Monday, June 23, 2008

Film #48: The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg's unique take on the 1958 sci-fi staple The Fly stands as one of the few remakes that actually improves upon its predecessor, chiefly because of its superb lead performances and the infusion of Cronenberg's singular, biology-obsessed worldview into the story. Jeff Goldblum expertly portrays eccentric scientist Seth Brundle, whose invention of "telepods" goes horribly awry when he decides to test the invention out, unaware that a housefly has joined him for the journey. When their atoms are all lined up in the other pod...well, "Seth Brundlefly" is born, right in full view of his new journalist girlfriend (played equally well by Geena Davis).

Alternately moving, disgusting, terrifying and funny, The Fly packs an emotional and visceral jab that transcends the genre's emotional chill factor and enters into true tragedy. The love story here is more effective than perhaps in any other movie of its kind; you really get the feel that Davis and Goldblum have hit on something really special (which, actually, they had, since they were married for a few years after this film was released). When it comes time for Brundlefly to start falling apart, I am extremely sorry for the fella; no one deserves to see his teeth and fingernails fall out, or to sink to throwing up acid on their food in order to digest it ("Oh, that's disgusting," Brundle says to his girl, embarrassed at his tableside manners). And I'm extra-sorry for Davis's character, who has to stand by and watch this go forth while coming up with some pretty heavy concerns of her own. Somehow, Davis and ESPECIALLY Goldblum were passed up for Oscar nominations, but the gloriously ghastly make-up effects from Chris Walas and Stephen Dupuis had no match in 1986 and won the award hands down. Icy dark photography from Mark Irwin and bombastic music from Cronenberg regular Howard Shore round out the form of this magnificent genre entry. And, hey, look for Cronenberg in a memorable cameo as a horrified gynecologist! NOTE: Cronenberg is currently mounting a staged opera based on The Fly, to open in America in 2009!!!

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