I don’t know about you, but I am a Rabid (pun intended) fan of David Cronenberg. I feel that with each film, he explores new wild territories and in my opinion it’s a shame he’s never won an Oscar.
These days, Cronenberg deals mostly in strange psychological landscapes, most recently in the film Maps to the Stars (which I highly recommend watching if you haven’t). He is best known in the horror community as the MASTER of “body horror”, brilliantly displayed in classics such as The Brood, Videodrome, and the film I’m discussing today, THE FLY.
A remake of the 1958 Vincent Price vehicle directed by Kurt Neumann, THE FLY is one of many takes on the Jungian archetypes of “The Other” and “The Shadow” along the lines of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde and Frankenstein or Beauty and the Beast. One could argue that this was the most mainstream of Cronenberg’s body horror tomes, starring mega-stars of that (and any following) era, Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.
I have never had the opportunity to see this particular Cronenberg film in the theater so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to check it out as part of Alamo Drafthouse NYC’s “Terror Tuesdays”. I originally saw this movie at my dad’s house on TV when I was probably 10 or 11. At that time the things that stood out to me were the gross parts, which there are certainly plenty. Seeing it as an adult lets you see the more human side to Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and how truly sad the film actually is.
The plot is a little nonsensical, especially at the time it was made, which makes sense considering the source material is a late 50’s sci-fi B-movie. Jeff Goldblum plays a genius scientist who has created a teleportation device, Geena Davis plays Veronica Quaife, a reporter who wants to track the story as it unfolds and then ends up falling in love with Brundle. The nonsensical part is when the usually methodical levelheaded scientist that is Brundle decides to teleport himself alone when he’s drunk. A fly is also in the machine when he teleports and that’s when things start getting gross.
Jeff Goldblum is honestly pretty hilarious as Seth Brundle. There are a lot of little jokes and even though the make-up effects morph him into a gross “Human Fly”, he’s still pretty damn charming as only Jeff Goldblum can be until the last moments of the film. I did not know this until our host for the evening, Mike Sampson mentioned it, but at the time of the release of THE FLY there was a pretty strong campaign for Goldblum to get a best actor nomination at The Oscars. That didn’t happen but the movie did win for Special Effects, which is not a surprise.
Geena Davis is one of my favorite actresses and she does a great job of playing up the “strong modern woman” role that only really started to become a prominent theme in 80s films. She’s played a lot of those roles, most famously in Thelma & Louise but I think her performance in this film is underrated. Her interpretation of fear and grief in the film is outstanding.
Something else that Mike Sampson talked about was that he felt as though this film was an allegory for dealing with the death of a loved one when there are a lot of theories that this film is about disease, particularly AIDS, which was killing people left and right at the time of this film’s release. I think that it’s a combination of both ideas. I have seen a close family member of mine die of AIDS-related cancer, a lot of mutations happened to his body, including physical ones that you would not expect to see. I saw his mentality change constantly and finally the resignation with his fate. Obviously, it is harder for the person going through these changes, but it is also extremely difficult to see someone you love going through them.
THE FLY was a boon for Jeff Goldblum and David Cronenberg and I’m so glad I got to see an old Cronenberg film on the big screen. A great thing about Alamo Drafthouse NYC is that the trailers shown before the feature always coincide with the film, so I saw trailers for about three classic Cronenberg films (Rabid, Shivers, Dead Ringers) in addition to the trailers for The Fly(1958) and Return of the Fly (which is probably my favorite Misfits song btw). Additionally there was the trailer for The Fly 2, with good ole Eric Stoltz.
Alamo Drafthouse is a cinephile’s paradise and I’m so glad I’ve been able to go there so often this month. Please stop by any day to see current films (Deadpool 2, Notorious RBG, etc) but if you’re ever free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9:30, come see what they’ve got on the docket. It’s bound to be amazing. Next Tuesday at their downtown Brooklyn location, you can catch Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery as part of “Terror Tuesdays” and then on “Weird Wednesday” there’s the amazing, underrated masterpiece Freaked starring both Alex Winter AND Keanu Reeves. I’ll be at both, so come say hi, or just read about my experiences next week.