Thirty years ago today, David Cronenberg unleashed a horrific tale of science gone wrong, a body-horror masterpiece that freaked out audiences, earned an Academy Award for makeup, and is often held up as a “remake done right.” The Fly was loosely based on the 1957 story by George Langelaan and the 1958 film of the same name. Starring Jeff Goldblum as the doomed scientist and Geena Davis as the reporter he loves, it’s a masterclass in escalating grossness and making a sympathetic monster even beneath layers of prosthetics and makeup.
The Fly has many scenes of grotesque imagery, including a failed attempt at transporting a baboon, a disgusting arm wrestling gone wrong sequence, and a lot of stuff involving Goldblum vomiting on things and people. One scene that was removed, but later made available on YouTube, features Goldblum’s Brundlefly creature attempting to fuse the remaining baboon with an alley cat in hope of finding a cure for his condition. Things go awry, as they often do in this film, and instead he ends up with a monstrous creation:
As previously mentioned, Cronenberg’s The Fly is one of those remakes that is provided as an example of how to successfully update a property (alongside others like John Carpenter’s The Thing, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, or Chuck Russell’s The Blob). YouTuber AlternatingLine’s first episode of “The Remaker” series looks at the differences and similarities between the two films and how Cronenberg was able to keep the same basic plot but update it with his own body-horror sensibilities to make it current for modern audiences:
While it’s well known among film nerds, many people will probably be surprised to learn that Mel Brooks produced the film. He produced this serious film, alongside works like David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and Solarbabies. (Two out of three ain’t bad, Mel). Mental Floss assembled this and 10 other “transformative” facts about the movie in a list that still yields some surprising information even for fans of the film, for example, Brooks was responsible for the line, “Be afraid, be very afraid.”
Eric Vespe (a.k.a. Quint of Ain’t It Cool News) runs a continuing series of behind the scenes photos from classic films, and has two for Cronenberg’s The Fly. One features the director in his surgeon cameo in the midst of directing the scene:
While the other finds Jeff Goldblum getting some final touches on his Brundlefly makeup by artist Stephan Dupuis:
And for more behind the scenes fun, Film School Rejects’ jeremykirk13 wrote up “33 Things We Learned From David Cronenberg’s The Fly Commentary.” Cronenberg is a ridiculously cerebral and thoughtful filmmaker, so to hear him shed light on a lot of the technical aspects of the film along with the underlying emotional themes is a real delight that provides tons of insight. Included in this commentary is Cronenberg’s confirmation that though the film was partly inspired by the AIDS crisis which was just beginning to ravage communities in 1986, it also works because it preys upon people’s anxieties about disease and aging and other ways their bodies betray them in time.
After all of that in-depth, “making of” stuff, it’s time to get back to what the internet does best: make silly video mashups of things. In this case, YouTuber scribe576 has recut the film into a romantic comedy trailer that wouldn’t be out of place in Rob Schneider’s oeuvre, complete with awful music and out of context lines:
And lastly, for those that simply want to revisit the movie and walkthrough its plot, along with an ample helping of insightful review, there’s Oliver Harper’s video around the film. The video also goes over a lot of Cronenberg’s themes from his earlier works (diving more into that body horror pool), how the F/X still hold up today, and what makes the film work as well as it does: It’s a classic tale of a doomed beauty and the beast… but told with a lot more vomit.