a job finishing the work his father left behind. But he soon begins to discover some of the secrets behind the company, and as he undergoes the most horrifying transformation ever experienced by a human being, he just might want to get some revenge.

On one hand, you might say that The Fly II sports too many script problems and goes way too far in some cases. On the other hand, you might also say that these are its strongest points. The occasional bad line makes you remember that this is a horror sequel, and therefore to not take it too seriously. The over-the-top action pieces are exactly what is necessary – that which the first film gave you, but to a grander scale. If you thought the stuff in the first movie was gory, wait till you see this! Some may also complain that it features the exact same central story as its predecessor. To those folks, we’d like to pose the question: How can you have a sequel to a movie about a man turning into a fly, without having a man turning into a fly? The fact that they’ve crafted an almost entirely new story around it is impressive. There are some great horror movie moments and some genuinely heart-wrenching moments.

Even though we appear to be gushing, let it be known that The Fly II is not a great movie. In fact, by normal standards, it’s probably pretty terrible. It sacrifices the great character-driven scenes that made the first film, and replaces them with horror movie schlock. Mind you, it’s pretty darn entertaining horror movie schlock. While the average, ordinary, everyday movie watcher will find much to hate about The Fly II, this particular reviewer found it to be a pretty good little yarn. Recommended for those with a high tolerance for bad movies made well.

The second Fly also gets a brand-new special edition, with remastered 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital & dts 5.1 tracks. Video looks on par with the first film, with the exception of a few patches of grain here and there (which are probably only noticeable if you’re a snob, like us). Overall color and detail comes through very well. The audio tracks feature slightly more definition overall than The Fly, but the dialogue doesn’t seem quite as crisp. Surrounds are just as prominent, but the score, which isn’t as good this time around, stays more in the background.

Disc one features a new commentary by director Chris Walas and film historian Bob Burns. Exactly why a film historian was asked to do a commentary for a film that doesn’t even achieve cult film status is beyond us, but the track is pretty good overall. (Editor's note: Bob Burns is more of a "cinefantastique" movie fan and aficionado than a "movie historian")

At times it can be bland, but there’s plenty of good information here, much of which will be reiterated in the documentaries. Also on disc one are a deleted scene (hilarious), and an alternate ending that is happier, but doesn’t leave you with the same feeling at all (we preferred the theatrical ending).

Even if you didn’t like the movie, this set is worth picking up for “The Fly Papers,” an hour-long documentary chronicling the five Fly films. Narrated by Leonard Nimoy, this is a glorious piece that, being a tribute, doesn’t feature any back-slapping or endless dronings-on – it’s just pure fun. The other documentary, “Transformations: Looking Back at The Fly II,” is much more standard. It’s a retrospective making-of documentary that features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Right off the bat, director Chris Walas mentions how many big-wigs had things that “had” to be put in the film which, subtly enough, is his way of saying “it’s not all my fault.” And that seems fair. It’s a pretty good doc, but doesn’t even compare with Fly Papers.

There are some additional featurettes: an 18-minute film production journal (bo-ring!), some storyboard-to-film comparisons (also bo-ring!), a featurette on composer Christopher Young, the original 1989 EPK featurette, still photo galleries, and trailers.

The Fly II, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
104 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital & dts 5.1
Starring Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, Harley Cross and John Getz
Produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe
Screenplay by Mick Garris and Jim & Ken Wheat and Frank Darabont
Directed by Chris Walas

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