The Fly (1986)

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Released 4-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 91:43
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:57) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Cronenberg

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Jeff Goldblum
Geena Davis
John Getz
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Howard Shore

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In 1958, a horror film was released which set a standard for tales based around mankind's natural fear of the unknown, or perhaps in this specific case, a certain generation's vague fear of new technology. That film was called The Fly, and it remained a classic until the march of technology proved that the manipulation of organisms at the genetic level could bring just as many, if not more, benefits as compared to disasters. Nonetheless, with genetic engineering about to be used to create life-saving synthetic hormones, David Cronenberg decided that he'd give updating this old piece of technophobia a try. There are two distinct camps when it comes to the old question of which version of The Fly is the better choice, although I feel this 1986 version is far less dated because it concentrates more upon the central character's humanity and his loss of it.

    Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a somewhat eccentric scientist who meets with a journalist by the name of Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a party. When he tells her that he is working on something that will change the world, he is met with some scepticism, so he takes her back to the warehouse space he is renting as a laboratory and shows her his machine. After he succeeds in demonstrating to her that he has built a machine that can transport objects from one place to another in a matter of seconds, her scepticism turns to great interest. Veronica tells her editor and former boyfriend Stathis Borans (John Getz) about the remarkable things she has discovered, but his scepticism is even more insurmountable than that which she originally displayed to Seth. So, after Seth takes Veronica out with him for cheeseburgers, he begins to lay out one of the more imperfect details of his invention to her, basically that the teleporter cannot teleport living things from one place to another without destroying them.

    After a few failed experiments, Seth eventually hits upon the right idea to make his machine teleport living tissue from one location to another, and thus he gives the machine a whirl with him in it. Unfortunately, a fly gets into the teleporter with him, and the machine becomes confused due to the presence of two separate genetic patterns, thus deciding to splice the two together. After Seth starts to sprout insect-like hairs in one of the most well-realised sequences of the film, becoming more moody, and generally being unpleasant, Veronica leaves him for a while. Thus, Seth goes to a bar and picks up another woman named Tawny (Joy Boushel), but she eventually frustrates him because she doesn't share his newfound mania, and we soon see Veronica getting a call from Seth, with him asking her to come and see him. This is when Seth explains to Veronica about how a fly got into one of his teleporter pods while he was using it, and that the insect genes that were spliced into his body are starting to take over. I'm sure you can all guess from here on in exactly what happens to Seth as he searches frantically for a way to regain his humanity and stop the rather sickening mutations.

    The first time I saw this film, I must admit that I was not overly excited by it, perhaps because I had been expecting a shower of blood and gore when instead I got a psychological drama with what I felt to be a slight overabundance of sex scenes. However, this time I understood the film a lot better, and that made for a much less pleasant (therefore less boring) experience. David Cronenberg should certainly be congratulated for taking a film that has definitely not stood the test of time and remaking it into one that almost certainly has. Jeff Goldblum is in fine form as the scientist who initially comes off as being quite mad, while Geena Davis is better than her usual self as the terrified journalist, and John Getz does an excellent job in a somewhat limited role as her editor. This is definitely a classic film to take home, slip into the DVD-Video system, and get ready to be genuinely uncomfortable and entertained with at the same time.

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Transfer Quality


    For a fifteen year old film, this is definitely an excellent piece of work both in the update and the transfer departments, although it is not without its flaws.

    The transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The sharpness of this transfer is excellent, with plenty of subtle details on offer for your viewing pleasure...more than you might have wished for, as a matter of fact. The shadow detail is generally average, but it is slightly more than adequate to make out the salient details of the darker scenes. Much of this film takes place in the dark, and the lighting scheme used in the photography compensates for this, but I would suggest watching it under strictly controlled lighting conditions. Thankfully, there is no low-level noise, a problem which has plagued every other format I have seen this film on to one degree or another.

    The colours in this film are almost always muted and dull, even when we are being shown the output from the computer. The only bright splashes of colour in this film are the obligatory bucket of blood and the special effects used to simulate the teleportation, which look pretty impressive in spite of their age. There were no instances of colour bleeding or other such artefacts.

    MPEG artefacts were not present in this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some aliasing that was moderately frequent, and occasionally got to be more than a little distracting, although the general level of aliasing is pretty tolerable. The worst example came at 18:35, during an upward pan on one of the telepods, which represent a nightmare for any interlaced video system. Aside from one or two more moments like this, the film is really quite easy to look at. Film artefacts blemished the picture in fairly liberal amounts, with plenty of black marks and hairs being found on the picture throughout its running length.

    This disc makes use of the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 15 and 16, at 58:57. This is during a natural fade-to-black, just after we learn that Brundle and the fly have been fused together at the molecular/genetic level, and its only negative point is that it comes during a musical cue. If it had been placed just a second or two later, I would have been hard-pressed to notice it at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Accompanying a nice video transfer is an audio transfer that, while not especially brilliant, does contain a few moments that make me glad it was remixed into 5.1 channels.

    There is only one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second. In the absence of any dubs or other distractions, I had to stick with this soundtrack, but that really suited me just fine since I doubt this film can be translated well into other languages. There is something quite unique to English-speaking societies about the fascination with genetics and teleportation.

    The dialogue in this film is clear and easy to understand at all times, even when some subtle distortion, echoes, or other such effects are introduced into Jeff Goldblum's voice in order to enhance the illusion that the insect genes are taking over. Indeed, most of the story in this film is told through the use of dialogue, as most of the concepts here would not make any sense if they were shown only with pictures. There were no discernable problems with audio sync.

    The score music by Howard Shore is variable, being quite omnipresent at dramatic moments while receding into nothing during more pleasant moments. It does help the film in a dramatic sense, but it doesn't do anything to make itself especially memorable or exciting in context with the revolting on-screen action. If it does anything, it makes the upsetting tone of the film more so, although it does this in a frighteningly entertaining sort of way.

    The surround channels were mainly used to provide separation for the music and occasional directional effects such as the sound of Brundle climbing around the walls. They were not worked especially hard, although some nice examples of surround usage exist at 11:01 and 48:30, where musical cues and directional effects become more enveloping than one would expect from a film of this vintage. The subwoofer was used to support the teleportation sound effects and other such bass-heavy sounds as guns, which it did without calling any specific attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static, and themed around the film with a nice little fly-swatter shaped cursor. It is 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    This trailer is presented in the cropped aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It is quite useful for giving the viewer an idea of how much picture information they miss out on when the picture has been cut down.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes

   Running for a total length of six minutes and thirty-three seconds, this 1.33:1 featurette with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack occasionally gives some insight into how certain effects were achieved, but it really doesn't spend long enough on these tidbits to be of much interest.

Interview Soundbites

    A total of seven minutes and fifty-one seconds worth of interview footage, some of which already appears in the previously-mentioned featurette. Each snippet from what appears to be a larger interview is presented as a separate featurette. In order, these are interviews with producer Stuart Cornfeld (0:16), director David Cronenberg (2:14), actors Jeff Goldblum (2:24) and Geena Davis (2:02), and finally special effects designer Chris Walas (0:55). Some of these pieces give some more interesting insight into the film, but others a bit of a waste.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film is marketed in Region 1 as part of a two-disc boxed set, with The Fly II being offered on the second disc. From what I can make out, our version appears to have ever-so-slightly more extras, and the reviews I have read would lead me to believe that we have received a slightly better video and audio transfer to boot. By all accounts, the Region 4 version of this disc appears to be the version of choice.


    The Fly is a truly horrific experience, and it is one of the few films that I have trouble viewing because its attempts to horrify more than hit the mark - they almost literally throw up on it. Jeff Goldblum is a riot in a much creepier role that he normally takes on, and I think a better understanding of this film just makes it all the more disturbing. Forget the cheesy 1950s B-grade schlock that this film was originally based on, this is science-fiction horror at its nastiest and most effectual.

    The video transfer is very good.

    The audio transfer is very good.

    The extras are a little sparse.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, June 21, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
The Fly R1 SE - capone (they're some fine antibiotics you got there..)
re: R1 SE -