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The Fly/The Fly II: Fox Double Feature

Fox Home Entertainment

The Fly: Written by Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg
Directed by David Cronenberg

The Fly II: Written by Mick Garris, Jim and Ken Wheat, and Frank Darabont
Directed by Chris Walas

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David Cronenberg's The Fly is one of the great re-makes, and one of the great horror films. It's great because it isn't just about Cronenberg's patented obsession with the horror of the body, but also about impossible love, as many good horror films really are. It's also a film that strives to explore the moral and physical implications of the kind of science the main character is conducting. Fox has now released both Cronenberg's The Fly and its sequel, The Fly II, in tandem with another disc that brings together as a double feature disc the original The Fly from the '50s with Vincent Price, and its sequel.

Cronenberg's The Fly is almost a chamber piece. It really has only three characters. There is Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), a scientist working in lonely isolation on the teleportation of matter (though it's never really explained just why he is doing this). At a party one night he can't help but brag about his work. But when the journalist he's talking too, Ronnie (Geena Davis), wants to interview him, he backs off. Nevertheless, Seth and Ronnie commence an affair, much to the ire of Ronnie's boss and current boyfriend, Stathis (John Getz). After Seth attempts an experiment on himself, during which a pesky fly loose in the transporter merges with him, he begins to change dramatically, not just physically, but also emotionally. The mid-to-end movement of the film is almost unbearable, and it reaches a climax when the three confront each other in Seth's lab. Audiences seemed to like the film; it made $37 million dollars upon its American release in 1986, at a time when $37 million was a lot of money, and it was Cronenberg's first real mass hit (after The Dead Zone), going on to win an Oscar for makeup. In case you've forgotten (I had), this is the film in which Davis memorably says, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

The Fly II is a much cruder film. Chris Walas, the Oscar-winning makeup artist of the first film, takes the helm here, and three years later renders a relatively conventional, slightly above-average drive-in movie. Cronenberg's film is in retrospect almost discrete about its horror elements; The Fly II goes full bore, and ends up being vulgar and inconsequential.

Not to give too much away about the plot, but in this one a child sired in Cronenberg's film is born and instantly imprisoned in a vast research facility by the seemingly benevolent CEO Bartok (Lee Richardson, in a obvious portrayal). The child has accelerated growth; when he is five, he turns into Eric Stoltz. But Martin Brundle is also a scientific genius, and he goes to work on the same teleportation devices as his father, preserved from the first film. Martin also forges a romance with another Bartok employee named Beth (Daphne Zuniga). Sadly, Martin is cursed with the same biological changes that afflicted his father, though he thinks he has a solution to stop it from being permanent. John Getz returns from the first film to make some bitter quips, but ultimately he helps the young couple, and the film climaxes with a siege on the most important lab in Bartok's campus.

There two things interesting about The Fly II. First, in its way it sticks remarkably close to the other Fly sequel with Price, which is also about a son pursuing his father's scientific ideas, though it's there that the similarities end. The other thing is that, partially scripted by Frank Darabont, the film bears a striking resemblance to his other films, most obviously both The Shawshank Redemption, which is also about an unjustly imprisoned person, and The Green Mile, which, as The Fly II does, features a bullying guard whom you hope gets his just desserts.

Fox hasn't gone all out on their Fly /Fly II double-feature; but then, you're getting two movies for the price of one, and that's not a bad value. The double sided, single-layered disc comes with not much more than the standard array of features. Visually, the first Fly is much better, very pretty and looking exactly as the film did upon its original release, but the print used for the transfer of the sequel had scratches visible during the first few minutes. Both films are in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), with audio in DD English 5.1. There are six trailers, for all four Flys and for another Fox double-feature disc, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Fantastic Voyage.

— D. K. Holm

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