The Fly – 1986

Director David Cronenberg
Screenplay Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Leslie Carlson, George Chuvalo, David Cronenberg

Until his portrayal as the creepy chaotician Dr. Ian Malcom in Jurassic Park in 1993, Jeff Goldblum seemed destined to be remembered as Seth Brundle, the creeplily brilliant scientist who almost perfected the science of teleportation. David Cronenberg, who had been known for his forays into body horror of films like The Brood, Rabid and The Shivers finally found his purpose in the biggest budget to date. Sharing mostly just the idea of it’s 1958 Vincent Price original, this version has incredible effects if not a plethora of character development.

Starting off at a Bartok Industries party where science journalist Veronica Quaife (Davis) meets Brundle, he immediately – and with zero of the latter day Goldblum charm – convinces her to come back to his place for ‘the discovery of a lifetime.’ The subsequent show is just the movement of a nylon sock, but it’s enough for Quaife to return to her boss and ex-boyfriend (it is the ’80s) Stathis Borans (Getz).

Following this, Brundle gets more bold. His first attempt with an animate object (a baboon) doesn’t end well. The second try reveals the teleportaion equation is creating synthetic material. He reprograms it and boldly moves forward. Even people who have not seen the film can guess what happens when Brundle experiments with himself: a fly becomes a spanner in his works.

Initially, the effect is muted. Brundle is stronger, more energetic and more virile. Slowly Quaife relizes that hairs growing out of Brundle’s back are not his own and she sounds the alarm. Brundle, feeling more confident and alive than ever, pushes her to the side.

The best parts of The Fly have to do with the makeup and the effects. They are truly grotesque and incredible to behold. The advancing of Golblum from awkward scientist to a physical specimen and then slowly morphing into a complete monster is deserving of the Oscar it recieves. The computer effects are of their time, definitely dated.

The weakest part of the film is in its characterizations. Davis is only using part of her award winning ability. She leans toward two modes: smitten and scared. Her inquisative investigator falls by the wayside almost immediately. Getz is given an even more reduced range, he has a skepticism that derives from jealousy that knows that every girl must come back to him eventually. The rest of the cast outside of Goldblum are almost literally NPCs.

This is really Goldblum’s show, however. His ability to navigate through so many practical effects and find his character through each stage of development. It is without a doubt his most complete acting performance. As long as Cronenberg has the lens on Goldlum, The Fly is a winner.

(**** out of *****)

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