The Fly II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the film itself, this transfer was a disappointment, though the image wasn’t nearly as bad as the flick.
Much of the time the image seemed acceptably detailed and sharp, but a fair amount of softness could interfere at times. This happened more frequently during the first half of the movie than during the second. The latter portion appeared somewhat crisper, though it remained somewhat vaguely defined at times. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but I saw moderate edge enhancement through the movie. As for print flaws, I saw occasional specks and bits of grit, but no periods of serious dirtiness took place.
Although The Fly II used a slightly more broad palette than its daddy, the colors looked less lively. For the most part, hues seemed acceptably accurate but they appeared a bit pale and drab. The colors weren't terrible but they did look bland. Black levels were also a bit wan and gray, and shadow detail presented a slightly heavy and flat appearance. Enough went right with this transfer to merit a “B-“, but don’t expect stellar visuals.
While the original DVD release of The Fly II only included a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, this new version also tossed in a DTS 5.1 mix. Don’t anticipate any significant variations between the two, though. The DTS track played at a slightly higher volume level, but when I adjusted for that, I thought the pair sounded virtually identical.
The forward soundstage remained dominant, with a nicely active environment in the front channels. The audio integrated well and panned cleanly across the speakers. The rears offered more general support for the most part. These speakers provided reinforcement of the score and effects, but they occasionally kicked in with more active audio during the most dramatic scenes. It's a nicely enveloping track for its age.
Quality sounded consistently good. Dialogue occasionally came across as slightly flat, but speech usually seemed crisp and articulate, with no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects were bold and accurate and showed no signs of distortion. The score appeared smooth and bright, and the entire track kicked in some satisfying bass at appropriate moments. The mix provided a strong experience for a moderately old movie.
How did the picture and sound of this new release compare to those of the original 2000 release? To my eyes and ears, they seemed virtually identical. I noticed no improvements in either department.
On the other hand, this new two-disc edition of The Fly II added a significant roster of extras. On DVD One, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with director Chris Walas and film historian Bob Burns. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. Don’t expect a lot of depth from this amiable but insubstantial discussion.
Some of the subjects covered include casting and working with the actors, visual effects, sets and locations, and music. We get a mix of decent notes about these topics, though not enough to make this a winning track.
Instead, the commentary suffers from way too much praise, as both men often tell us how much they like this or that element of the movie. Burns proves almost useless as a film historian, for he fails to add much perspective or knowledge. Instead, he usually just jokes around with Walas.
Actually, at one point, Burns starts to earn his pay. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, the men reflect on their friendship and what originally interested them in the horror genre as kids. This portion of the commentary becomes lively and engaging. Unfortunately, it quickly ends and we go back to tedious happy talk.
Disc One also includes both a 93-second Deleted Scene and a 70-second Alternate Ending. Called “Stopping for Food”, the former shows a darkly comedic sequence that would have occurred during Martin and Beth’s flight from Bartok. In addition to featuring some egregious product placement, it would have lightened the mood too much during a dramatic part of the story. Titled “Houseboat Scene”, the alternate ending simply seems drab. It would have been a really bland way to end the movie.
We conclude DVD One with some trailers. This area includes ads for both the 1958 and 1986 versions of The Fly along with 1959’s Return of the Fly, The Omen and Alien. It seems odd that the ads for Fly II don’t appear here; they’re segregated elsewhere.
As we move to Disc Two, we open with a new documentary entitled Transformations: Looking Back at The Fly II. This 48-minute and 29-second program features movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews with Walas, producer Steven-Charles Jaffe, and composer Christopher Young. The show covers how Walas ended up as the film’s directors and a variety of pressures he experienced as well as supports, script issues, shooting in Vancouver and sets, casting and recruiting the crew, and various production elements. From there it goes through the atmosphere during the shoot, Walas’ challenges working with the actors and directing in general, effects and creature design, deleted scenes, editing, score, marketing, test screenings and ratings problems, and the film’s reception.
In essence, “Tranformations” is an alternate audio commentary. What else can we consider it since roughly 90 percent of its information comes from Walas? And he does a fine job most of the time, though I’m not sure on what planet he lives since he thinks the film was a commercial and critical success. Otherwise, he’s eager and informative, and he covers the details well. Walas helps balance out my negative memories of the boring commentary.
But where’s everybody else? Are all the other participants so ashamed of Fly II that none of them will discuss it? I can’t think of too many retrospective documentaries for 16-year-old films that can’t round up more than three participants! Heck, even Wizard of Oz retrospectives can still find some Munchkins, and that flick’s 50 years older than Fly II. I like much of this program’s information, but the lack of a broader perspective mars it.
Another documentary runs 57 minutes and 36 seconds. Created in 2000 for American Movie Classics, Leonard Nimoy hosts The Fly Papers: The Buzz On Hollywood’s Scariest Insect. It starts with the 1958 Fly and covers all the different Fly flicks. “Buzz” includes notes from Walas, UCLA Film Studies associate dean Vivian Sobchack, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, author Ray Bradbury, Return of the Fly producer Bernard Glasser, actors David Hedison, Vincent Price (from 1988), Jeff Goldblum (from 1986), Ben Nye Makeup president Dana Nye, makeup artist/film historian John Goodwin, and director David Cronenberg (from 1986).
The program looks at the era in which the original Fly prospered and background for that movie and the short story on which it was based, that film’s production, creation of the sequel along with its related cost-cutting measures, and the story and making of 1965’s Curse of the Fly. From there we get into the Seventies resurgence of science fiction and the renewal of the series with the 1986 Fly, production elements related to it, and the push for a sequel and various aspects of it.
As one might expect, the 1958 and 1986 Fly flicks receive the most attention. Actually, we learn a fair amount about Fly II as well, but I suspect that’s mainly because Walas participated with this production; otherwise it doesn’t merit so much discussion. In any case, “Buzz” manages to balance things fairly well. I especially like the notes about the older films since we don’t have fancy special editions for them. Inevitably, the info about the Eighties flicks seems superficial because we have these detailed DVDs. I know less about the older movies; in fact, I’d never even heard of Curse, “Buzz” provides a lively and likable overview of the series.
Under the “Featurettes” domain, we start with a five-minute and nine-second 1989 Theatrical EPK. Here we get notes from Walas and Jaffe as well as actors Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, and Lee Richardson. We get a basic overview of the story as well as production-related challenges. While not a rich program, “EPK” is more informative than most. At least we get some comments from the actors; this is one of the few places on the DVD where they appear.
The CWI Video Production Journal runs 18 minutes and 11 seconds. It concentrates on the film’s creature effects and offers raw video footage of various tests along with shots of how the elements look in the final film. Some commentary would be a nice accompaniment, but I still think this is a fun view of the various processes.
Finally, Composer’s Master Class: Christopher Young fills 12 minutes and 43 seconds. As you might guess, it concentrates on the composer’s work. Young discusses his choices for the movie’s score and we hear the corresponding examples. He provides a rich chat about what he wanted to do with the music and he helps make this a useful program.
Inside the Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons, we can check out three scenes. We look at “Opening Sequence” (three minutes, one second), “Bartok” (2:35) and “Ending” (1:33). These use a standard presentation with art on the top half of the screen and the movie on the bottom. They’re fine for what they are, though none of them seem particularly special. We can watch them with or without optional commentary from director Walas. He chats about the use and design of the boards along with general notes about them. I like his presence, as he makes the boards more interesting than they otherwise might be.
Two Trailers appear. We get a teaser and standard theatrical ad. We also find Still Galleries. These cover “Production Photos” (44 shots), “Art of The Fly II” (50) and “Storyboards” (76, all of the movie’s climax). “Art” is the best of the three despite its misleading title. I expected production/creature designs, but instead it shows photos of various effects elements.
A truly misbegotten sequel, The Fly II retains the goo and gore of its predecessor but loses that flick’s humanity and depth. It acts as a poor exercise in horror silliness and little else. The DVD presents decent picture quality along with very good sound and some mostly useful extras. If you’re one of the 12 people who actually like this movie, definitely get this DVD. Even if you already own the previous release, you’ll want this one for its supplements. I can’t recommend this lousy sequel to anyone else, though.