By Steve Vivona
Fox, $24.95, Widescreen
Fox recently inaugurated a new series of double feature DVD's, and I'm hoping that other major studios will follow their lead. With each DVD the consumer is getting two films for the price of one. Fox could have very easily separated the six films on to individual DVD's and charged the same price, but they didn't. It's nice to see a company that has the consumer in mind for once.
They've sensibly placed two sci-fi favorites from their library on one DVD: "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" and "Fantastic Voyage" (an ideal pairing) The next two were obvious choices: The 1958 version of "The Fly" and its sequel, as well as the 1986 remake and its sequel. Fox is obviously hoping that viewers will have a drive-in mentality and watch both films in one sitting. It worked with me!
Eventually I'll review all three but right now let's concern ourselves with the 1986 version of "The Fly" and the 1989 sequel, "The Fly II." Director David Cronenberg was already well known for avant garde horror films like "Scanners" and "Videodrome," but he took a step into the mainstream with "The Fly," although without losing his trademark flourishes and healthy doses of gore!
The plot is much the same as the original. Seth Brundle (a perfectly cast Jeff Goldblum) is an eccentric reclusive scientist sitting on a revolutionary invention. At a conference he becomes entranced with Veronica (Geena Davis), a beautiful journalist. He lures her to his apartment with promises of revolutionary new technology.
Brundle unveils his magnificent creations to the disbelieving reporter, which he calls telepods. Capable of transporting matter from one place to the other, the telepods will revolutionize travel as we know it. Brundle convinces Veronica to follow his work and write a book chronicling his efforts.
The pair soon begin a love affair that is interrupted when Ronnie's former lover (and editor) threatens to expose Brundle's discovery before theyre ready. One evening Ronnie leaves Seth to talk her ex, thus convincing him that they are still involved. Annoyed and a little bit intoxicated, Seth decides to test the machine on himself. Little does he know he's not alone during the transport.
Seth soon begins exhibiting freakish strength and almost superhuman abilities. At first he believes the transport has somehow purified him and made him better, but he soon realizes something has gone horribly wrong. As his body changes Seth slowly dips into insanity and tells Ronnie to leave before he hurts her.
Seth analyzes the transport and realizes that a common housefly went through with him and the telepods bonded them at the genetic level. Horrified, he now understands what he is becoming, and is desperate to halt this horrific progression any way he can!
"The Fly II" picks up right after the tragic events of the first film. During the first scene Seth's seemingly normal child is born. However the baby's mother (not played by Geena Davis) dies from complications due to childbirth. The boy, named Martin, is placed under the protective care of Bartok Industries, the corporation that funded his fathers research.
Martin develops at a greatly accelerated rate, both physically and intellectually. By age five he has the body of a 25-year old, and his brilliance eclipses that of his father. Mr. Bartok (Lee Richardson) convinces Martin to continue his fathers research on the telepods which none of his best scientists have the ability to fix.
Despite his intellectual maturity Martin is still very much an adolescent. One evening while exploring the massive Bartok complex he meets Beth (Daphne Zuniga), a pretty young researcher. The pair become friends and before long, lovers. Their relationship angers Bartok's people who feel she is an impediment to Martins research.
Bartok has never fully explained to Martin what happened to his father, and when he starts exhibiting strange symptoms he knows what's coming. Martin stumbles on to a videotape of his father and is horrified to learn what he will become. He and Beth try to escape but are soon recaptured, but in doing so Bartok may have sealed his own fate!
I have to admit not being a huge fan of David Cronenberg's work. His films are a bit too out there for me. However his most accessible film for me is "The Fly," and it's a film I never tire of. It's definitely a Cronenberg film to be sure, but perhaps his most mainstream effort.
The film succeeds largely due to the performance of Jeff Goldblum, perfectly cast as an offbeat scientist whose desire for some meaningful human interaction ultimately leads to disaster. Goldblum is a master at eccentric characters and he brilliantly essays Brundles slow and agonizing transformation with a touch of self-deprecating humor.
Cronenberg indulges his taste for blood and bodily fluids but there is a certain appropriateness for this film, and both the effects and make-up are brilliant. Make-up artist Chris Walas would go on to direct the sequel.
"The Fly II" was savaged by critics but I always found it an enjoyable effort. While certainly not on a par with the original the performances were strong all around. Stoltz was used to playing misunderstood and lonely characters, like his breakthrough role in "Mask," and he does a fine job in this film as a young boy with no control over his destiny.
The film is much more action-oriented than its predecessor, and Walas seems to want to outdo his make-up creations from the first film. Happily the film is not predictable (a feat considering that it's the sequel to a remake), and I enjoyed watching the two films back to back.
Fox's DVD presentation of both films is uniformly excellent. Both are presented widescreen (for the first time). The transfers are sharp with no noticeable grain and strong colors. Trailers for all the films in this double feature line are included. Considering the fact there are two films here for the price of one I can certainly forgive the lack of other supplements.