Seth Brundle (David Goldblum) is on the cusp of perfecting an functioning teleporter, a device that will transform the world. Eager to share his creation with someone, he strikes up an acquaintance with science journalist Geena Davis. She is initially skeptical, but is soon converted, and as the work progresses, the two fall in love. Then, in a fit of misplaced jealousy (he believes that Davis is seeing ex-boyfriend John Goetz), Goldblum teleports while drunk, not knowing a fly is also in th… machine with him. Their DNA is fused, and the man slowly starts transforming into a fly, his relationship and his identity crumbling along with his flesh.
Upon the film’s release, many saw it as an allegory of AIDS (whose dark shadow was just then finally hitting mainstream consciousness). That reading still works, but shouldn’t obscure the fact that this is also one of the most satisfying and intelligent horror films of the 80s, as well as being one of the genre’s most moving love stories (a love story that works even if one were to disconnect it from the horror genre completely). Special FX have developed since 1986, of course, but what is on display here is still gruesomely effective, and the quality of the performances, script and direction are what really give the film its tremendous punch. This is that rarest of things: a remake that surpasses its original.
Fans of the film have had, until now, had to make do with a double-feature DVD with no extras. The sound options here have been expanded from 5.1 to include DTS. The difference between the two is negligible, and in fact, the 5.1 might have a slightly stronger surround presence than the DTS. That said, both are strong tracks, with clear, undistorted dialogue and a good sense of environment.
The picture is very good, though it doesn’t strike me as any improvement over the previous release. At any rate, the colours and contrasts are very strong, the blacks are deep, and the flesh tones are solid. The grain is detectable, but minimal, and there is no visible edge enhancement. A good transfer.
This is where this new release really shines. Disc 1 has an excellent commentary by David Cronenberg, and Disc 2 has an exhaustive collection of documentaries and the like. Fear of the Flesh is a documentary that actually runs considerably longer than the feature itself (a rarity in this day of featurettes masquerading as documentaries). Watching it in its enhanced form (where one branches off into yet more clips and interviews, which can also be viewed independently) is a 162 minute experience. “The Brundle Museum of Natural History” is a 12-minute featurette with FX man Chris Wallas guiding us through his work on the film.
There are, as one might expect, deleted and extended scenes, but even these have something extra: the extended scenes mark the cut footage with an optional red box. One of the deleted scenes is in script form only. This brings us to the printed material here, and again, there’s an embarrassment of wishes: the original short story, Charles Edward Pogue’s original script, Cronenberg’s rewrite, and articles from two magazines (Cinefex and American Cinematographer). These last are interactive themselves, with branching video clips.
And there’s more: a raft of trailers and TV spots (for the feature, the original, and their respective sequels), the featurette and Cronenberg profile from the 1986 press kit, four still galleries (Publicity, Behind the Scenes, Concept Art, Special Effects), a one-sheet and lobby card gallery, and four film tests: Opening Titles Treatment, Pod Lighting Effects, Brundlefly Make-Up, Exploding Space Bug, and Cronenfly (this last has the director in a silly fly costume demonstrating the wall-climbing effect). The menus are largely animated and scored, and very atmospheric.
This is an important film, and it’s about time it received this kind of elaborate extras treatment. Cause for celebration.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- “Fear of the Flesh” Interactive Documentary
- “The Brundle Museum of Natural History” Featurette
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Original Short Story
- Original Script
- Interactive Magazine Articles
- Still Galleries
- Film Tests
- 1986 Press Kit
- Trailers and TV Spots