Jeff Goldblum Flies into a 1980s Sci-fi Horror in The Fly (1986) as he discovers that Nature Finds a Way…
A scientist and a reporter fall in love as she writes about his latest experiment. After an error he is changed into a man-fly hybrid leading to frightening consequences for all.
It was hard to decide the personality type of Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), the young scientist in this science fiction horror – and romance – movie for this blogathon. Is he good, lonely or mad? It was difficult with Brundle appearing to have all three attributes at different times throughout this movie. To explain in movie terms. A good scientist, could possibly fall into the Doc Brown category. As without the Doc’s newly invented time travel machine – in the form of a De Lorean – his good friend, Marty McFly could get his station wagon and save his father from a lifetime of bullying from Biff in Back to the Future (1985). A lonely pair of teenage inventors, Gary and Wyatt in Weird Science (1985) invent a real girl in the shapely form of Kelly Le Brock. This simply to find out more on the fairer sex (and have a shower with). And as for crazy, this category has to include Dr Orlando Watt in Carry On Screaming (1966) who invents mannequins using human corpses in a kind of British bawdy horror comedy parody of those monster and crazy science man flicks.
So how to describe Dr Brundle. There was a man, a lonely man… these seven words, the lyrics from the opening of Neil Sedaka’s Solitaire ballad aptly summed him up on meeting him in the first moments of the movie. I was struck by his gaucheness, nervousness and vulnerability. As this shy scientist with big soulful brown eyes attempted to chat up Veronica (Geena Davis), a young reporter at a press conference. His opening gambit, which got her – and our – attention that he was working on something…. that he claims would change the world and human life as we know it. Which in theory could make him a good scientist. But then after his experiment goes awry, then he does go a wee bit less eccentric and a lot more crazy. So read on and decide yourselves with the help of this David Cronenberg – aka the Baron of Blood – directed and co-written screenplay unconventional romance….
And to the plot, which may help you decide on Brundle’s attributes further. Brundle invites Veronica to visit his lab – and for a cappuccino – to show her his invention away from the others’ overhearing his plans. So Veronica – after a wee bit more persuasion – takes Seth back to his laboratory. She’s intrigued in this man and what his story is, and enters his almost minimalist, dingy laboratory. It’s obvious he’s pretty passionate about his work with his few worldly belongings there too including a piano, a sofa bed and his wardrobe. So he shows her his work and then science mansplanes enthusiastically to her about his latest experiment, unaware that she’s recording him for a magazine story.
Seth reveals he has two telepods where he can teleport one inanimate object to the other. This experiment activated by his voice commands to his computer which leads to a response in the telepods. Seth demonstrates this deftly teleporting her stocking to the other one. He tells how he is perfecting this experiment to include living objects. He finds out she’s recording him for an article in a science journal, and convinces her not to reveal all to her editor. She gets angry with him about this and leaves.
She tells her editor who also is her creepy, ex-live in boyfriend, and 80s douchebag Stathis (John Getz). Stathis still has a bit of a thing for her. And Veronica spends more time with Seth recording his work, as he perfects the transport of living things through his telepods starting with a baboon. Which initially doesn’t work, with some icky looking remains of an outside in baboon. Meanwhile, it’s obvious there is some sexual chemistry between Seth and Veronica. And they kiss and make love with her taking the initiative. After this and some more garrulous science mansplaning from Seth, he is inspired with the following experiment working successfully.
Just as they celebrate, douchebag Stathis sends a copy of a to be published magazine with Brundle’s story highlighted on the cover to her at Seth’s laboratory. Veronica goes to confront Stathis on this, not telling Seth why. Seth, alone and confused, believes she’s gone back to her ex-partner. After programming the computer, a drunk Seth enters the first telepod after beginning the computer program begins. But he’s unaware a troublesome fly was in the telepod with him. However this fact was recognised by the computer, merging these two living beings into a man-fly with terrifying consequences for all… so be afraid, be very afraid (as this movie’s tag line says).
This was a great Goldblum part in which he is perfect casting for this eccentric scientist unlike Mel Gibson and Richard Dreyfuss who were both considered. From his piano in his lab, after playing a romantic tune he then plays a more eerie tune for Veronica, saying she won’t get out alive in a dark sinister voice – we like her – are unsure of his motives. However Goldblum is playing with our emotions as although appearing ominous, this appears to be the character’s offbeat humour. This actor hams his character to Nicholson proportions playing the garrulous scientist man. He excels with his science mansplanation of his theories and insights which may have helped in casting him in his future science man role in Jurassic Park (1993) and Independence Day (1996). Or simply when telling his rather crazy story to explain his car sickness as he gets a lift in Veronica’s car to his lab in the opening scenes of this film.
These are complemented with Goldblum’s shoulder length wavy, wild 80’s hair compared to his straight and short haired, almost boring reporter character Michael in The Big Chill (1983) three years previously. These and his wide-eyed expressions and explanations are a joy to watch and listen to. On his metamorphosis into the man-fly, he becomes a completely different man who is barely recognisable in so many ways, and the polar opposite in personality from his more geeky scientist in the beginning of the story.
The chemistry between the lead characters is apparent from the start with him asking her to come for a cappuccino as well as his lab. She in turn gives him a stocking in a provocative way when he asks for a personal item he can teleport. Davis, is believable as his love interest from her initial skepticism to believing in him and his experiments. She loyally stands by Seth, despite the concern of her ex-boyfriend. Even though we can tell from her tearful eyes after Seth changes she feels a mixture of fear and confusion. More so as the film and her story line progresses. She is understanding and supportive to him to the end of the movie, despite her increasing fear. Getz as the editor, was a horrible character more sleazy than hopeful that Veronica will rekindle her feelings for him. And played to slimey perfection that makes Steff’s pass to Andie in Pretty in Pink (1986) look like a saint in comparison.
The experiment’s special effects were pure 1980s gold with the computer with cool retro font to the whirring of the telepods in action. The wee flash and the click of telepods opening themselves was chilling once the experiment completed, as they invited us in to see the results revealed once the smoke disappeared. Although the results at times were a bit grim, it was hard not to look away. As with the Oscar-winning make up from Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis slowly transforming the cute and geeky looking scientist into something increasingly more horrific as the physical – and psychological – fly attributes took over his body and persona.
In later scenes these special effects for his physical changes reminded me of the intensity of how Nina’s delusions of becoming the black swan for Swan Lake manifested themselves in Black Swan (2010). However chillingly were Seth’s reality. And as for the final scene, lets just say it’s nothing like the ending for that 1970s vampire comedy Love at First Bite (1979). But in an undercurrent to the ending scenes there is a fly in the ointment which leads you to fear for others involved in Seth’s predicament. And you might be on the right track when you learn there was a sequel, Fly II (1989) released 3 years later. And knowing this may make you fly to all sorts of conclusions… before you land on the right one.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 🙂10
Hulk Rating: /10
Bonus Trailer: The original film trailer with Vincent Price
The Fly (1958) – Trailer, JohnnieYoung, http://www.youtube.com
This review was submitted to Christine Wehner and Silver Screenings‘ Movie Scientist Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Jeff Goldblum in The Big Chill, Thor 3: Ragnorok, Into the Night and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Geena Davis is featured in her debut movie, Tootsie.