Goth Chick News: Now It’s The Fly’s Turn to Crawl Out of the Vault

Goth Chick News: Now It’s The Fly’s Turn to Crawl Out of the Vault

The Tingler (Columbia Pictures, July 1959), and The Fly (20th Century Fox, July 1958)

Though I have previously described how my Dad first introduced me to classic horror, Mom would likely be mortified to know I credit her as well. Though there is one lone, totally fabulous drive-in movie theater left in Chicagoland, Mom used to tell me how there were a dozen or more ‘back in the day.’ She explained how, when she and Dad were dating, there was no finer way to spend a summer evening than seeing the latest film under the stars. What seemed strange to me about these stories were the titles of the movies they used to see. Apparently, in her youth, Mom also liked horror.

I remember listening with rapt attention as she described a scene from The Tingler in which the disembodied spinal cord crawled up over the front seat to attack a couple at the drive-in. She said this was the scariest thing she had ever seen as she and Dad were watching The Tingler at the drive-in. Mom also talked about The Fly (1958), starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens, and Vincent Price. Apparently, Vincent Price’s performance gave her nightmares.

The Fly (20th Century Fox, August 1986)

By the time I was of an age to start looking for these old titles, it was the point in home media where acquiring them involved ordering from far-flung collectors’ catalogs. You couldn’t just roll up to your local Blockbuster and rent the likes of The Tingler or The Fly. But when 1986 rolled around, I was old enough to get into R-rated movies and completely excited to see the remake of The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, and directed by David Cronenberg. And trapped as I am in this current world of big-fat-lot-of-no-fun travel, it was time to stream it and see if it held up nearly forty years later.

First, a quick recap on the plot courtesy of IMDB:

An eccentric scientist changes the world with his teleportation technology: when his experiment seems to be going well, Dr. Seth Brundle tests his machine on himself and he gets fused with the worst kind of pest on Planet Earth; The Fly. What is the price of a man playing God? Only Seth knows.

I streamed The Fly on Amazon Prime, though it’s widely available, and I’m happy to say that, yes, it did stand up. Goldblum is at his eccentric best as scientist Seth Brundle. Initially, he is the perfect mix of vulnerable nerdiness, and you can understand why skeptical and worldly reporter Geena Davis finds him an intriguing and ultimately attractive puzzle. When Brundle’s experiment goes wrong, Goldblum’s transformation isn’t just about the makeup and effects; he moves from disturbing to horrifying in a way that shows off some serious acting chops.

According to IMDB, Goldblum sent Vincent Price a note of admiration about Price’s work in The Fly. Price, in turn, tried to like the remake but found it ultimately “went a little too far.” I can only assume Price was referring to the ick-factor, which is incredibly high. Upon rewatching it, I discovered some scenes I previously found scary were now just gross, but I thoroughly enjoyed it just the same.

Geenna Davis and Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (1986)

I had forgotten that, for a time, Geena Davis’ line, “Be afraid. Be very afraid,” became a bit of a catchphrase, even popping up in other films like The Addams Family (1991). Interestingly, it was Mel Brooks who came up with this line when explaining to the actors how they should react to Goldblum’s transformation. Mel Brooks you ask? Yep. He was actually the executive producer, but his involvement was kept low-profile at his request. Brooks felt people would think The Fly wasn’t a serious remake if they knew he was involved.

Another interesting thing I remembered while watching The Fly was that Davis and Goldblum were a couple during the filming, which is why their chemistry works. Goldblum got Davis the audition, though Cronenberg was skeptical that Davis would be right for the role. She had been primarily a TV actress, having only appeared in two films prior to The Fly. However, after seeing her and Goldblum read together, Cronenberg was sold.

The Fly was a Hollywood hit, making $60M on a $15M budget and launching Davis’ career into movies. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely think it’s worth doing so now. And as old films are now far easier to find, I suggest a Fly-film-fest by starting the evening with Vincent’s version first. You can find it on Amazon Prime as well.

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Joe H.

“Be afraid. Be very afraid” is still very much part of my own lexicon, although I never remember the original source.

Have you seen the (Goldblumless) sequel? I didn’t hate it, but it definitely turns the “gross, not scary” factor up to 11.

Joe H.

Entirely fair and reasonable.

Adrian Simmons

I think I’ve watched the 1986 “The Fly” twice– once shortly after it came out (I was quite impressed by it), and like you, once years later to see if it held up, which it did.

The sequel had its moments, but wasn’t as good as the source material.

Joe H.

Just like the way that it is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE to apply the label “classic rock” to any music that came out after I had already graduated from college.

Last edited 27 days ago by Joe H.
K. Jespersen

This weekend’s “Shock Moment”: My local movie theatre is running “The Matrix” as part of its Retro Rerun Summer Series.

…I about spat my soda into the person-in-the-row-in-front-of-me’s hair when that advert showed up in the roll. “But-but… but I saw that in the theatre the FIRST time around!”

Last edited 27 days ago by K. Jespersen
Thomas Parker

Oh my God. Have you actually SEEN the Tingler?! I like the Fly, but “Be afraid. Be very afraid” has nothing on “Scream! Scream for your lives!!”

Thomas Parker

I’ll do you one better, GC – when I was in the army, stationed in Korea, my buddies and I played countless games of Risk in the rec center, and we had a tradition – when you were down to your last army, teetering on the brink of extinction, before you made your final toss of the dice, you had to say, in your tiniest, squeakiest voice, “Help meeeee!”

(I rarely had to say it. I was a damn good player.)

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