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By JASON COMERFORD

David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly bears only a passing resemblance to the 1958 original that inspired it, but unlike many remakes which bring few, if any new ideas to the table, Cronenberg’s take on the material amplifies and focuses its thematic concerns -- and, much more importantly, succeeds in raising its story of doomed romance to the level of operatic tragedy. Cronenberg’s film is over 25 years old and yet is still an unforgettable experience, perhaps the director’s most perfect synthesis of thoughtful pathos and icky bio-horror to date, aided immeasurably by Chris Walas’ unnerving makeup effects and Jeff Goldblum’s empathetic lead performance.

Composer Howard Shore, Cronenberg’s regular musical collaborator, responded to the film with a tremendous effort of his own, contributing a vibrant, stirring orchestral score which deepens the film’s emotional undercurrents while not shying away from the horror. In an interview with Michael Schelle for his book The Score, excerpted in Jerry McCulley’s’ liner notes for Varese Sarabande’s’ 2005 double-disc reissue of Shore’s The Fly and Christopher Young’s score for the 1989 sequel The Fly II, Shore explains,

“I wrote (the soundtrack music for) The Fly as an opera. I thought of it that way. ...In different scores, I try different techniques. In (The Fly), I was experimenting with inverting thirds and superimposing triads over other triads -- kind of a polytonality. I (use) film scores as opportunities for experimenting. I’d get into a tonal thing and add extra pitches until it was spooky enough.”

The score’s highlights are numerous but perhaps most memorable is a critical scene late in the film where scientist Seth Brundle (Goldblum), his horrible metamorphosis in full swing, tells his lover, journalist Ronnie Quaife (Geena Davis) to stay away from him, once and for all:

BRUNDLE
I'm saying... I'm saying I - I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over... and the insect is awake.


RONNIE
No. no, Seth...


BRUNDLE
I'm saying... I'll hurt you if you stay.


Shore’s powerful cue for the scene, “The Last Visit,” emphasizes both Brundle’s introspective nature and his love for Ronnie, reprising a stately, elegiac canon (a repetitive, fugue-like melodic device) representing their ill-fated romance over a soft, steady timpani beat, leading to a tense, definitive statement of the score’s main theme as Brundle delivers his terrible ultimatum. Shore’s intuitive, emotional music clarifies and strengthens the drama throughout, and the scene in question is a crucial set-up for the film’s wrenching finale.

The Fly was a critical turning point for both the composer and the director; in the wake of the film’s huge commercial and critical success, Shore’s film-scoring career took off and led to a number of memorable efforts across a number of genres including Big, The Silence of the Lambs, Mrs. Doubtfire, Nobody’s Fool, Seven, Dogma, and, of course, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and its upcoming prequel trilogy). And in 2008, Shore, along with Cronenberg and librettist David Henry Hwang, premiered The Fly as an opera for the Los Angeles Opera; it was an entirely new musical creation, utilizing none of the material from the 1986 score, but it did bring Shore full circle, back to the story which helped kick off his film-scoring career in earnest.


 



The Moment in Question:

Click below to listen to a sample of
“The Last Visit,” composed by
Howard Shore. [clip]

Howard Shore portrait
.....Howard Shore

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What do you think?

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for this installment.

Awesome Websites!

Howard Shore official website

Howard Shore Wikipedia

THE FLY/THE FLY II on Amazon

Howard Shore Opera THE FLY

Cool THE FLY t-shirts

fly album cover


Next Installment:

Denny Zeitlin just isn't himself.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

Jason Comerford Bio


READER COMMENTS:

Dino  
First off this movie made me look away many time, the music added and heightened that feeling. Howard Shore and David Cronenberg working together always seem to be a good fit. It took a lot of guts to keep watching this, pun intended. I think I have this score on a cassette... thank you.

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly, perhaps she'll die.
     
Jonathan  
I got that 2CD-Set from Varese Sarabande. I like the main theme that Shore comes back to. But I think I will never see the movie it was intended for because of what Dino said and what I heard from others. Glad this score was a good start for Howard Shore. Looking forward to his contributions for The Hobbit.
     
Nicole   I don't recall paying any attention to the music in The Fly. I was preoccupied with Jeff Goldblum's chilling performance as a scientist gone mad. I've probably watched that movie several times and still couldn't tell you much of anything about the music. On a side note ...Christopher Young is the man!
     
Jonathan   I saw the new font on the main page - I love it. Good job!
     
Howlin' Wolf   Thanks for the feedback on the font selection Jonathan - that inspired us to work on the top menu font as well to make it fit better. We appreciate the guidance because honestly this website belongs to the participants!
     
Pooter   I had this on vinyl and then upgraded to the Varese 2 CD set. Though I enjoy Christopher Young's score, it's definitely the Howard Shore music that has stayed with me the most. I'm a huge fan of his early Cronenberg scores. (I'm hoping for some sort of release of Shivers one day, particularly the track from the opening scene where Ronald Merrick describes the 'splendour' of the Starliner Apartments. Though I think that was all library music and not Shore?) With The Fly, the music felt bigger and more Hollywood, but it still held onto quirky brooding menace that you could hear in scores like Scanners, Videodrome or The Brood.
     
Jeff   I definitely remember the score being very big... at the time it reminded me slightly of Robocop. I've been meaning to check out the Varese Fly I & II to revisit both scores. Maybe I will add both movies to my October horror movie queue as well.
     
David Kessler   This is without a doubt Shore's masterpiece and also one of the best remake/reimaginings done (except for 1982's The Thing). It is also one of the 80's Top 5 horror movies ...This is how you do a movie right in all departments.