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Blu-ray Review: The Fly Collection (1958 – 1989)

Those magnificent bastards at Scream Factory have gone and done it; they’ve shoved every damn Fly flick into a boxed set, packed them with features, and set them loose to be lapped up by horror hounds everywhere… and I’m going to put a revoltin’ review on the whole shebang!

Let’s kick things off with 1958’s The Fly… because that’s the first film in the series, and it would be stupid to do anything else…

Andre Delambre (David Hedison) is flat as a pancake after being crushed to shit and back in a mechanical press, and his wife Helene (Patricia Owens) is the one responsible… but like an attention whore’s Facebook relationship status, it’s complicated.

Fortunately we learn just how complicated as she recounts the strange events leading to Andre’s trip to the permanent press cycle to his brother Francois (Vincent Price, the one and only baby… ) and Police Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall). You see ol’ Andy had been balls deep in teleportation experiments in his hi-tech home laboratory, but the system was janky as fuck… which the family’s pet cat discovers all too well when he becomes a series of still living scattered atoms.

Never one to let a little pussy stand in the way of progress, Andre presses on and decides that since the whole affair was an unmitigated disaster he should try it himself, as one does! Too bad a fly got into the machine resulting in the creation of a fly headed (and handed) mutant… and a fly with a human head and hand. Terror (and melancholy) ensues!

Filled with pathos, gravitas, and a number of other fancy-ass words, The Fly is an undisputed classic in the creature feature/mad science genres. The story was (and is) unique, director Kurt Neumann keeps the suspense tight and out of sight, and the film’s titular creature is one of the most memorable movie monsters to grace the sinful silver screen (and the articulated mask used to bring him to life remains impressive decades later)… and the ending is as disturbing as they come.

Add to that powerful performances from Hedison, Owens, and Price, as well as real human drama mixed with monster movie tropes and you got a fantastic movie watchin’ experience from bottom to top… and the pain and desperation of Andre’s ever devolving condition gets ya right in the freaky feels boils n’ ghouls!

While The Fly is truly amazing on it’s own, Disc One (of five in the collection) brings us some beastly bonus material including: a biography of Price covering his legendary career, a brief retrospective of the films in the series, an archival news reel announcing the film’s release, the film’s theatrical trailer, and two audio commentaries; an archival track featuring Hedison and film historian David Del Valle (which is a fantastic and lively listen, packed with facts and humor), and the other a brand new piece featuring author Steve Haberman and film historian Constantine Nasr (a solid analysis of the film and it’s themes).

 

 

Next up comes Return of the Fly (1959):

Fifteen years have passed, and Helene Delambre has died… but Francois (a returning Price) is still on the scene, and after some convincing, he agrees to help Andre’s son Philippe Delambre (Brett Halsey) create a version of his pappy’s transporter that may actually work correctly.

Meanwhile a no-good bastard-type is b.d. on stealing the teleporter plans and selling them for fun and profit (to some mother fucker named Max)… actions which result in Philippe being forced onto the transporter and ending up a human/fly hybrid (this time with a fly’s foot to boot)… oh, the irony!

Return of the Fly is a completely different animal than the first feature; gone are the more melodramatic elements that made the first film foster our complete sympathy for our mutated hero, the excellent fly mask utilized in the first film (more on that in a sec)… hell, even the color is gone, replaced with cheaper black and white film stock.

Are these negatives, mostly a resounding “Hell no!” should sum that up! This picture has elements of corporate espionage, creature feature/monster on the loose tropes absent from the first film’s limiting of it’s Fly headed hero to the confines of his lab, and a more moody atmosphere, doubtless the result of the chiaroscuro created by the black and white bag mentioned up yonder… and it doesn’t hurt that Price is back giving another great performance (as was the legend’s way).

Now there is a negative here, and as you may have guess it involves the look of the titular creature this go around. The fly head, while cool looking, is absolutely titanic… it can barely fit through doorways, and it actually begins to slip off the actor’s head as he traverses the countryside… it’s like there was some sort of Spinal Tap Stonehenge style miscommunication or something… and his human headed counterpart ain’t no great shakes either.

Leading the way for bonus features on Disc Two are no fewer than three audio commentaries; featuring new conversations from actor David Frankham (who even at 93 is full of great info and good spirits) and author/film historian Tom Weaver (who gives his usual excellent blend of facts and honest… often brutally so… appraisal of the film), as well as an archival chat featuring actor Brett Halsey and film historian David Del Valle (which is a lively convo for sure… but Del Valle calls the classic Misfits tune Return of the Fly a fucking hip hop song… what the actual fuck dude?!!).

Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer, a TV spot, and a still gallery.

 

 

Next we buzz (I have zero shame… zero) on over to Curse of the Fly (1965):

Anyway, Curse concerns a dude with an awfully familiar last name, Martin Delambre (George Baker), taking in a stray woman, Patricia Stanley (Carole Gray) he finds wandering around in her underwear… though unbeknownst to him she escaped from an insane asylum where she was placed after her parents death. Hopefully he finds that out soon because he fixes on marrying her almost immediately.

Meanwhile Martin’s father Henri (Brian Donlevy… who I guess is Andre’s other, hitherto unmentioned son? Who knows… ) and brother Albert (Michael Graham) continue on with the ol’ family tradition of fucking around with teleportation in foggy London town.

Soon, Al sends Henri’s atoms zooming from England to Montreal (with an assist from Martin) via teleporter, where the old coot meets his new daughter-in-law who despite her shady past can’t even compete with the skeletons in the Delambre’s closet… seriously, Martin’s face turns to so much oatmeal occasionally, and they have hidden jail cells filled with sub-human monsters (one of which is Martin’s first wife)… all courtesy of trying to perfect what Andre started!

Soon people are teleporting left and right. Chaos ensues.

Curse of the Fly is a fun continuation of the franchise that manages to keep things fresh with mutants aplenty, and a nice furthering of the whole teleportation bag (sending bodies across continents is a far cry from sending a fucking plate across a lab, that’s for sure), not to mention this is one strange flick; gone are the overly sentimental notes of the original film, and this isn’t a creature feature per se… it’s a weird blending of avant-garde cinema techniques of the day mixed with a bizarre love story by way of a mad science picture. Sound strange? It truly is, and the picture is really strengthened by it’s oddness.

But on the downside, there is no fly creature in this outing, so that’s a bit of a bummer, and seeing Welch actress Yvette Rees play a Chinese character is a bit on the cringe-tastic side… especially since the very Asian Burt Kwouk portrays her husband… it’s just another very strange choice the creators of this flick went for with full gusto. Also ‘Delambre’ is mispronounced like a mother fucker…

All that said; this is a kick-ass pic, and a horror biz hidden gem for sure!

As is now a given, Disc Three has a few bonus features to enhance the main event… these include; a new audio commentary courtesy of Haberman and Nasr, new interviews with actress Mary Manson (who played that mutated wife mentioned previously) and keeper of the film’s continuity Renee Glynee (who gives an honest appraisal of her career), the film’s theatrical trailer, a TV spot, and a still gallery.

 

 

Next comes the 1986 remake/reimagining of The Fly:

Brilliant scientist and eligible bachelor Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) has perfected teleporting inorganic matter within the confines of his warehouse lab apartment deal. Anyway, he shows that shit to Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) who just so happens to be reporter (although our boy Seth didn’t know that), and she takes that story straight to her smarmy (though there is a good guy hiding in there somewhere), bizarrely named boss Stathis Borans (John Getz)… who thinks the whole affair is a steaming pile of bullshit.

Anyway, Seth convinces Veronica to write a book about his invention, but only after he can successfully transfer organic matter… and his latest attempts have resulted in baboon-based spaghetti. After a few dodgy calculations, our man Seth decides to teleport himself, but a fly goes along for the ride, and what follows is extreme body horror the likes of which has seldom been seen on screen before or sense as Seth becomes a new life-form… part human, part fly, and all horrifying!

As you can tell, co-writer (along with Charles Edward Pogue)/director David Cronenberg (one of the best creators the horror biz has ever had in my not-so-humble opinion) has created his own animal with this reimagining of the source material (including elements from all three original pictures)… especially in regards to the eye-popping special make-up effects on display, but more on those in a bit.

One of the main reasons that everything works so well in this fright flick is the amazing chemistry of it’s leads; Goldblum and Davis have chemistry for days, and watching their relationship grow and change is nearly as engaging as watching Seth become whatever the fuck he is on his way to becoming.

Speaking of what he is becoming, the various stages of his transformation into Brundlefly are filled with absolutely gorgeous (and often completely disgusting… in the best possible way) practical effects spearheaded by Chris Walas. What Seth goes through is like a body rotting cancer, but one that will result in the birth of a monster that has never been seen on this earth before, and we follow along for each fascinating, agonizing step (which of course is made completely believable thanks to Goldblum’s acting chops).

Pound for pound this is my favorite creature feature from the ’80s tied neck and neck with John Carpenter’s The Thing.

As for bonus features on disc four, this is where things kick into overdrive! First up we get two audio commentaries; an archival conversation with Cronenberg, and a new track from author/film historian William Beard. Both are informative and quality listens that cover the film’s production, themes, and more!

Following that comes all new interviews with executive producer Mel Brooks (and yes, it’s that Mel Brooks), producer Stuart Cornfeld (and yes, it’s that Stuart Cornfeld… wait… ), casting director Deirdre Bowen, cinematographer Mark Irwin, and composer Howard Shore.

Also included are a deluge of archival features including: a “making of” documentary, a tour of design concepts and effects hosted by Walas, deleted and extended scenes, a collection of screenplays, magazine articles, and the original short story the entire series is derived from, a ollection of promotional materials featuring trailers, TV spots, the film’s EPK, and a profile of Cronenberg, a large selection of still galleries, and a trivia track that pops up factoids about the film as it plays (talk about a blast from the past).

 

 

Finally we come to 1989’s The Fly II:

Well Veronica is dead, and Stathis (a returning Getz) splits the scene at top speed… but Seth Brundle’s child, Martin (eventually played by Eric Stoltz), is alive and kicking… and rapidly aging; all within the confines of his forever home located in the hi-tech offices of his father’s former employee Bartok Industries.

So, Seth grows into a man… the world’s smartest man no less, in the span of five years, and is put on the task of perfecting his daddy’s telepods… oh, and he is most def becoming some sort of new man/fly hybrid, like one does… oh, and he falls in love with a comely worker from another sector named Beth (Daphne Zuniga)… and they fuck… wait, isn’t he only…

That aside, things get crazy as shit as Martin tries to race the clock to find a cure for his ever-evolving and mutating body… and doubtless trying to get Beth away from those pending statutory charges…

Surprisingly enough, The Fly II is a decent continuation of the themes and story of the first film. The story of Martin, essentially an entirely new life form, is engaging to watch, and Stoltz (no stranger to emoting under tons of latex thanks to his turn in 1985’s Mask) knows how to get the most out of whatever is glued to his face at any given time… plus he has solid chemistry with Zuniga. Also, Getz’s performance of a drunken, slightly crazed (though hideously fake bearded) Stathis is a fun one for sure!

Now this entry was directed by Chris Walas, who provided effects for Cronenberg’s effort (and who’s company did effects duties for this go around) so the effects work is practically realized, gory as hell, and awesome as all fucking get-out! The climax alone has to be seen to be believed as a seven foot tall fly mutant goes on a complete rampage!

On the downside, there is a sequence involving a dog that is one of the most infuriatingly sad and cruel things ever committed to a mainstream fright flick. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory, but if you are an animal lover prepare to have a meltdown.

As for bonus material, get ready for what we in the biz call a “fucking ass load”! First comes an archival audio commentary with Walas and film historian Bob Burns. This is a fun conversation, between two old friends, and brings the film’s semi-troubled production to life in a vastly entertaining manner.

Following that we get brand new interviews with returning producer Stuart Cornfeld, screenwriters Mick Garris and Ken Wheat, cinematographer Robin Vidgeon, composer Christopher Young, and special effects artist Tom Sullivan.

There are also archival interviews with Walas (that runs nearly feature length) and producer Stephen-Charles Jaffe, as well as copious archival features including: a retrospective covering the film’s production, a fantastic documentary on the entire Fly series (hosted by the late, great Leonard Nimoy no less), a collection of behind-the-scenes videos, a discussion of the film’s score with Young, a selection of storyboard to film comparisons with optional commentary with Walas, an electronic press kit, extended EPK interviews with Walas, Stoltz, and Zuniga, a deleted scene, an alternate ending, the film’s teaser and theatrical trailer, a still gallery, and a story board gallery.

 

 

Bottom line; this set is an absolute must have; you get five great creature-features, tons of new bonus material (and an extra ton of archival material), hell, I’m surprised the box wasn’t a working telepod and fly so you can fuck up your own genetic code as you watch! Seriously cats n’ creeps get on this one!

 

 

 

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