Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Unit 1: Anatomy - Review - David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986 Remake)

Figure 1. The Fly 1986 Poster Art.

A gruesome remake of the 50s classic, providing a more prominent “sickly sweet” Horror with a greater emphasis on the chief character from get to go. The central narrative is localised with a surreal super human approach to Jeff Goldblum’s portrayal of fly-by-wire Seth Brundle.

• Directed by: David Cronenberg
• Written by: Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
• Cast: Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, Geena Davis as Veronica Quaife, John Getz as Stathis Borans, Joy Boushel as Tawny, Les Carlson as Dr. Cheevers & George Chuvalo as Marky.
• Genre: Drama, Horror, Mild Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
• Duration: 96 Minutes (aprox)

The black facade unfolds from the daunting introductory credits only to reveal a ball room of all places, “very norm” respectable & not fly-like. What is more shocking is the onset prescience which quickly changes when Brundle whisks Geena Davis’s dominant Veronica Quaife back to his place for some off the cuff piano playing (actually scratch that, look at my pods).

“It’s too late, you’ve seen them I can’t let you leave here alive”

Jeff Goldblum plays a very believable Seth Brundle, nerdy with a quick witt to match, which mentally slows as the cancer like metamorphosis (from Brundle to Brundle-fly to - some kind of Mutant-fly) consumes his character. Geena Davis executes a brilliant likeness to “damsel” Veronica Quaife who retires from the dominant role as she falls deeper in love with the “fly like” “Brundlefly” as he loses more and more of his humanity to insect DNA.

“Goldblum is sublime in a rare leading role. Davis is also in top form. As a couple, they are so convincing and appealing that one regrets knowing that their love story will soon become a tragic horror movie” (TV Guide: 1986)
The narrative is strictly centralised around the daunting grubby Lab/home that Jeff Goldblum occupies, with his transformation as the focal point.

The Transformation
“David Cronenberg's triumphant reworking of the 1958 Vincent Price flick remains his most accessible film, meshing his perennial obsessions with disease, decay and metamorphosis into an exuberantly handled, shamelessly melodramatic love story - albeit a love story in which one partner is a pus-packed bluebottle.” (Empire: 1986)
Despite good intentions trouble was evident in the earlier stages (as was the 1958 original) from Brundle’s prior experiment (turning a Monkey inside out, don’t worry we’ll be using your brother next). After a surprising secondary success (with Monkey number 2) Brundle takes a drunken spin in his tele-pod with an unwelcomed house guest (the name gives it away). Following his transportation Brundle’s alteration begins from the inside out (at cell level), initially affecting his mental status and finally his physical appearance.

The metamorphosis is a slow process (for the duration of the entire film) that begins with a comedic super human angle (Brundle doing crazy acrobatics on a number of convenient sturdy balance poles & unleashing tirade after tirade of verbal diarrhea over lunch with a very confused, albeit foxy Veronica Quaife).

“Do you take coffee with your sugar?”

Things quickly become hectic as the fly DNA begins to mutate into Brundle’s thought structure, causing him to think more highly of himself and his own genius. Following this, the fly... erm Brundle begins to look like a junkie with blotches appearing on his face marring his once clean look.

Figure 2. Brundle’s finger nails allow him to confirm he has problems.

The film allows time to progress for a further 4 or so weeks before returning to the even more fly-like Brundle, with him much more aware as to his situation and a rather gruesome skin condition. Following the loss of more human appendages (which Brundle stores in his bathroom cabinet) and his new fly like digestion vomit, Brundle acquires wall climbing abilities as more of his humanity is stripped away with his sanity.

“The film's visual parallels resonate as strongly now as they did in 1985 - his augmented strength, not mention deteriorating complexion, could just as easily be a result of steroid use, and there are any number of debilitating diseases that correlate with Seth's loss of limbs, etc.” (Gilchrist: 2005)
“I'm saying I - I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over... and the insect is awake”

With Brundle’s final elements of humanity still lingering, one cannot help but feel sorry for the poor Brundle as he finally gives up the ghost and just accepts what is happening to him. However, the compassion is abruptly turned to fear as Brundle goes insane over the idea of poor Veronica bearing his child, to which he kidnaps her from the safety of the abortion clinic.

Figure 3. “Help me be Human”.

The final scene sees Brundle in a grotesque display shift to his final fly like form as his final layers of humanity are stripped away with his entire face revealing the monster that he has become; this is when the narrative arch does a 180 degree turn into sheer horror.

A fly’s transformation also nods to the moral dilemmas of the period to which it was released (namely the aids pandemic) subtly trying to teach movie goers to practice safe sex. The message extends into child birth when foxy Veronica dreams that she is giving birth to a maggot (the fly’s kin). It could very well have worked, the film doesn’t hold back on the un-well dilemmas surrounding Brundles cancer-like transformation to Brundlefly...

Figure 4. Regurgitated lunch anyone?

To Summarize

The remade 1986 version of “The Fly” was more reliant on the use of the central protagonist “Brundle” which was strange considering the original was based more on the dilemmas facing the in house spouse “Helene” with a murder enquiry surrounding her husband.

For the most part the concept works but some people prefer a static genre that pertains to a film they would consider. The Fly tries to be multiple genres and in some cases tries too hard.

“A film that tries to be too many things at once - funny but not campy, sad and scary, a horror story and a human tragedy” (James: 1986)
The special effects were the updated factor, allowing Director David Cronenberg to go into greater depth with the transformation Brundle to Brundlefly. The set designs were limited (mainly Brundles Lab) as the focal point was the scientist himself, which probably left room in the budget for all of the gruesome special effects. Brundle’s slum apartment/lab was more believable as the locale for a fly where as the 1958 film lab felt too upper class for something as grubby as a fly to inhabit.

The transformations were succinct with both films, namely the mental battles of man vs. Fly but the 1958 film did not develop the fly’s transformation to its full extent, which is probably why the 1986 version made a greater splash in the industry pool.

Figure 5. They both have their strengths and weaknesses.

The original (1958) flashback was a unique way of working to the demand of the narrative wrapping the audience up in a web of mystery, causing them to constantly second guess themselves, knowing a fly has to show up at some point. While the more “grotesque” 1986 version reverted to the basics of the original concept (he’s a man who becomes a fly - and it’s just as simple as that).


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. The Fly 1986 Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://mutantville.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/fly_poster.jpg (Accessed on: 21/09/11)

Figure 2. Brundle’s finger nails allow him to confirm he has problems. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Q-1ZOMkmpf0/ThI7iG7TfsI/AAAAAAAABUw/p5AN6pbbcZ4/s1600/the-fly-brundle.jpg (Accessed on: 21/09/11)

Figure 3. “Help me be Human”. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_P7mYEXfJ1lc/TKs95ZhwBHI/AAAAAAAAANw/oEi2f7__y8Q/s1600/the-fly-1986-jeff-goldblum4.jpg (Accessed on: 21/09/11)

Figure 4. Regurgitated lunch anyone? (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/09/11)

Figure 5. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://mimg.ugo.com/200810/21734/the-fly.jpg (Accessed on: 21/09/11)



TV Guide. (2007) The Fly Review At:
http://movies.tvguide.com/the-fly/review/114978 (Accessed on: 21/09/11)

Empire. (1986) The Fly Review At: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?DVDID=117254 (Accessed on: 21/09/11)

Gilchrist, Todd. (2005) The Fly - the Collector's Edition Review At:
http://uk.dvd.ign.com/articles/655/655282p1.html (Accessed on: 21/09/11)

James, Caryn. (1986) The Fly - Movie Review At:
http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9A0DE0D71438F936A2575BC0A960948260 (Accessed on: 21/09/11)

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