The Fly (1986)

USA,
96m
35mm film, colour, 1.85:1
Dolby, English
Reviewed at The EOFFTV Review

An American science fiction/horror film directed by David Cronenberg.

Plot Summary

Scientist Seth Brundle invents a matter transporter device but when he tries it on himself he finds himself genetically spliced to a fly that was trapped in one of the pods. Over time, Brundle gradually undergoes a painful transformation into a creature that is neither man nor fly.

Credits

Crew
Director: David Cronenberg
Brooksfilms, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Producer: Stuart Cornfeld
Co-producer: Marc Boyman, Kip Ohman
Screenplay: Walon Green, Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
Original Short Story: George Langelaan
Director of Photography: Mark Irwin
Editor: Ron Sanders
Music: Howard Shore
Music Recording: Keith Grant
Costume Designer: Denise Cronenberg
Make-up: Shonagh Jabour
Computer/Video Effects Supervisor: Lee Wilson
Special Effects: Louis Craig, Ted Ross
The Fly Created and Designed by: Chris Walas Inc
Production Designer: Carol Spier

Cast
Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle)
Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife)
John Getz (Stathis Borans)
Joy Boushel (Tawny)
Les Carlson (Dr Cheevers)
George Chuvalo (Marky)
Michael Copeman (2nd man in bar)
David Cronenberg (gynaecologist)
Carol Lazare (nurse)
Shawn Hewitt (clerk)

Alternative Titles

Die Fliege – Austria, Germany, West Germany
Fluen – Denmark, Norway
Flugan – Finland (Swedish), Sweden
Kärpänen – Finland
A légy – Hungary
A Mosca – Brazil, Portugal
La mosca – Argentina, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Spain
Moucha – Czechoslovakia
La Mouche – Canada (French), France
Mucha – Poland
Muha – Croatia, Slovenia, Yugoslavia
Musca – Romania
Muse – Lithuania
Muva – Serbia, Yugoslavia
I myga – Greece
Sinek – Turkey
Ha-zvuv – Israel
Myxa – Soviet Russia, Ukraine

Remake of
The Fly (1958)

Sequel
The Fly II (1989)

Extracts included in
1,001 Movies You Must See (Before You Die) (2014)
AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Mel Brooks (2013)
The Brundle Museum of Natural History (2005)
Cinemassacre's Top 20 Movie Scenes Where People Jump Through Fucking Windows (2013)
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013)
Edge Codes.com: The Art of Motion Picture Editing (2004)
Fear of the Flesh: The Making of The Fly (2005)
Final Cut: Hölgyeim és uraim (2012)
Fly Girl (2011)
The Fly Papers: The Buzz on Hollywood's Scariest Insect (2000)
Hollywood Aliens & Monsters (1997)
Independent Spirit with Producer Ivan Reitman (2015)
Long Live the New Flesh: The Films of David Cronenberg (1987)
Monster Mania (1997)
Monster Vision: A History and Analysis of Horror Cinema (2016)
Naked Making Lunch (1992)
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)
The Perfect Scary Movie (2005)
The History of the Hands (2016)
Trailer Trauma 3: '80s Horror-Thon (2017)
Transformations: Looking Back at The Fly II (2005)
Untitled Naked Lunch Featurette (1991)
Wo ai chu fang (1997)

Press

1987
Films and Filming no.388 (January 1987) p.34
The throwaway humour of the early scenes is quite winning for a while […] anticipating a lighter touch than is evident in the gradual but grossly sensational metamorphosis itself, which is so po-faced it becomes disastrously clichéd. […] The production notes earnestly assure us that this is not a comedy – it is financed by the company owned by Mel Brooks, not a man generally associated with funny films. If they really mean it, then all I can say is ‘Back to the telepod, boys.' – from an illustrated review by Don Minifie

Starburst no.101 (January 1987) pp.11-12
There is no denying […] that Cronenberg's film is his most romantic and technically assured to date […] All of Cronenberg's neuroses are on show in this film to massive effect which is why The Fly is so unsettling. Despite what you've heard, I don't think the film is a gross-out gore-fest because the true horror – as underlined in all of Cronenberg's best work – is more to do with the obsessions that can drive anyone of us to the brink on insanity. What The Fly is really about is a twist on The Elephant Man theme – Goldblum becomes a freak of nature but he likes it too much to live in the real world. It is this implication which makes The Fly so disturbing, not Chris Walas' special effects – as startling as they are. […] While The Fly doesn't have the intensity of Videodrome, which is still Cronenberg's masterwork to my mind, it does contain the most extraordinary performances seen in any genre film for years. It is in essence a chamber piece revolving around three main characters and while the charming Geena Davis does wonders with ‘the voice of reason' role, in describing Jeff Goldblum's performance words fail me. If there is any justice next year's Oscar for best actor should be his – no contest. […] The last quarter of the film, which begins with the most studied and ludicrously melodramatic shock moment in Cronenberg's career is too over the top as we are shown Brundlefly merging with one of the inanimate telepods. Its as if the director wanted to pander to his fans with a expected grisly pay-off but the result of this action seriously undercuts the pathos and humanitarian context which preceded it by being unintentionally silly. That said, David Cronenberg is still the genre's most fascinating and uncompromising directors [sic]. I just wish he had the courage of his convictions to end The Fly less academically. – from an illustrated review by Alan Jones

Time Out no.860 (11 February 1987) p.24
This year's blockbuster romance, arriving just in time for St Valentine's Day, will have 'em sobbing in the aisles. They'll probably do a fair amount of retching as well, since it's directed by David Cronenberg […] What makes the story more than just a gore-fest of corroded limbs and inside-out baboons is the touching relationship between Brundle and journalist Veronica Quaife […] and their respective attitudes to the ‘disease', which is representative of any modern scourge of the flesh, from cancer and AIDS to plain old age. Frail stomachs may heave at the film's high yuck-factor and Grand Guignol climax, but the poignancy is that of a Love Story for the '80s with real raw meat on it. – from an illustrated review by Anne Billson

City Limits no.280 (12 February 1987) p.27
The Fly […] crowds rather than crowns the usual Cronenberg obsessions – fear of the body – with slick dialogue and special effects fetishism (36 technicians are listed). Each transformation is signalled with a kind of professional disinterest – here an arm mutates, there an ear drops off. There's an ugly kind of contemporaneity to the lava of pus and running sores; ‘a bizarre form of cancer' is the trade-off where sex meets science. Brundle's computer gets ‘excited' by transporting flesh at the moment when Seth relinquishes celibacy. The final five minutes sustain a passionate, gory surrealism to match, say, Videodrome, but for the most part Cronenberg moves away from melancholy and violence and looks to a broader, less tolerant audience. A compromised movie, never engaging enough, committed only in the wrong places, capable of drawing a bad taste in the mouth” – from a review by Mark Finch

New Musical Express 14 February 1987 p.41
A work of trash cinema par-excellence, a sublime effects movie backed up with ideas, The Fly rejoices in the exorcising power of pure cinema, a bleak modern fable where love, sex and faith are rent asunder by human folly and arrogance. Escapism that won't ever let you fully escape it, envelops the in audience in a world of the director's making, holds them rapt for the duration and leaves them purged but alive to the resonances that what they've just seen has for the world outside. A re-made, remodelled version of a 1958 pulp horror flick, which in turn can be traced back to Kafka's Metamorphosis, The Fly, not unlike John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, merely uses its source material as a starting point for director Cronenberg to unload his own fears and obsessions. Enter genetic mutation, fatal urges and the endless ability of science to fuck up. […] With single-minded dedication Cronenberg charts the doomed path of Brundlefly – an accelerating change that isn't physical at first, but all the more frightening because it comes from within. His descent into hell from a comic-book hero addicted to sex, sugar and capable of awesome athleticism is shot with vengeful, visceral glee by Cronenberg,a decimation which parallels the work of comic artists like Alan Moore. […] Matching acerbic with directional intelligence to gore and unashamed shock tactics, The Fly is a thing of beauty and horror, a funny, moving and genuinely terrifying film. It's already one of the movies of the year and you'd have to have a sicker mind than Cronenberg's to miss it. – from an illustrated review by Gavin Martin

The Listener vol.117 no.2999 (19 February 1987) p.34
David Cronenberg has genuinely reimagined the trite story, making it far more interesting and unsettling. Jeff Goldblum is funny and convincing as the eccentric scientist Seth Brundle; he's lonely, work-obsessed, naïve, and completely bowled over when he falls in love, for the first time, with journalist Veronica […] The initial effects of his metamorphosis are psychological – a manic energy, an aggression that springs in part from fears that are too horrible to articulate. Like many good horror movies, The Fly strikes down into some of our most primitive terrors about our bodies, and the way they can turn, unaccountably and uncontrollably, against us. But the film is lifted out of the ordinary mainly because Seth's terrible transformation is seen through Veronica. It explores a difficult and painful truth – the way illness can change the person you love, make them alien. Horror junkies needn't worry; after the subtle build-up, the movies goes to town with gross and sick-making special effects. The producer hopes that The Fly is ‘one of those films where people sleep with the lights on afterwards'. I didn't leave the light on; but I did lie awake in the dark at four in the morning, thinking. – from a review (Cinema) by Margaret Walters

2001
Starburst no.280 (December 2001) p.68
It's moving, powerful and occasionally difficult to watch, and hopefully it's just coincidence that the mid-transformation Brundlefly looks like the current version of Michael Jackson… – from an illustrated video review (Videofile) by Ian Atkins

References

Periodicals

  • City Limits no.280 (12 February 1987) p.27 – review (by Mark Finch)
  • Films and Filming no.388 (January 1987) p.34 – illustrated review (by Don Minifie)
  • The Listener vol.117 no.2999 (19 February 1987) p.34 – review (Cinema by Margaret Walters)
  • New Musical Express 14 February 1987 p.41 – illustrated review (by Gavin Martin)
  • Starburst no.101 (January 1987) pp.11-12 – illustrated review (by Alan Jones)
  • Starburst no.104 (April 1987) pp.38-41 – illustrated interview with David Conenberg (The Fly by Alan Jones)
  • Starburst no.280 (December 2001) p.68 – illustrated video review (Videofile by Ian Atkins)
  • Time Out no.860 (11 February 1987) p.24 – illustrated review (by Anne Billson)

Books

  • BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.63-64
  • The Cinema of David Cronenberg: From Baron of Blood to Cultural Hero by Ernest Mathijs pp.2, 4, 6, 8, 11,21, 51, 69-70, 100, 104, 129-154, 171, 188, 202, 223, 236; 279-280
  • Cronenberg on Cronenberg by Chris Rodley (ed.) pp.43, 78, 80, 82, 90, 97, 114-115, 119, 122-134, 144, 147, 152, 161, 165; 215 – illustrated notes; credits
  • David Cronenberg: Interviews with Serge Grünberg by Serge Grünberg pp.82-96; 191 – illustrated interview; credits
  • The Films of the Eighties by Douglas Brode pp.172-174 – illustrated credits, review
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis pp.178-179
  • Horror Films of the 1980s by John Kenneth Muir pp.492-497 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • The Modern Fantastic: The Films of David Cronenberg by Michael Grant (ed.) pp.1, 3, 6, 9, 11, 23-35, 30, 36, 50, 56, 57, 61, 66, 73-75,77, 79, 81, 84, 85, 99, 127, 160, 162, 169, 174
  • The Pocket Essential David Cronenberg by John Costello pp.60-65 – credits, review
  • The Politics of Insects: David Cronenberg's Cinema of Confrontation by Scott Wilson pp.1-4, 58-68, 76, 110, 134, 184, 222
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester pp.181-182
  • Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema by Philip Hayward (ed) p.198
  • Variety Science-Fiction Movies by Julian Brown (ed.) p.47 – credits, review