I bet you think you woke me up about the flesh, don’t you? But you only know society’s straight line about the flesh! You can’t penetrate past society’s sick, gray fear of the flesh! — Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum)
Tis the season …
And I usually end up with a bunch of movies. I don’t mind getting flicks for Christmas — beats getting a bunch of socks, impersonal gift cards, and you can’t shoot your eye out with them. I love movies. Lots of movies. Even the movies I hate I love because I love bitching about them.
I don’t even mind getting bluray editions of films I might already own in another format. My brain was zapped by the home-video-techno-gods long ago. My mind has been captured by bright, shiney televisions — plasma, HD, LCD— Bright. Shiney. BIG. Bluray. Bluray is cool! Cue Butthead laugh: huh huh huh huh.
Which brings me to The Fly. David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake is one of those movies I have a long history with. It’s also one of those films I have an intense emotional reaction to. I’ve wrote elsewhere about such films from time to time but I’m too lazy to provide links. Hint: there are blog entries about one or two of them. Anyway, The Fly is both an intense and emotional film.
Revenge of the Nerds worthy scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is experimenting with human teleportation. A reporter, Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) documents the events as well as becoming his lover. After a series of failures, Brundle realizes that his own physical and emotional inexperiance has prevented him from programming his telepods’ computer to translate living organisms properly (in the beginning he can only teleport the inorganic). Thanks to his romance with Veronica, Brundle figures out the missing elements to his methodology and successfully teleports a baboon.
During an episode of drunken jealousy, Brundle teleports himself. At first, it seems like the process is a rousing success. Brundle even receives hightened strength, agility, and stamina. He theorizes that molecular desintigration and reintegration has “purified” him. Everything pretty much goes to hell after that.
When Brundle made his first teleportation a fly got into the telepod with him. The computer, confused over the presence of two living entities (1980s tech!) fuses Brundle and the fly on the genetic level (fuzzy science!). Bundle begins to transorm, not into a giant fly, but into a monsterous hybrid of the two. The metamorphis is slow, painful and grotesque. Brundle’s awakening to the flesh is ironic in that ultimately the flesh is what destroys him. Not even his brilliant mind is safe — his ordeal erodes his sanity.
All of the performances in the film are topnotch. I think Goldblum gives the best performance of his career as Brundle…he’s nerdy and endearing and completely sympathetic. Davis is tolerable (one of the few instances I can say that about her) as Quaife. Her pain and confusion is instantly believable as she watches the sweet dork she fell in love with start to literally crumble away. John Getz also swipes a few scenes as
Stathis Borans. He’s Veronica’s creepy, jerky, slightly stalkery ex who also just happens to be her boss. Several memorable lines in the movie belong to him.
That is one of the two keys to why The Fly works … characters you like and can sympathize with (even jerky, slightly stalkery exs). The three mentioned are the main characters in the film. If there is a fourth main character then it’s Chris Walas’s makeup.
Bundle does not instantly transform into a monster. It’s a slow, painful process that cumilates into a final hideous stage during the film’s climax. The metamorphosis is the perfect metaphor for disease or old age and Walas’s makeup is some of the best ever captured on film. It’s truly hideous and grotesque and at times far too realistic for comfort.
I mentioned metaphor and that’s the second key to why The Fly’s effectiveness. We all have lost someone we love. As a species we are all bound by a cruddy truth: people we care about (including ourselves) will die and some of them will waste away as they go. I lost my mother to cancer several years ago. I wish I could forget the pain she endured the final two years of her life. The Fly speaks to the helplessness I felt, and that we all feel, when a loved one suffers so terribly.
So check out The Fly. It’s worth the time yet it’s probably not for those with a weak stomach. I’ll be reporting on a few other BR acquisitions as we get deeper into Christmas. Be happy, gang.