Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz!
I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “David Cronenberg” with a minor in “Remakes”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week the Supercult show takes you to the limit of your imagination where our greatest creations meet our deepest fears in The Fly!
Self-involved research scientist Seth Brundle invites science-magazine reporter Veronica Quaife to his lab and demonstrates his newest project: a set of ‘telepods’ that can teleport matter from one pod to another. As the two grow closer Veronica inspires Seth to reprogram the pods for living things and decides to use himself as a test subject. Little does he know that a common housefly slipped into the transmitter pod with him for the journey, and what emerged from the second pod that day is not of this world. Be afraid. Be very afraid of…The Fly!
In 1958, director Kurt Neumann adapted George Langelaan’s 1957 short story for the silver screen. The result was The Fly starring Vincent Price, in which a scientist swaps his head and left arm with that of a fly in a teleportation accident and desperately searches for the fly from the experiment so that he can reverse the process before his new fly instincts take over. The Fly was a box office success that won a Hugo Award and grossed three million dollars at the domestic box office against a budget of less that half a million.
20 years later screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue was approached with the idea of remaking the classic sci-fi horror film. After reading the book and watching the original film he initially wrote an outline similar to the Langelaan short story he thought it would be better to rework the material to focus on a gradual metamorphosis rather than an instantaneous monster. After some financing trouble, replacing and then re-hiring Pogue as writer, and more than a few false starts the film was eventually handed to the producer’s first choice for director, the Canadian King of Venereal Horror, David Cronenberg, veteran of other gruesome yet philosophical horror flicks like, The Dead Zone, Videodrome, and Scanners. Cronenberg agreed to direct the film on the condition that he be allowed to rewrite the script.
Cronenberg’s draft differed greatly from Pogue’s screenplay though it retained the basic plot and central concept of gradual mutation. Cronenberg rewrote the characters and most of the dialogue from scratch, expanded upon certain aspects of Pogue’s transformation scenes, repurposed or rearranged certain sequences, and layered in his trademark themes of sexuality, body horror, and personal identity. Cronenberg also made it a point to keep Seth Brundle as articulate as possible for as long as possible and opted for the character to morph into a hideous man-fly hybrid rather than a literal giant fly. Despite the extensive rewrite, Cronenberg insisted that he and Pogue share screenplay credit, since he felt that his version could not have come to pass without Pogue’s script to serve as a foundation.
Starring Jeff Goldblum as Seth, Geena Davis as Veronica, and John Getz as Stathis Borans, Veronica’s editor and former lover, the Fly features Academy Award winning makeup and creature effects executed by Chris Walas who had previously worked on Scanners, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Gremlins. The transformation was broken up into seven distinct stages ranging from a subtle rash to a full-body suit with Jeff Goldblum spending many hours in the makeup chair prior to shooting.
In an infamous cut scene, Brundle fuses a cat and a baboon in an desperate attempt to find a cure for his condition which results in a hideously deformed cat-monkey creature which attacks Brundle, forcing him to beat it to death with a lead pipe. The scene was cut following a Toronto screening. According to producer Stuart Cornfeld the audience felt that there was no turning back for Seth and they lost all sympathy for his plight, which caused the rest of the film to not play as well. In Cornfeld’s own words: “If you beat an animal to death, even a monkey-cat, your audience is not gonna be interested in your problems anymore”.
The other producer, Mel Brooks (yes, THAT Mel Brooks), didn’t want people to know he was a producer for the film because, he thought people wouldn’t take it seriously if they knew he was involved. When people did find out he decided to make the most of it by handing out deely boppers at the premiere.
The producers also commissioned musician Bryan Ferry to record a song for the film for promotional purposes The resulting track, with the referential title, “Help Me” was deemed inappropriate for the film or the end credits. The only time it is played on screen is in the background during the scene where Brundle challenges Marky in the bar.
Released in 1986, The Fly was a commercial and critical success. Despite being a gory remake of a classic made by a controversial, non-mainstream director, the film was the biggest of Cronenberg’s career earning a total domestic gross of over $40 million dollars from a $9 million budget. Most of that budget, of course, was spent on makeup and special effects including a giant rotatable replica of Brundle’s lab used for shots of Goldblum’s chracter crawling across the ceiling. Cronenberg was surprised when the film was seen by some critics as a cultural metaphor for AIDS, since he originally intended the film to be a more general analogy for disease itself, terminal conditions like cancer, and more specifically, the aging process and ultimately, death.
Gene Siskel named the Fly in his list of the top ten films of 1986 saying, “As slimy and as grotesque as some of its special effects become, The Fly is a far superior horror film to the top-grossing film in America of late, [James Cameron’s] Aliens.”
The Fly has a 7.5 on IMDB, a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, spawned a sequel directed by the special effects master Chris Walas, and even would up popularizing the phrase, “Be Afraid. Be very afraid.”
Don’t question it Supercultists, we just love Jeff Goldblum, no matter how many limbs he has! Half man. Half insect. Total terror!
The Supercult show proudly presents, The Fly!