The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Twenty-eight
The Fly (1986, David Cronenberg) / The Fly II (1989, Chris Walas)
Originally posted: February 7, 2014
The Fly starts with perfect economy. Director Cronenberg does not waste time with introductions or establishing shots–whenever there’s an exterior shot in the film, it comes as surprise, even after Cronenberg opens it up a little. There’s Jeff Goldblum, he’s a scientist, and there’s Geena Davis. She’s a reporter. The film conveys this expository information by having her interview him. It’s perfect.
And that perfect economy keeps going for quite a while, maybe even half the film. A lot happens during that first half–mad science, romance, jealousy, all sorts of things–and it’s outstanding. Goldblum and Davis are great together, John Getz is excellent as her weird, slightly creepy ex-boyfriend and boss. Cronenberg’s direction is exquisite; he’s utterly focused on these three actors. Even the science fiction visual exposition gets downplayed.
Then there’s a shift, a small one, as Goldblum’s character begins to “turn.” Cronenberg doesn’t allow many horror film sensibilities in The Fly. Instead of trying to terrify the audience visually with Goldblum, Cronenberg pulls back and Goldblum disappears. It’s a problem, because the film loses its momentum and never regains it.
Wait, I forgot–there’s one big horror movie sensibility… a dream sequence. It’s cheap. It’s gross and effective, but it’s narratively cheap.
Amazing special effects from Chris Walas, a nice score from Howard Shore, excellent cinematography from Mark Irwin. The Fly ’s a good looking (and sounding) picture.
Unfortunately, Cronenberg’s ambitions decline as the film finally has to deliver the horror.
Still, pretty good stuff.
Directed by David Cronenberg; screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue and Cronenberg, based on the story by George Langelaan; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Ronald Sanders; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Carol Spier; produced by Stuart Cornfeld; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle), Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife) and John Getz (Stathis Borans).