Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Leslie Carlson, George Chuvalo
Written by: David Cronenberg, Charles Edward Pogue, based on a story by George Langelaan
Directed by: David Cronenberg
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 95
Date: 08/14/1986

The Fly (1986)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Be Very Afraid

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director David Cronenberg has always been fascinated with the changing of the human body in all its forms -- mutation, drug addiction, etc. -- and the horror and revulsion that naturally results. In other words, he is able to exploit natural fears through supernatural means. The re-working of the 1958 horror classic The Fly gave him fertile ground to explore this theme.

A scientist, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), with motion sickness tries to invent a teleportation pod. He nearly gets it right, but his dedication to all things scientific and his ignorance of human interaction become his undoing. His computer does not know what to do when a fly enters the pod along with poor Seth and so splices them together. At first Seth feels great, but slowly finds himself losing body parts as he mutates into a fly. Cronenberg one-ups the story by introducing Veronica (Geena Davis), a beautiful reporter who falls for Seth at precisely the wrong time.

Charles Edward Pogue and Cronenberg's intelligent script and Goldblum's heartfelt performance make this outlandish story perfectly feasible. The original film had no such justifications. It simply shows a scientist trying out his new machine and coming out with the head and right arm of a fly. Cronenberg makes his movie more scientific and far more personal, showing Seth grappling head on humankind's biggest fear: the decay of the body.

The Fly grows yet another layer when it's revealed that Cronenberg himself suffers from chronic motion sickness. Only a master filmmaker of the highest caliber could make a masterpiece from that.

In 2005, Fox released an extraordinary special 2-disc Special Edition that supplants their 2000 "double feature" edition (with The Fly II). It comes with a Cronenberg commentary track, several features, including an in-depth making-of documentary that's longer than the film, plus stills, trailers and deleted/extended scenes. The only drawback is that it contains several "printed" materials, such as the original short story, two versions of the script and magazine articles about the film, but they're only available to read on your TV screen. It would have been better to include these items in PDF format on the DVD-Rom.

Additionally, Fox has released a similar two-disc set for The Fly II. There's not much reason to buy this film or even see it, but the disc comes with a pretty good hour-long documentary, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, about the entire Fly cycle.

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