The Fly appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Like many movies of its era, Fly presented a complicated image.
Although some softness crept into the image from time to time, the movie usually appeared pretty crisp and well-defined – within reason. The emphasis on dark interiors led to a certain level of muddiness, so the film didn’t often display real distinctiveness. Nonetheless, it worked acceptably well given the limitations. Moiré effects and jagged edges no problems, and print flaws were essentially a non-factor. I saw a couple of specks but that was about it.
Because The Fly was an extremely dark movie that focused mostly on interiors, colors remained subdued. However, when allowed to be more dynamic, the hues seemed strong. For instance, examine the scene in which Seth and Ronnie went out shopping and for coffee; the light purple of her outfit was vivid. Also, when Ronnie entered the hospital in her dream sequence, the reds and yellows worn by passers-by looked great. Given the movie’s interior focus – and somber tone – a surfeit of bright hues would have been inappropriate, so I was happy these examples were the exceptions to the rule.
Black levels were moderately dark and solid, though they could appear a bit inky at times. Shadow detail tended to be a little opaque, but for the most part those scenes seemed accepted clear. Most of the transfer’s issues related to the era’s film stock, while others connected to the prevalence of dark interior shots. It still didn’t excel in many ways, so it ended up with a “B-“.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix took the original Dolby Surround track and opened it up a bit. The forward soundstage remained dominant, with a nicely active environment in the front channels. The audio integrated well and panned cleanly across the speakers. The rears offered more general support for the most part.
These speakers provided reinforcement of the score and effects, but they occasionally kicked in with more active audio during the most dramatic scenes; I even detected one or two instances in which split surrounds were used. The soundfield didn't compete with those found in more recent films, but for a picture from 1986 it worked well.
Quality also seemed pretty good for its age. Dialogue sounded natural and crisp throughout the film, with only a few instances of mild flatness that didn't affect intelligibility. Effects were generally clean and accurate, though they displayed slight distortion during some of the louder moments.
The score seemed especially strong, as it displayed clear highs and some fairly deep lows. Actually, the mix as a whole packed a surprising punch; the bass won't dazzle you but it appeared above average. A little hiss popped up during a few dialogue scenes, though this didn’t interfere with anything. The soundtrack earned a relatively positive "B+".
How did the Blu-ray compare to 2005 Special Edition DVD? Audio was pretty similar; the DTS-HD track was a little bolder but not a lot. Visuals also didn’t show tremendous improvements due to the limitations of the murky source photography, but I thought the Blu-ray was a bit tighter and cleaner than the DVD.
The Blu-ray provides all of the DVD’s extras plus some exclusives. We find an audio commentary with director David Cronenberg and he provides a running, screen-specific chat that covers many appropriate topics. Cronenberg gets into casting, characters, and issues connected to the real-life relationship between the leads, the design of the telepod, technical subjects like motion control and visual effects, dealing with the baboon, the script and comparisons with the original story and movie, themes, and shooting in Toronto.
The biggest problem here stems from dead air. Too many gaps appear, especially given the brief length of the movie. Nonetheless, Cronenberg offers an insightful and thoughtful take on his movie. He digs into the issues with depth and clarity. These elements overcome the pauses and help make this a solid commentary.
A Blu-ray exclusive, Search Content delivers a very specific way to jump around the movie. It shows a long list of terms that relate to the movie – like “baboon” or “bar” – and shows you the time points where those concepts appear. You can then skip straight to those moments.
In theory, at least. Perhaps the function works well on other players, but on my Panasonic, it was a disaster. I found it very tough to move from one place to another on the menu, and the feature essentially caused the disc to freeze. It was a total hassle to use and not worth the effort.
Similar thoughts greet another Blu-ray exclusive: the Fly Zapper Game. This plays the movie and requires you to use a target to swat flies when they pop up onscreen. Why? I have no idea. When I watch a film, I’d rather not be distracted by some inane game.
These last two features spotlight a weakness of this Blu-ray: user-unfriendly design. The disc makes it tough to go from one place to another at times, especially because it often deactivates the “Menu” buttons. When I started “Fly Zapper”, I tried to bail on it but the disc wouldn’t let me; neither “Top Menu” nor “Pop-Up Menu” functioned. That was also true of some other extras.
One more Blu-ray extra, the disc includes a Trivia Track. This offers info about the source story and its adaptation, various effects, cast and crew, and related subjects. Enough text pops up to keep this one interesting, but the notes seem unobtrusive enough so that you can still watch and enjoy the movie while they run. We get a good trivia track here.
From there we go to bonus features that appeared on the 2005 DVD, such as a documentary entitled Fear of the Flesh: The Making of The Fly. This two-hour, 16-minute and two-second program gives us notes from actors Jeff Goldblum, John Getz, and Geena Davis, co-screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue, producer Stuart Cornfeld, original director Robert Bierman, editor Ron Sanders, cinematographer Mark Irwin, production designer Carol Spier, makeup effects/creature design Chris Walas, and visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman.
“Flesh” opens with notes about the original short story, the 1958 flick and its re-adaptation. From there we go through problems getting the studio to back the project, finding a director and various ups and downs, Cronenberg’s recruitment and his crew, casting, approaches to the characters, and rehearsals/preparation.
As the program continues, it goes through cinematography and lighting, sets and props, visual effects and related techniques like motion control photography, working with the baboon, makeup, Fly-related elements/puppets and other practical effects. The final section deals with previews, editing and cut sequences, and the movie’s release.
Really, the only negative I can find here is the odd absence of Cronenberg. Perhaps he figured his contribution to the commentary was enough, or maybe scheduling conflicts led to his absence. Since he indeed participates in this special edition, his failure to appear here remains surprising, though.
Not that we truly miss him, as “Flesh” covers the film’s creation awfully well. It goes through many aspects of the production with detail and honesty. We see many deleted shots and alternate takes, and the participants provide excellent information. I especially like Goldblum’s notes about how he approached the role. “Flesh” turns into a very strong documentary.
If all that content wasn’t enough for you, then be sure to check out the “Enhanced” version of “Flesh”. With this feature activated, a fly icon will occasionally appear onscreen. Press “enter” when that happens to check out additional interviews.
These fill a total of 26 minutes, 46 seconds and include remarks from Cornfeld, Goldblum, Davis, Irwin, Getz, Walas, Bierman and Pogue. If you don’t like the interactive version, the disc lets you check out the branching components on their own.
That’s what I did, as I preferred to watch “Flesh” without interruption. The clips stand alone just fine, though I’m sure they blend well with the longer program. They provide many good stories and add nice notes to the package. Most of them do belong separate from the main show, but don’t take that as a negative comment on the content, as they’re usually quite interesting.
Another documentary called The Brundle Museum of Natural History also appears. In this 11-minute, 52-second piece, makeup effects/creature design Chris Walas takes us on a tour of the Fly-related materials now owned by collector Bob Burns. He shows us the various pieces and discusses them. We also find some nice behind the scenes footage that helps educate us about the elements.
Fans will be excited to check out the disc’s collection of six Deleted Scenes. Actually, we can watch only three true deleted scenes. We get “Second Interview” (one minute, 44 seconds), “Monkey-Cat” (six minutes, 59 seconds), and “Butterfly Baby” (two minutes, 27 seconds). We can check out “Brundlefly Vs. Bag Lady” only as a script segment. “Monkey-Cat” also offers a look at its storyboards and its script segment. In addition, we find two extended scenes: “Reconciliation” (two minutes) and “The Poetry of the Steak” (three minutes, 40 seconds).
Of all these elements, “Monkey-Cat” stands as the most infamous. It merits its gruesome reputation and would have been an interesting addition to the final film, if not a very productive one; it really is too over the top even for The Fly. Some of the other bits just mildly flesh out existing scenes, but some interesting material shows up in this collection.
Under the Film Tests banner we get a few different elements. These include “Opening Title Treatments” (one minute, 55 seconds), “Pod Lighting and Effects” (2:03), “Brundlefly Makeup” (2:19), “Exploding Space Bug” (0:51) and “Cronenfly” (0:50). All of this adds up to a mildly interesting set of pieces, but I can’t say any of them are terribly fascinating.
Within “Written Works”, we find a mix of text features. First comes George Langelaan’s Original Short Story. I can’t say I think it’s very good, but it’s cool to see, especially because it bears so little resemblance to this film’s story; the pair share only a few concepts.
For a look at the initial approach to the remake, we go to Charles Edward Pogue’s Original Screenplay. It presents many of the basics found in the final film but changes quite a few things. Seth is “Geoff” and he’s married to “Barb”. There’s a lot of interaction with the company that finances him, elements that are totally non-existent in the movie. “Geoff” has a buddy who mediates between him and his surly boss, and he also gains a stray cat as a lab pal.
This draft reflects a few influences from the original short story, and it also doesn’t make “Geoff” into the same tragic figure Seth would become. This take falls much more squarely into the realm of standard horror picture. As with the short story, it’s a lot of fun to read this sucker and compare it to the finished flick.
Speaking of which, the disc also presents David Cronenberg’s Rewrite. As one might expect, it strongly resembles the final film. Some variations occur such as an alternate close, but it features many more similarities than differences. This makes it less compelling than the other two pieces, but I still think it’s interesting to give it a look.
“Written Works” ends with two Interactive Magazine Articles. These let us check out a piece from the November 1986 Cinefex as well as two compositions that appeared in American Cinematographer. All are quite interesting, though I like the Cinefex article the best. Although that magazine obviously focuses most strongly on visual effects, their stories also tend to offer lots of general notes about the films’ creations, so they’re useful for many reasons. The “interactive” part of things comes from the availability of stills and a few video clips as you read the articles.
Within “Promotional Materials”, we get two trailers for The Fly, two more for The Fly II, and one each for the 1958 Fly and 1959’s Return of the Fly. We also find three TV Spots for the 1986 film.
A 1986 Promotional Featurette runs six minutes, 59 seconds. It included remarks from Cornfeld, Cronenberg, Goldblum, Walas, and Davis. They cover some basics of the story, characters and effects. This doesn’t substitute for the “Flesh” documentary, of course, but it’s much better than the average EPK program. It includes good shots from the set and is an efficient use of time.
Also under “Promotional Materials”, we get a 1986 David Cronenberg Profile. The four-minute and 25-second piece presents info about the director from Davis, Goldblum, and Cronenberg himself. It echoes the EPK featurette in that it’s surprisingly meaty and without too much fluff. Finally, One-Sheet and Lobby Card Gallery includes 15 elements.
In the same vein, we get some Still Galleries. This area breaks down into “Publicity” (42 shots), “Behind the Scenes” (126), “Concept Art” (111) and “Effects” (149 photos across five domains). All of these are quite useful and interesting.
The Fly knocked me for a loop when I saw it theatrically in 1986, and it continues to be an excellent movie. A moving tragedy, it remains deep and involving. The Blu-ray offers erratic but usually good picture with strong audio and an excellent collection of extras. If you have the DVD, I’m not sure it’s worth the upgrade, as the limitations of the source material keep the Blu-ray from being a big jump. Still, if you can get it cheap, it’s worth it.
To rate this film visit the DVD Review ofTHE FLY