On a subconscious level the opening title sequence of David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of ‘The Fly’ is explained late in the film. At the time, it went over the heads of the critics who were more than quick to tear the film apart due to the disturbing appeal of the makeup and creature effects. Over time, Cronenberg’s remake, like John Carpenter’s “The Thing” remake from 1982, (which was also savaged by critics at the time) has earned more respect and like the original film it is based on, has become a sci-fi horror classic in its own right. Both films had something going for them in narrative than just piles of slime, blood and mucus. Both films had the main action and drama take place in or surrounding one general location; the characters are a small handful in number and are over 25 years old and are developed enough that they are worth caring about.

The only real difference theatrically between the two is that ‘Fly’ was a hit, and ‘Thing’ was not. These also happen to be the two best years (82 and 86) for these genres.

In the opening credits of 1986’s “The Fly”, the POV is that of an insect might see as color distortion and multiple, near kaleidoscope like images. Seth Brundle, (Jeff Goldblum) well into his altered state, takes a self reflective view as the fly which merged with his DNA as the result of the experiment gone wrong. Brundle observes that his condition was really the fly, dreaming what it was like to be a man (or human). To me, that was the thesis of what the film really wanted to convey, and use it as a social commentary of sorts. The first lines of dialog back this up further as Seth and Veronica get acquainted:

“What am I working on? I’m working on something that will change the world and human life as we know it” –Seth
“Change it a bit? You’ll have to be more specific”– Veronica

After convincing Veronica to come to his place to see what he was working on (and because he can make a great cup of cappuccino) it must be noted that she is driving him home. He does not own a car due to a lifelong problem of motion sickness. During the remainder of the film, this will never be brought up again. It is the attraction to Veronica that drives Seth, as well as the scientist geek coming out of a box to not only attempt to socialize, but to impress a woman.


Geena Davis in 'The Fly' (1986)

Seth lives in an old warehouse -like loft which doubles as his lab. There is a slight moment of insecurity, but Seth goes on. It’s one of those times, which seem like ancient days now, when the ultra science geek finally gets a woman over to his living space. The place is a bit too lived in. However, Seth is also guard. He does not drive, (motion sickness- I always wondered if insects also get motion sickness) he may have taken a taxi, but in later scenes he goes out on foot. His socializing at the convention may have been the first time he’s been out in public for months. The progress is made. He is beginning to break down his barriers. One thing is visually stated: Seth is isolated. The hallway that leads to the steel door is filmed long and wide. The piping also act as re-enforced bars.

In getting to know you chit-chat, Seth shows off his pride and joy: the telepods, which Victoria mistakes for designer phone booths. Veronica thinks coming to Seth’s was a bad idea, but finds his charm is winning her over. David Cronenberg hasn’t backed away from sex and crazy science fiction connections. Victoria is not just shown his ‘telepods’, but Seth wants to give her a brief demonstration. She playfully says “Here it comes” as she hands him her pantyhose. He works the teleporter, and the event is a success. The light and steam give the event a magical romantic look. When Seth is reminded that she works for a Particle, a science magazine, he says what he showed her is ‘personal’ and kicks her out. He wanted to get lucky, not be a story.

Seth soon has a change of heart, and takes her out to burger joints (an 80’s geek food of choice, I suppose). Now, with Veronica on board (he wants her to write a book about his genius) Seth steps up the expieriments to keep her interest. I never quite understood why he felt transporting living things was needed. Why exactly someone have to push science to transport animals or human beings? Sure, it could elimiate forms of mass transit (and help those with motion sickness?) but, logically, wouldn’t a reasonable approach be just to let things be?

It is established in the film that non-living things can teleport with zero defects Seth has already changed the world in science advancement. He simply isn’t content with this, or he just is going out of his way to impress Veronica. Veronica’s boss and former flame Stathis Borans (John Getz) feels Seth is a charmer alright, but also a fraud with ‘a clever magic act’. But what about what Seth’s current accomplishments? In the sequel Fly II, it wasn’t brought up. I don’t know how Cronenberg’s planned remake of his remake will happen. But maybe the idea of transporting non-living objects could be explored. Stores could (with the exception of food) transport goods to a business or home; moving heavy objects would prove quicker and you don’t have to squeeze the couch through the narrow door. You could go somewhere…and you forgot your wallet, call home. Someone zaps your stuff to you faster than Western Union. Seth Brundle never considers the advancements he has made. He has worked a miracle for the consumer. This notation only adds to the film’s tragedy.

Soon there is a love triangle between Seth, Veronica and Stathis. On toop of that, as Stathis stalks Veronica; the technology stalks Seth.
Sathis follows Veronica to a department store and mocks her (‘My godess! Thank you for making all of my fantasties come true!’), but a computer chip cuts into Seth during intercourse. Veronica pulls the metal out of his flesh, and says something that sparks his science mind. Seth’s desire to break out of isolation will now control him in obsession. It even stopped sex. Stathis is set up as a creepy bad guy foil and comes off wiith a sudden insanity. Seth will change throughout the film- and become insane.

In order to show Veronica up one, Seth becomes jealous of Stathis. He decides to teleport himself. He didn’t see the fly go in with him. He goes in naked, and comes out on the other side a new person. But now his DNA is split with the fly. He has literally come out of shell and mutates into a new (and horrible) being.

Jeff Goldblum is Seth Brundle in 'The Fly' (1986)

First with fly hairs, then being a sex dynamo, a slight increase in strength, beginning to walk on walls (quite convincingly before CGI) but then come the sugar rushes. Soon he mutates into the true transformation “Blundlefly”. Before long, he loses teeth, fingernails, his eyebrows, his private parts (or ‘small pods’) and his ears. Meanwhile, Veronica fears that she is pregnant with Seth’s child. Will it be normal, or half-human, half fly? There was a dream sequence famous in ’86, where in her dream she gives birth to a baby sized maggot. She decides, abruptly, to abort the child. She enlists the help of her sexist stalker boss Stathis. Seth attacks Stathis, attacks Veronica. Seth’s new plan is to merge him, her and the baby all into one body as a ultimate ‘family unit’.
Stathis turns hero, but not before Seth amputates him with gooey acid spit. Veronica pleads to show stalker boss Stathis mercy, which he does. As soon as he does, Seth not only loses his mind, he loses his face and his identity. He is now become The Fly.

How long have Seth and Veronica been together? The film timeline suggests a least a week, although by the announcement of her pregnancy and her craving for late night steaks, it seems to be a month or two. It isn’t exactly clear. For all we know, the child could have been conceived with Stathis. It could even be Seth’s before he had the ill fated accident. The so-so sequel with Bartok Industries (who put on the science fair at the first film’s start) as a shadowy Gov’ment organization would state, ys, it was Seth’s son and the kid is half fly.

At any rate, ‘the abortion’ is stopped, the film’s “pest” Stathis still shoots Seth with the shotgun before the new transformation. He saves Veronica (and the unborn-which he was about to destroy himself) as Seth winds up merging with his true love- the technology. With his humanity all erased, he goads Veronica into giving him a mercy killing. She does so, liberating him from his pain.

In the sequel, Bartok industries puts Seth Jr into a confined space, watch him like Orwell’s Big Brother. The surprise is that that film didn’t follow up on the isolated themes as much. The most obviou aspects of a fly isn’t seen (thinking insect wings) and…guess what Bartok does? They also want to continue Seth Brundle’s work of teleporting living things instead of focusing on the obvious science breakthough that could be a benefit. The sequel benefited no one, having lost the elements of the first film’s subtext in tragedy.

Advertisements