Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Fly

1986, US / Canada, Directed by David Cronenberg
Colour, Running Time: 96 minutes
Review Source: Blu-ray, Region B, Fox; Video: 1.85:1 1080p 24fps, Audio: DTS HD MA

Is there anyone that hasn't seen David Cronenberg's The Fly remake? In an age where remakes have swamped the cinema release schedules over the last ten years or so, this film is an overwhelming demonstration of what can be done with someone else's previously filmed material. Taking the core story of the Vincent Price 1958 original, the 1986 version of The Fly is brought up to date for the (then) modern era in terms of technology, science, and sheer gruesomeness. It's the story of a scientist who has cracked the teleportation problem, and in testing the machine (two pods, whereby the molecules of the one are disintegrated and reintegrated into the second) he goes through unknowingly at the same time as a house fly that has unfortunately landed in the pod prior to the teleportation. The computer confuses the two organisms and effectively splices them together at a genetic level, thus beginning a progressive transformation of the man into a horrific amalgamation of the two. What sets Cronenberg's story apart from the average monster movie, partially, is a particularly strong emotional foundation. Brundle's degeneration into disgusting monstrosity, the product of his own relentless curiosity and drive to push science forward, is ultimately tragic and believable. There are five stars of this film in my opinion - firstly, David Cronenberg of course, who continued his exploration of mutations of the human body on a thematic level, in the process creating one of the greatest remakes in cinema history. Then there is possibly the most talented composer in the film (and probably non-film) world, Howard Shore, whose score pounds home Cronenberg's themes at key points, building momentum to the devastating climax. The next two are Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, whose performances bring all of this together in a gripping fashion. Finally, there is Chris Walas' awe-inspiring creature effects, which are still repulsive to this day. There are a couple of moments that seem to be there purely for shock value more than anything else but the result of Brundle's dabbling is like a nasty car crash - you kind of can't take your eyes of it despite the fact that it's not at all nice to look at. The stilted dialogue of the early scenes is not to be off-putting - the film develops itself into a classic of the horror/science fiction hybrid (appropriately) genre.
I've seen this film on most home video formats and have more recently picked up the Blu-ray Disc, promptly selling the DVD. Video cassettes of this film looked awful - very muddy and indistinct. DVD was noticeably better, but the film's rough look has made it difficult to translate to the lower resolution of VHS and DVD. The Blu-ray is significantly improved - in lighter scenes the detail is very strong, colours are far more realistic, and the contrast is better balanced. Darker scenes still look quite rough, but it's probably easier to see exactly what's going on now. There are details on the creature effects that I'm sure I never saw before on DVD. Overall, it's definitely worth upgrading to the Blu-ray for full HD image quality alone. The audio track is serviced by a lossless DTS-HD surround track - most of the sound comes from the front, particularly centre, channels, but the music is embellished with the greater resolution and very welcome impact. It is limited by 80s recording technology and that's never going to change, but it sounds better here than it ever has. On the disc you also get the extras of one of the former DVD special editions (the set I originally bought had The Fly II on an extra disc, but of course that isn't included here). That includes director commentary, documentary, deleted scenes, and loads more. For fans of the film, you have to pick up this very strong Blu-ray and ditch your old DVD/laserdisc/VHS as soon as possible.

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