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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr
enik1138 at popapostle dot com
The Fly

The Fly


From the story by George Langelaan

Screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg

Directed by David Cronenberg

Released August 1986


An eccentric but brilliant scientist accidentally transforms himself in the course of a ground-breaking experiment. 


Read the summary of the film at IMDB


Didja Know?


The film is loosely based on the 1957 short story "The Fly" by George Langelaan, first published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. There was also a 1958 film (and two sequels) based on the story. An opera based on our 1986 film premiered in France in 2008.


The film's tagline of "Be afraid. Be very afraid," from a line of dialog by Geena Davis' character has become somewhat of an adage in popular culture in the western world.


It's not revealed what city the story is supposed to take place in, but it was shot in Toronto, Canada. The 1958 film took place in Montreal, Canada.


Special make-up effects were by Chris Walas, who went on to direct The Fly II.


David Cronenberg has stated that the design of the telepods was inspired by the look of the engine cylinder on his Ducati Desmo motorcycle.


The double-feature The Fly/The Fly II DVD release has menu pointers in the shape of a flyswatter! 


Characters appearing or mentioned in this film


Seth Brundle

Veronica "Ronnie" Quaife

Stathis Borans

Victor (on phone only; employee at Chinese restaurant)



Martin Brundle (unnamed here, mentioned as Seth Brundle's and Ronnie's still unborn baby)

Dr. Cheevers



Didja Notice?


The 20th Century Fox fanfare music played over the studio logo is an old 1950's version of the recording, the same one used on the original 1958 film version of The Fly.


The main advertising poster for this movie depicts the protagonist emerging from the telepod, his body obscured by bright light, but his left arm and right leg visible. Notice that his arm is human, but the leg is that of a giant fly. Of course, this is not exactly how the transformation occurs in the film, but it does a good job of suggesting what the film is about.

The Fly


At 1:55 on the DVD, the name Bartok (the company Seth Brundle works for) appears in laser-light on a balloon at the party. Seconds later, the laser-light inscribes the word "ART". Later, a number of people at the party can be seen carrying folders that are printed with the words "Art & Science", apparently a slogan or philosophy of the Bartok company.


In trying to entice Ronnie to come back to his lab with him, Brundle tells her he'll make cappuccino with his own Faema. Faema is a maker of espresso machines for professional and home use. Some of their models have a small eagle sculpture on top as Brundle notes here (he holds up the eagle sculpture/cap for Ronnie to see at 12:24 on the DVD; the espresso machine itself is seen at 13:02, next to Brundle's microwave oven).


Ronnie's car appears to be a 1977 SAAB 99 GL.


The exterior of Brundle's lab was shot at 135 Liberty Street, Toronto, Canada.


When Brundle and Ronnie first arrive at Brundle's lab, he begins to play piano; I'm not able to identify the tune. A packet of music sheets by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is seen sitting nearby. Music by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is seen on the piano itself.


At 9:03 on the DVD, after identifying himself verbally to the computer, Brundle whispers into the microphone of the control console for the telepods. It's hard to make out, but it sounds like he says, "Begin teleportation sequence." Listen to an amplified version: begin teleportation sequence.mp3


At 9:26 on the DVD, as the computer analyzes the components of Ronnie's stocking in the telepod, notice it shows organic matter as 0. This helps to set up the later revelation that organic matter is difficult to teleport accurately.


Spot the sponsor: at 11:48 on the DVD, Ronnie turns on a Sony pocket audio cassette recorder as she begins to ask Brundle questions about his teleportation research. Sony products appear throughout the film.


At 11:56 on the DVD, a box of Quaker Harvest Crunch cereal is seen in the background in Brundle's lab. Seconds later, bottles of French's Mustard and Heinz Ketchup are seen on the shelf.


Ronnie states the name of the company Brundle works for as Bartok Science Industries. This is, of course, a fictitious business. In The Fly II, the company is referred as just Bartok Industries.


Ronnie works for Particle magazine, published by Monolith Publishing. These are a fictitious magazine and publishing company. The exterior of Monolith Publishing was shot at the corner of St. Paul’s Square and Asquith Avenue, Toronto, Canada.


A van for Purolator Courier, a Canadian courier company, is seen driving past the Monolith Publishing building at 13:47 on the DVD. The van is a 1983 Ford Econoline.


At 14:05 on the DVD, Ronnie and Stathis listen to her tape recording of Brundle on an Hitachi D-E27 cassette deck. The cassette that is playing, however, does not appear to be the same brand as the one she was recording on in Brundle's lab earlier!


At 14:36 on the Blu-ray, a copy of the novel Contact (1985) by Carl Sagan is seen on the shelf behind the desk in Stathis' office. The book is seen again in his office on a counter behind his desk at 35:03.


When Stathis is unimpressed by Ronnie's brief interview with Brundle, Brundle is relieved, but Ronnie threatens to take her tape to Omni. Omni was a science, science-fiction, and parapsychology magazine published from 1978-1995. It still has an active web presence.


The burger joint Brundle takes Ronnie to at 15:50 on the DVD was John Anderson Charcoal Broiled Hamburgers at 5270 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada, but it no longer exists.


The logo of Pepsi-Cola is seen at 15:50 on the DVD.


At 18:25 on the DVD, a copy of Self magazine is seen in Ronnie's bathroom.


At 19:16 on the DVD, Ronnie pulls out a cigarette from what appears to be a pack Marlboros.


Stathis says that Brundle was the leader of the F32 team when he was just 20 years old and it almost won him the Nobel Prize in physics. It is not revealed what the F32 project was about or how long ago it was. The Nobel prizes are awarded once a year by a committee of the Scandinavian countries for work in the studies of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace and are considered the top prizes in the world in each field.


Just to contradict him, Ronnie tells Stathis she is considering the Psychology Today gig instead of writing about Brundle.


At 21:38 on the DVD, Ronnie is seen using a Sony SuperBetamovie camcorder to record Brundle's experiments.


What leads Brundle to attempt teleporting a baboon at this early point in the film when he has already told Ronnie that he can only teleport inanimate objects at this time? The attempt is a horrific failure, the baboon essentially turned inside-out during rematerialization. Even if he had made some adjustments to accommodate organic life, shouldn't he have attempted to teleport a plant or something like that first? Or did he do so and the plant came out fine? It seems unlikely, from what we know/see of Ronnie's work to document the procedures. And even if he had successfully teleported a plant first, the first mammal he'd attempt it with would likely be a mouse or rat or guinea pig.


    Brundle has five sets of exactly the same outfit to wear day-by-day, saying he learned it from Einstein, so he doesn't have to expend any thought on what he's going to wear. Einstein, of course, is a reference to Albert Einstein, the renowned theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity in physics. It is widely said that he had five sets of exactly the same outfit so he wouldn't have to think about what to wear, but historians generally seem to think this was apocryphal.

    This may also be an homage to the 1958 film, in which André Delambre wears the same clothes throughout except during a visit to the ballet with his wife.


At 27:22 on the DVD, Imperial margarine and Crisco cooking oil are seen on Brundle's kitchen counter. These are real world brands. At 28:36, a box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes cereal is seen on a shelf.


To test how the telepods reconstitute flesh, Brundle cuts a steak into two unequal pieces and teleports the larger piece. Then he cooks both pieces and has Ronnie taste each. In a continuity mix-up, Ronnie tastes the larger piece and says it tastes fine, while she thinks the smaller (unteleported) piece tastes synthetic!


At 28:32 on the DVD, Ronnie has her hand around a glass of water at the kitchen table...but the glass wasn't there just seconds before.


Stathis' car, seen at 30:01 on the DVD is a 1980 Maserati Quattroporte III. Notice that the personalized license plate (PARTICLE) has the state/province made illegible so as to be unreadable! I guess Cronenberg didn't want the region the story takes place in to be assumed.


The mock-up cover of Particle magazine with Brundle on the cover is dated December 1986, so the film story probably takes place a few months before that (the film was also released in August 1986).


After Brundle sends himself through the teleportation process he asks, "Am I different somehow? Is it live or is it Memorex?" "Is it live or is it Memorex?" was an advertising slogan for Memorex audio recording cassettes.


Ronnie tells Brundle that she had been a science major in college where Stathis used to teach; he got her started in journalism.


Ronnie and Brundle's walk through town at 45:09 on the DVD was shot at Kensington Market, a neighborhood and outdoor market in Toronto. Notice that Ronnie is carrying a plant she must have bought at the market. Notice also that Brundle is wearing the leather jacket she bought him earlier in the film.


As Brundle starts to go off the deep end about the cleansing side-effect of teleportation, he goes on and on about the "plasma pool", saying to Ronnie, "You're afraid to dive into the plasma pool...drink deep or taste not the plasma spring...a deep, penetrating dive into the plasma pool!" Plasma is the liquid of the blood after the blood cells have been removed, though whether that is exactly what he is talking about, I'm not sure. Brundle's quote seems to be partly in reference to Alexander Pope's 1711 poem "An Essay on Criticism", with a line about the Pierian Spring, a Macedonian metaphorical source of knowledge of art and science:


A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring


At 50:38 on the DVD, Brundle walks past Cheapie's Warehouse, a record store in Toronto at the time.


As Brundle begins to slowly transform into a human fly, notice he is eating a lot candy and soda pop.


When Brundle goes to a dive bar to pick up a woman to send through the telepods, neon signs for Miller Beer, Oktoberfest, Stroh's, Budweiser, Miller Lite, and Molson Export are seen. These are all real world beers.


    The song that is playing in the bar is "Help Me" by Bryan Ferry, originally written by the artist to play over the closing credits of the film, but director Cronenberg felt it didn't fit properly with the tone of the film to be played during the closing credits.

    The song title was likely inspired by the famous line from the 1958 film version of The Fly (see comments further down).


At 52:45 on the DVD, the Zanzibar Tavern is seen in the background.


At 53:20 on the DVD, Brundle and Tawny arrive at his lab in a Co-Op Cab. The vehicle is a 1979 Mercury Zephyr. The phone numbers on the cab door were actual numbers for the company at the time.


Four weeks pass from the time Ronnie frightens Tawny away from Brundle's lab to the time Brundle calls her.


At 1:03:01 on the DVD, a box for Crush soda cans is seen in Brundle's lab.


When Ronnie visits the metamorphosing Brundle at his lab after the four weeks, notice that his shirt has jagged holes all along his chest. This is likely from him having to vomit up liquid enzymes to break down food before he can eat it, just like a fly. We see him do this just minutes later in the film; he playfully calls it "vomit drop".


When Ronnie asks Brundle what happened to change his physical appearance so badly, he responds with, "I know an old lady who swallowed a fly, perhaps she'll die." This is from an old children's song, the full line being, "I know an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don't why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she'll die."


When Ronnie tries to get help for Brundle from Stathis, he says, "I'm sure Typhoid Mary was a very nice person too, when you saw her socially." Mary Mallon (1869-1938), popularly known historically as Typhoid Mary, was an Irish-American cook and was the first identified asymptomatic carrier of the disease typhoid fever in the U.S.


At 1:07:30 on the DVD, Brundle pulls his shirt up above his belly to show Ronnie a new growth forming there, saying he doesn't know what it is. Neither did I and it's not mentioned again in the film. But a deleted scene of the film reveals that the growth was a fly-like-leg emerging from his torso.


    At 1:08:34 on the DVD, one of the junk food packages Brundle swats off the table is labeled "Biscuits La Menagerie". This is French for "Animal Crackers"; Canada is known for having a large French-speaking population in addition to the majority English.

    Seconds later, a Hires Root Beer can is seen on the table. Seconds after that, a Pop-Tarts box is seen on top of the dish rack.


Brundle tells Ronnie, "I'm saying I'm an insect...who dreamt he was a man...and loved it. But now the dream is over...and the insect is awake." This is sort of a combination of the plots of "The Butterfly Dream" from the ancient Chinese philosophical book Zhuangzi (3rd Century BC) and The Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka.


At 1:09:15 on the DVD, a copy of Atlantic magazine is seen in Ronnie's apartment.


Ronnie learns she is pregnant with Brundle's baby. The baby's birth and growth are seen later in The Fly II.


The ambulance seen at 1:10:37 on the DVD appears to be a 1979 Ford Econoline E-350.


The gynecologist in Ronnie's dream at 1:11:28 on the DVD is played by director David Cronenberg. 


Ronnie's birth of the maggot in her dream seems quite similar to that of the reptilian baby in the 1984 TV mini-series V: The Final Battle (see the episode study "Matters of Trust"); possibly the scene here was inspired by the one in V. The later scene where Ronnie tells Stathis she doesn't want the baby in her body is also similar to Robin Maxwell's reaction to her alien pregnancy in V.

The Fly:

VERONICA: No! I want it out of my body now! You should have seen him, there could be anything in here! In me! In my body!

STATHIS: I don't know if I can arrange it now, right now, tonight. Why do we have to run around in the dark like a couple of...

VERONICA Because I don't want it in my body! Do you understand me? I don't want it in my body!

V ("Unmasked")

ROBIN: I don't want it! It's not gonna be a baby! It's gonna be some horrible thing! (...)I'd rather die than have this thing. I want it gone!
fly pupa birth V reptilian baby
Fly maggot birth Reptilian baby birth in V ("Matters of Trust")


At 1:12:52 on the DVD, notice that Brundle's fingers are beginning to fuse together.



At 1:13:58 on the DVD, an overturned box of Cap'n Crunch cereal is seen in the sink in Brundle's lab. A box of Q-Tips is also seen on a shelf above.


When Brundle opens his medicine cabinet at 1:14:17 on the DVD, it appears that a crew member in a red shirt is seen in the reflection of the mirror.


At 1:14:17 on the DVD, in the medicine cabinet where Brundle is storing his discarded body parts, we possibly see his penis in a jar! He later calls the medicine cabinet the Brundle Museum of Natural History.



At 1:14:26 on the DVD, a bottle of Jamieson vitamins is seen in the medicine cabinet.


At 1:14:40 on the DVD, a Dare Foods package is seen in Brundle's lab.


Notice from 1:14:40 and onward, Brundle is flicking his head in the quick, stuttering movements of a fly.


    At 1:19:30 on the DVD, a poster on Dr. Cheever's wall has a picture of a man and the quote, "Would you be more careful if it were you?" This is from a line of pediatric and gynecological public service messages in the 1970s-80s that encouraged men to see women's side of sex and pregnancy issues.

    Another poster in the background of the office mentions the pap test, a test for cervical cancer.


Dr. Cheever tells Ronnie there are tests that could be performed to determine if the baby is deformed. She insists, "I don't want tests done. Tests can't guarantee anything. The baby could start off normal then become..." This is essentially what happens in The Fly II; her son is born covered by a larval sac, but is otherwise a normal human baby, but soon undergoes rapid aging and then begins to metamorphous into a Brundlefly.


Stathis brings a Browning 12 Gauge O/U Shotgun for his confrontation with Brundle near the end of the film.


At 1:23:40 on the DVD, notice that an indistinct shadow moves along the ceiling in the background in the close-up shot of Stathis, indicating that Brundle has returned to the roof as seen seconds later.


At 1:23:58 on the DVD, food packages for Twinkies and Duncan Hines pastries are seen in Brundle's lab.


At 1:25:40 on the DVD, Brundle says to Ronnie, "Help me. Help me be human." This is a nod to the famous line from the 1958 film version, where, near the end of the film a tiny fly with the human head of scientist André Delambre cries in a puny voice "Help me! Help me!" as it's about to be eaten by a spider.


A Sara Lee pastry box is seen behind Stathis at 1:29:29 on the DVD.


Unanswered Questions


Why doesn't Ronnie go through with her intended abortion of her baby? In The Fly II, she gives birth to baby boy Martin Brundle.


See Also:


A Scientist Responds…to The Fly


Memorable Dialog

you don't get out much.mp3
change the world.mp3
can't let you leave here alive.mp3
designer phone booths.mp3
one magic word.mp3
nothing for you to interfere with.mp3
the book will end with me teleporting myself.mp3
it can't deal with the flesh.mp3
you want to try an experiment?.mp3
something big.mp3
stress-relieving sex.mp3
I build bodies.mp3
be very afraid.mp3
I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.mp3
Brundle and a housefly.mp3
I'm pregnant.mp3
Brundle Museum of Natural History.mp3
insect politics.mp3
the insect is awake.mp3
I'll hurt you if you stay.mp3
help me.mp3

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