Hello and welcome to my Journey into Science-Fiction Part 14. I was thinking of a way to watch Sci-Fi films that I might have overlooked and learn about ones I have watched previously. It’s quite a simple idea really as I have to find a connection with each film in order to continue my journey . . . simple, but very rewarding. In Part 13, I found myself watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension for the first time and what a ride that was, this led me to my next film, the science-fiction/horror, David Cronenberg’s masterpiece, The Fly.
The Fly started life as a short story written by George Langelaan, first published in a 1957 issue of Playboy, it later went on to become one of the greatest science-fiction and fantasy short stories of the year.
In 1958 the story made it to the big screen in a film directed and produced by Kurt Neumann. Vincent Price starred in The Fly and said the film was wonderful, entertaining and fun, the box office results proved that the audience felt the same way as it made huge profits for Fox, becoming one of its biggest hits for the year.
Fast forward to 1986. I did watch The Fly when it was first released and it had a huge impact on me; years later and it has again but for completely different reasons. I’m not going to explain the plot of the film from beginning to end as I’m pretty sure it’s etched inside many readers brains by now. Instead, I just want to look at some of the things that stick out to me and make this film an important piece of cinema history, well for me at least. I have also done some research on the film and it seems a lot of the facts concerning the film are repeated and I just want to discuss what I liked instead of creating a generic piece of work that sings from the same sheet.
After watching this film my interest in this director has peaked, what an amazing body of work he has. I have watched some of his films and loved them but after watching this one, I have decided I’m going to look at his work more in-depth. I love artists who really try and dig deep into what is the human condition and also deliver it in such a way that a person like me can just about understand its complexity somewhat.
Don’t get me wrong, when I was a child, I was there for the transformation of Seth Brundle as I watched him gain superpowers, enjoy him eating doughnuts in the best way possible and eventually become a monster without really grasping the story at all. As an adult though, it’s all about the fear, the one we all share in life, love and eventual death. I know the actors, especially Jeff Goldblum, brought real humanity to these characters but I feel Cronenberg created a film that is a pretty dark tale, but it also has a really positive message to it. What is that message! Well, I guess that is down to the person watching it and it could endless, for me, it’s about the awkwardness of Seth Brundle and how he was such a likeable character without even knowing it. The message to me is to try and be happy with my place in life and embrace the things you might doubt about yourself sometimes.
The film is really isolated and I’m not sure if that was budget-related, but it really makes this film work for Cronenberg as he uses the light perfectly in those confined locations and its feels like a play where the dialogue has to completely carry the story until we get to the real money burning shots. I just think great films have it all and that rests solely on the director and Cronenberg seemed to be right at the top of his game for this one with the location, style and music all creating something spectacular and visually beautiful that still holds up today.
It’s amazing how a character like Seth Brundle can make such an impact on popular culture. Throughout my research of this film, all you can hear or read about is the love and admiration for the work Jeff Goldblum did in bringing this character to life. I really find it quite shocking he didn’t win an Oscar for this performance or even get nominated! As an adult, I can see changes in Seth Brundle I didn’t quite notice before and the character development is quite an achievement. At first, he seems pretty charming, socially awkward and a genius but there is something quite relatable about him, well for me personally.
Okay, we all know he eventually turns into a monster but the change in his character is somewhat different. Seth Brundle’s side effects after going through the transporter are somewhat similar to any superhero origin story, thinking about it, that must have been the attraction as a child. That strength and power though makes him become a more hateful character, but why is that? Surely it isn’t the fly genes, or are fly’s generally quite angry, I’m not sure? I guess love has something to answer for, as the relationship between him, Veronica, Genna Davis and Stathis, John Getz becomes complicated. Seth is drinking and feeling the worst when he first enters the pod and I can’t help but think he would have been better off on his own, that’s love for you, not to be cynical!
Finally, when his body begins to transform into something more grotesque, Seth the scientist comes back, not only that he examines himself as the greatest experiment ever, as his teeth fall out along with many other body parts as he turns his medicine cabinet into a museum.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, this is not the way these stories normally go, it has many more layers than that and I’m just skimming the surface. Great writing, yes! But I think Jeff Goldblum manages to give Seth Brundle an enormous amount of humanity that viewers love, right up until the very end when the transformation is complete. Great characters like this don’t come around too often and you just admire the sheer genius of the Brundle Fly.
Technology plays a big part in creating some of the terror in this film because I remember the 80’s and it felt like I was witnessing the birth of the digital revolution and you didn’t know what was coming next! It feels pretty primitive now but most of the electronic items in my household were housed in wood and compared to today’s standards, pretty much like living in a cave.
Even now with A.I, there is a feeling of doubt within people and that’s to be expected as new technology is becoming available on a daily basis. We are now living in a completely different world than the one we did in 1986 and this film represents that shift in time perfectly. The pods used for Brundle’s experiment are pretty iconic as a piece of film history and still look remarkably futuristic today. I know the film has its faults but I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy and I can live with that because it only adds to its charm. If anything, this film reminds me of why the VHS days were such a great moment in life and I’m glad to revisit those memories.
On my Journey into Science-Fiction, I continue and where to next? Well, I was thinking of visiting Rocketship X-M because it was directed by Kurt Neumann. One name that deserves a mention in the piece is Chris Walas who did win an Oscar for his special effect/make up work on The Fly. Chris also worked another film, Enemy Mine 1985, a film that I couldn’t pass up. So please join me in Part 15 of My Journey into Science Fiction.
Thank you for visiting and taking the time to read my work, any comments about my piece or your memories of The Fly would be appreciated.