PictureI didn't really have high hopes of this transfer being up to much because every version that I've ever seen of the film has looked rough and grainy and somewhat dour, and, sadly, I wasn't wrong. Cronenberg's preferred 1.85:1 aspect image looks annoyingly dated even in this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 transfer. Despite having been remastered, the film just looks tired and old, the print lacking any sort of life or visual vitality. Whilst it would be stupid to complain about the level of grain - to have removed it would have altered the film, itself - the image does look grimy and obscured because of it at times and, as a consequence, does not possess any three-dimensionality and remains consistently flat-looking.
Detail levels have received a slight boost. Comparing this disc to the previous SD special edition reveals that faces, décor, gore and Seth's lab-hardware all exhibit more information. But this enhancement is not major. Thankfully, the image seems clearer and livelier when it is focussed on the grisly stuff. Seth's mutating visage and the horrific barf-bag, limb-melting shots are agreeably colourful although it should be remembered that the film, itself, tends to downplay its colour scheme in favour of mood. The ever-changing Fly-suit definitely receives some fine attention courtesy of the new transfer, with more nooks and crannies, folds and bristles offered up for scrutiny. Seth's final body-breakaway scene looks more impressive now as a result - the eye-dribbling gunk and flesh-shedding looking sharper and more distinct. However, the gauze-like veil of grain still blights the image and black levels, during some scenes, seem to yield up more than their fair share. On the subject of blacks, the new transfer isn't quite as consistent as I would have liked. The depth of shadows can fluctuate and, more often than not, the blacks appear shallow and tepid. Having said that, though, there are indeed sequences when they are robust and intense and it is this hit-and-miss quality that is a tad disappointing. The shot when Brundlefly tells Ronnie that he is “an insect that dreamt he was a man” does look great, though. Love the lighting as he steps into a moonbeam and looks up - the blacks, the muted colours, the gleam in his eyes ... all look great, adding a haunting poignancy to the moment. The intensity of the hot-white light in the pods when they are activated is more than decent, too. The disc doesn't run them too hot and they don't glitch or haze at all. Nor is there any banding that I could see within the brightness, so that it is a good point. And the numerous instances when computer text is seen on-screen, such as readouts and gene-splicing codes etc, come over with well-delineated edges and clarity.
The transfer does possess a smidgeon of edge enhancement but the haloing is slight and does not mar the image at all. Reassuringly, there is no evidence of compression artefacts, pixilation, smearing or digital noise present in the picture. So, all things considered, The Fly has been transferred well ... it is just that it doesn't look like a hi-def image. Still, there is more detail on offer, which is nice.
SoundFox deliver The Fly with a DTS-HD 5.1 English track and DD 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish flavours. The DTS is not the most active track around and hardly one to set your system on fire, although initial bass-spread does seem to promise much in the way of impact.
The alarming whoosh-crackle of the transporter pods when they kick in and do their thing is definitely a high-point of the show, the track really revelling in the deep bass rush and the suddenly crisp high-ends that bookend the effect. There is even a pleasing withdrawing of the sound as the flash-bang ebbs away to fully round out the deal. Howard Shore's booming musical stingers have more weight and emphasis than they did previously and these instances do sound quite aggressive. But the track is definitely limited in range. The spread across the front,is decidedly average, with spatiality feeling confined and a little tight. Steerage travelling further out is even more so, with really only the teleportations touching the rears. Ambience is understandably sparse, as well, with only the opening shindig, the café, the bar and the Delivery Room dream-sequence managing any atmospheric wrap-around. Effects such as the shattering window suffer from a lack of detail and a shallowness that is really only symptomatic of the film's vintage and no fault of the transfer. The shower of sparks as the cables explode with a shotgun-blast is pretty effective, however. Dialogue is acceptable but, again, sounds a little thin and bereft of natural vitality, but is still clear enough at all times.
So, really speaking, only Howard Shore's music is overtly benefited from the new mix. However, his score is not particularly warm or sweeping so, even here, the experience may come across a slightly underwhelming, with a mid-range that is dwarfed by the score's emphatic bombast. I sound like I've been a little harsh on this transfer and, when all said and done, the track doesn't actually do anything wrong and it would be unfair of me to mark it down just for its handling of a source that wasn't particularly active or detailed in the first place. It does a good enough job of presenting the sound design that Cronenberg had originally incorporated but, somehow, I couldn't help but feel disappointed with its lack of spark. Still, at least the engineers haven't thrown in any unwanted effects and whiz-bangs and kept the track clean and true to its source ... so The Fly gets a very respectable 7 out of 10 simply for keeping the track clean, energetically bass-heavy and uncluttered with unnecessary pyrotechnics.
ExtrasNow, we're talking. Released in 2006 in a super-deluxe double-disc re-issue, The Fly's BD edition carries over all the glorious extras that could be found on it ... and even adds a gimmick or two of its own.
Cronenberg's commentary may sound dry and lethargic - the guy can't help but sound like a droning academic at times - but it is packed with fascinating information about the film, the original story and Vincent Price version and how he sought to distance his take from them and almost completely re-imagine it. Typically praise-worthy of his cast and crew and particularly thankful to the special effects team, Cronenberg covers all bases from locations to cinematography but is always more interesting when divulging the film's metaphors and themes. Not without a sense of humour, albeit of a very deadpan variety, he can come across as serious, contemplative and often quite intense. It is a terrific track if you stay the distance and also comes over as splendidly personal and never trite, nor patronisingly back-slapping.
The documentary The Fear Of The Flesh: The Making Of The Fly is a mammoth undertaking and one of those incredibly comprehensive productions that just puts the majority of the lip-service, press-ganged and press-endorsed “makings of” so thoroughly in the shade that they may as well be one-sentence sum-ups. Split into three Fly-titled segments - Larva, Pupa and Metamorphosis - this lasts for 164 minutes, which is enough meat for anybody, I would have thought. Whilst everything is given a very thorough examination - actually, some talking head discussions go on for perhaps a little too long - and lots of crew and all the main cast (now sporting much less 80's-extravagent hair!) appear frequently, the big man, David Cronenberg, does not. Although you could say that his commentary is his last word on the topic, it would still have been nice to have seen some new interview footage with him. But, regardless, this is the kind of immersive, wart 'n' all production that all your favourite films deserve. Deleted elements and the copious metaphors and messages of the film are liberally dissected by Edward Pogue, Goldblum, Davis and Getz and there is plenty of character-analysis to reveal what the performers found so fascinating about their roles. Excised dialogue scenes reveal more depth and the performers all talk about how they added nuance to their roles. The off-screen relationship between Goldblum and Davis is addressed, as is how Goldblum used his character's scripted jealously for her when she is with Getz's Stathis Borans. Naturally, a large amount details the extensive makeup effects and Chris Walas supplies plenty of fact and anecdote and there is simply masses of test footage, dailies, behind-the-scenes film to show how they created and maintained the suits and pulled off the gore-gags and transformations. We even get to see the revolving set used to depict how Seth can climb around the walls and the ceiling. The documentary uses split-screens, raw footage and combined talking-heads to chronicle the production and the feeling, after all this, is that literally no stone has been left unturned.
The selection of Deleted Scenes have a definite gem amongst them. The infamous cat-monkey sequence can be found here in its entirety and it is a real treasure - quite lengthy and with more action than many would have guessed, the sequence pans out into a much weightier scene of Brundlefly's rooftop angst and further metamorphosis. Well worth the wait. Other cut moments include more dialogue and scripted, but never filmed, confrontation between the Fly and a bag-lady. There is also an option to watch the Monkey-Cat sequence in scripted or storyboard form.
A twelve-minute featurette takes us on a blackly comic tour of Seth's human cast-offs in The Brundle Museum Of Natural History. Effects artist Rob Burns is the host to the gruesome artefacts that Brundlefly gave up for posterity and some of the detail in these props is staggering.
A really cool treat is the inclusion, under Written Works, of George Langelaan's original short story and both the initial screenplay for the 1986 version from Charles Edward Pogue and, for handy comparison purposes, Cronenberg's re-written draft. Three magazine articles from the time of the film's release are also included. This is the type of addition that goes a long way to packages such as this so supremely desirable by fans. It is simply one-stop-shopping for completists.
Film Test Footage runs for about eight minutes and gives us some alternate opening titles and some pre-production rough-cuts. Some of this is pretty shaky but still worth a look, nonetheless. Promotional gubbins are covered as well with a failry lousy bit of fluffy “making of” from 1986 and a contemporary profile of David Cronenberg. This section also contains trailers and TV Spots for The Fly and its sequel as well as for the original versions from the fifties. And then the promotional aspect is rounded-off with a large Still Galleries section that has absolutely dozens of images under five main headings. Excellent stuff.
And finally, alongside a Pop-up Trivia Track that regales us with film and fly fact and fun, is a gimmick that probably sounded like a great idea during that special features brainstorming session - the Fly Swatter Game. Well, in theory, this isn't actually as daft a concept as you might suspect. In a slight whimsy, the game enables you to watch the film unfold but with the added bonus of a large, buzzing fly appearing at some point of the screen, crawling about a bit and then flying off before appearing at some other point of the screen. With your remote acting as an interactive swatter, you navigate your swatter towards the annoyance and attempt to squash it with the flick of a button. Erm, right. With functionality so slow that the fly (if real) could actually die of old age before you got anywhere near it, this just becomes increasingly frustrating and you are bound to give up after only a couple of minutes. This may work better on certain machines, though. So, at least give it a try. It's not hard to imagine what Cronenberg really thinks about this, though.
Well, folks, there is no denying that this is a pretty exhaustive look at the making of this classic and influential film. Cronenberg may be absent for the much of the mega-making-of, barring archival footage, but that documentary and the Monkey-Cat deleted scene are right up there with his excellent commentary track. Unless you were after a replica of a telepod or a sachet of Brundlefly enzymes, I doubt there could be a better put-together package of valuable extras for The Fly as this. Unarguably awesome.
VerdictThe Fly is a classic contemporary horror film made by a director who specialised in such body-rot scenarios and revels in the dark potential of even the most extreme of physical mutation. Cronenberg loves the rebellion of the physical condition, the inherent corruption that it can undergo, and thrives on finding the positive side of such genetic disruption. In this respect, he is one of the most monster-sympathetic filmmakers around - typical of other respected craftsmen such George Romero and David Lynch, whose own The Elephant Man embraced monstrosity with similar tenderness. All clearly come down on the side of their gruesome creations and see them almost as celluloid family.
Fox replicates its earlier SD Special Edition in terms of extras, and this is, indeed, a hugely impressive package. Cronenberg's commentary and the mammoth making-of may be leisurely in style, but there is nothing left out of the equation and fans can only marvel at the almost unbridled access that they have been awarded with this wealth of features. Transfer-wise, this is a bit of mixed bag, if I'm honest. The bass levels on the DTS-HD are terrific and there is an appreciable increase in visual detail with the 1080p image, but this still looks resolutely like a film from the eighties and doesn't pop from the screen, no matter how much you wish it would. However, this is still a wonderful purchase and I can recommend it without question.
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