Interesting developments have defined the DVD landscape since its inception well over three years ago. Currently we see an interesting development from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. First the studio began to increase its output in high quality Special Editions, practically switching them all to 2-disc releases, and now they also make a move to release certain films as double features on a single disc. One such example is the double-feature containing the 1986 remake of "The Fly" and its 1989 sequel "The Fly 2."
In 1986, David Cronenberg, the radical and controversial Canadian filmmaker, brought us a remake of "The Fly," the story of a scientist whose experiments spell doom on himself, and as expected, instead of making a straight remake of the 1958 classic starring Vincent Price, Cronenberg updated the material and injected it with his own sense of morality, visual style and of course some gory special effects.
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is on the brink of a scientific discovery that will change the world forever. Suffering of motion sickness, Brundle has spent years working on teleportation, a technology that allows him to directly transfer matter from one point to another. Although his prototypes are still flawed he turns to scientific journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) to create a diary of his work for publication once his experiments are successfully finished. Although capable of teleporting objects already, the major flaw Brundle is debugging in his set-up is that he cannot transport living matter. For some reason, all such experiments are literally turned inside out, until one day he realizes, why. He reprograms his teleportation pods and successfully transfers a monkey from one end of the room to the other. Eager, he decides to test the teleporters on himself, but unknowingly a fly is in the pod with him. Confused, the computer decides to merge the two life forms and soon dramatic changes take place in Brundle’s behavior and appearance as the genes of the fly break through.
In the 1989 sequel to the film, appropriately called "The Fly 2," we get to witness the fate of Seth Brundle’s offspring. Veronica dies giving birth to her and Seth’s son and the child is kept in the laboratory for studies where he eventually grows up. It quickly becomes evident that the boys has some unusual traits. He is growing significantly faster than other children, his IQ is irrationably high and his reflexes are much faster than those of an ordinary child. Soon the young man begins to discover himself and tries to find out his origins. Picking up his father’s work, before long, Martin (Eric Stoltz) is also using the teleporter pods the same way his father did in order to perfect them, but at the same time, his ancestoral Fly-chromosomes start acting up, leaving their dormant state and taking Martin through a horrific metamorphosis.
The first film dwells in atmospheric imagery, hauntingly foreshadowing events and using Cronenberg’s bizarre imagination to create a look that is very unique. "The Fly 2" is sadly not nearly as imaginative as many of the props are simply rehashed and the characters we got to see are seemingly identical twins of those from the first film. While the drama and the outcome of the first film was chiseled out with great twists and characters, sadly, the second film never deviates from the standard template is imposes on itself. However, the second film contains more action scenes and ups the gore factor quite a bit, which makes it somewhat interesting in its own right.
Despite the fact that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is presenting a "bargain" release on this double-sided DVD, the presentation quality is utterly captivating. Both films are presented in beautifully clean anamorphic widescreen transfers that bring the movies to sparkling life and reveal a remarkable level of detail. Both films are presented in their 1.85:1 aspect ratios and the transfers are entirely without blemishes or speckles, although some slight grain is evident in select scenes. Color reproduction is very good, perfectly rendering the slightly muted color schemes of the films while at the same time nicely accentuating the colorful highlights that define many of the images. There is a slight over-saturation of red tone noticeable in "The Fly" that creates infrequently pinkish flesh tones, but other than that, not discoloration was noticeable. Blacks are absolutely deep, which is important especially in David Cronenberg’s "The Fly" as he deliberately uses darkness and shadows to create a starkly delineated, highly contrasted picture that becomes increasingly gloomy as the movie progresses. Shadows are always well defined and never lose detail, and their depth gives the image a very visual dimensionality and depth. Both films have been compressed meticulously and no notable signs of compression artifacts are evident anywhere in these presentations.
Both films also contain full 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio mixes that are each complemented by English and French Dolby Surround presentations, and rounded out with English and Spanish subtitles. Especially the 5.1 mixes have a very spatial and breathing quality with great directional effects. Although these effects are used rather sparingly in the quieter lab scenes of the movie, during the more action oriented and horrific scenes, stingers and sound effects come in from all directions, creating a very lively and aggressive sound field. The audio is very clean are without any signs of distortion. The bass extension is solid, offering a good punch when the going on the screen gets rough, and ensures a balanced low end of the sonic spectrum with a natural sounding roll-off. Dialogues are well integrated in the mix and never drowned out by the music or the sound effects, no matter how explosive.
Either side of the DVD gives you access to a selection of trailers promoting this and other 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Double Features. The trailer to each film of these double features is accessible independently, which makes them a valuable addition.
The fun thing about Double Features is that no matter which one of the two films you like more, you always end up winning. I prefer David Cronenberg’s "The Fly" much over Chris Walas’ sequel, although that, too is a good and thrilling movie. However, I am sure there are people who disagree with me, and for either of us, this double feature works just perfectly well. Better yet, because of the great presentation of the films it is absolutely tempting to re-visit both of them and you never know, sometimes you may end up liking the other one just as much. For $24.95 this release is a steal, and since it is such a great presentation, makes watching these movies really fun!