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The Fly (1986)

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 92 mins . R . PAL


At a recent meeting of DVDnet staff at The DVDnet World Domination Headquarters & Bar And Grill, the usual rounds of dvd review allocations were being made and the title of The Fly came up for grabs. I looked sheepishly around me at whoever else may have been interested in this particular title, hoping that it would be mine to savior without contest. I noticed Paul off in a far corner, continuing work on the curious little experiment which he claimed "…would tear the world asunder with unimaginable destruction…and makes fine Italian espresso while you wait!", Amy and Anthony were heatedly debating the politics of 13th Century Prussia dressed in sumo outfits, while the rest of the crew were on the window ledge of the 35th floor in a drunken haze with high powered air-rifles shooting passing pigeons so they would fall upon the heads of unsuspecting pedestrians far below.

Observing these activities himself, our editor Steve realized he had no other option but to allocate the dvd to me, for I had resorted to wearing my Fearless Fly costume in an effort to sway his decision. A better choice, under the circumstances, could not have been made.

The original video release of the 1986 version of The Fly had been one of the first videos in my personal collection of more than 300+ VHS movies. Having seen the original version of The Fly, made in 1958 with Vincent Price, on television one late Saturday night many moons ago when I was still knee high to a maggot, it left an unshakeable impression on me about how amazing a film could be. A man with the head of a fly? NEVER! What incredible stuff for a young mind to absorb! There was no telling what effect it could have on that mind in later years.

Many years later, a twisted individual, by the name of David Cronenberg was handed a script by none other than Mel Brooks (yes, the Mel Brooks) and took the simple scientist playing God horror tale of 1958, added his fascination for gore, flesh, a dash of love story and things extreme and created the much improved 1986 version The Fly. In this outing, Jeff Goldblum plays the central character Seth Brundle, a tinkerer of things scientific, who has assembled the technology to teleport matter. Meeting Veronica Quaife (Gena Davis), a science reporter looking for her next big story, they fall in love and go about documenting the development of this discovery.

Things are going along just swimmingly for our lovebirds, and after correcting some minor issues the process of teleportation has dealing with live flesh (ever wondered what the insides of a baboon look like?) he proceeds to test teleportation on himself. But unknown to him, a fly has taken the trip with him, and while things seem fine at first, matters rapidly decline as the fusion of fly genes with his own rapidly take hold causing amazing and horrific mutations, not to mention putting a bit of a dampener on his love life.

I need not elaborate much more about the story, as it's simple one which sketches in just enough to convince you, and lets the actors get on with enjoying the weirdness of it all. Jeff Goldblum (as usual looking as though he's just lost something but can't quite remember what) and Gena Davis both put in convincing performances, even when overshadowed by fantastic creature effects which are the real highlight of the film and the real reason we paid our money to see this film in the first place.


Negatives: Some aliasing (never really intrusive) and minor edge enhancement. Nothing you can't live with, I'd happily say. Positives: Everything else. Has the picture ever looked as good as this outside of the original theatrical showing? In 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1, the picture looks better than I expected. I think when you prepare to watch a dvd of a film more than a few years old, you automatically prepare yourself for the worst, as I did with The Fly. Of course, the benefit of this is when the transfer turns out to be better than you expected, you're even happier than usual, so it works out pretty good in the end. So sure, there are some black flecks and other little artifacts throughout the print -which is to be expected, but on the whole the colour looks good (nice contrast between the cool greys of the warehouse set and the warmth of the outside -safe- world), the detail is great and other than the minor negatives mentioned above, you'd be hard pressed to find much to complain about with this transfer.


The original stereo audio has been remixed up to Dolby Digital 5.1, and the results aren't too bad. The audio has nice clarity, but dialogue tended to sound a bit bright at times, which as a side effect seemed to highlight some ADR work and some minor hissing. On a more positive note, the soundstage is used to good effect with scenes involving the teleportation pods, which are the standout audio sections. These scenes really open up and use the rear and front effects to enhance the sensation of the pods kicking in to transport matter in a nice sharp burst of energy that engulfs the room. Overall, this mix kind of reminded me of the remix on the Terminator dvd, where the effects/action scenes have a tendency to sound obviously enhanced with sudden fall back to basic mono/stereo at the completion. Not a problem really, as it gives some life to this great film and still works much better than a straight stereo mix would have.


Frankly, this is one dvd where I'm happy just to have the movie itself, so anything else really is an extra. This is a good state of mind to be in when approaching this dvd, as the extras don't add up to much anyway. The main extra is the typical 6 minute featurette that is nothing more than an extended trailer as usual, then we have a bunch of interview snippets from various cast and crew which are really just cut out of the main featurette, so we don't get anything different and finally a trailer to end on. Now, I could crap on about how shortchanged this dvd is in the extras department, and tell you how I wish there was a commentary or something more substantial, but it isn't going to change the facts -and the fact is that this is all you get, and you shouldn't complain because the movie is so damn good anyway so who could care less what the extras are?


If you've been waiting patiently for this dvd to be released in region 4, like I have, then the wait is finally over. This is a classic bit of horror from David Cronenberg that isn't afraid to pull any punches and has aged very well thanks to the mostly dark moody sets (except for a VERY 80's looking burger shop). It would seem the time has come to retire yet another one of my VHS movies from active duty.

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      And I quote...
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