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Oscar Horrors: Be Impressed. Be Very Impressed with The Fly's makeup

Team Film Experience is celebrating the rare Oscar nominated and winning contributions to horror films. Today Craig buzzes in with the latest edition of Oscar Horrors.

Here Lies... the remnants of the Brundlefly that Chris Walas and Stephen Dupuis (who went on to win the Best Makeup Oscar) lovingly crafted for David Cronenberg’s 1986 re-masterpiece The Fly. I don’t think they were there at the ceremony to collect it but they had it teleported to them within seconds of their names being read out.

As we know from the film, Jeff Goldblum becomes attached to a pesky, common housefly at a genetic level: he metamorphoses in a major way. Like, bummer. It was Walas and Dupuis’ job to make this as grotesquely memorable as possible. It’s fair to say they succeeded.

Walas – whose company, ‘Chris Walas, Inc.’, received first credit at the end of the film – went on to direct the sequel (which Dupuis also worked on) three years later. The makeup was definitely on par with other 1980s face- and game-changers The Thing, The Elephant Man and An American Werewolf in London. It was designed backwards – from full-on diseased Brundlemess at the end to light touch-up with some Max Factor at the start – and roughly created in eight stages. In accordance with this, and Goldblum’s fate, I’ll stage my Fly makeup celebration in bits, beginning from just after Goldblum teleported...

Stage One: Jeff has some increased strength thanks to the insect genes fused irreversibly with his cells. He’s full of beans and nigh-on always up for a spot of sexytime with a curiously indifferent Geena Davis. His idea of foreplay is to strip down and perform a few snazzy gymnastic moves on a horizontal bar like he’s trying out for the Olympics. Geena looks bored but straddles Jeff anyway.

Brundle-to-fly count: I'd say Jeff is roughly between 79 and 99% pure Brundle.

Makeup Check: There’s some light sweating from all the showing off, so Jeff’s probably been given a once-over with a gentle covering of antiperspirant foundation; Geena has an emergency rouging because she looked a peaky. Measle-like blemishes and some protruding prickles on the shoulder blades mean a de-glistening and a bristle snip for Jeff.

Stages Two through Five after the jump. [Spoiler: He's fucked!]

Stage Two: Jeff’s feeling really quite buzzed about his new energy and stamina. He celebrates by going for coffee with Geena, who has a cappuccino (for her nerves). Jeff gets animated/angry/Oscar hungry. A bit lumpy.

Brundle-to-fly count: Jeff’s still far more Brundle than he is fly.

Makeup Check: A smattering of large spots appear around Jeff’s cheeks. A digit-based bathroom error resulting in a gooey mirror mishap mean that Jeff dispenses with such trifling obstructions as fingernails and files them away in the over-sink cabinet along with his ear, penis, a few teeth and a whattheholyfuckisthat(?) and wherewouldthathaveevengoneonahumanbody?

Stage Three: Jeff now has a face like a month-old bag of nectarines. He’s definitely on the turn. His hair is what a trained barber would call a bloody-fucking-mess (an untrained barber would call it ‘a bit frizzy’). Geena unwisely hugs Jeff (not on the non-ear side, Geena!) because she feels bad that he’s partly insect. Jeff’s party trick is to vomit on some ring donuts on camera. John Getz sees this and trims his beard in disgust.

Brundle-to-fly count: Jeff’s 50/50 Brundle and fly. Give or take a conjoined finger or seven.

Makeup Check: Jeff’s loss of hearing (due to, I hazard a guess, his loss of ears) has quite visibly affected Geena, who looks wan, limp of lip, cappuccino-less. She’s in need of a facial sprucing. The combination shirt-and-chin vomit/semolina on Jeff is an acquired site; his face is hideously bumpy at best, downright mushy at worst.

Stage Four: Jeff’s limb loss is catching up with his hair loss so he’s climbing the walls in protest. And whilst he still has limbs to climb with. His arms, hands and legs all look like things you’d want a doctor to remove if this was happening to you.

Brundle-to-fly count: Brundle who? He’s full-on Brundlefly now.

Makeup Check: Geena’s definitely looking gaunt, sickly even, and more than a little bit harassed because Jeff’s teeth are now sharp and pointy and fally-outy. Jeff’s hair is what a trained barber would call No Money In The World Will Get Me Near That. (The untrained barber has left the building.) Overall, Jeff looks like one of Bigfoot’s ancient sheaths filled with popcorn. The effect is, quite frankly, stunning.

Stage Five: All manner of things are happening: a positively emaciated Geena is preggers; neatly-trimmed John Getz has actually bothered to turn up; Jeff has disintegrated into an oozing, arthropodan mess of epic proportions. Jeff’s hair is what a trained barber would ca... hey, where’s the trained barber gone? Geena’s obviously upset; Jeff’s in bits. Literally: instigated by Jeff’s urge to fuse himself, Geena and their unborn child together to make ‘the ultimate family’, Geena, understandably wanting no part in this nonsense, pushes Jeff’s jaw off.

Brundle-to-fly count: Brundlefly who? Jeff’s 100% fly now – one that looks like someone put a Xenomorph, E.T., some barbeque ribs, a vacuum cleaner and a pair of googly eyes all together in the microwave.

Makeup Check: it’s all fucked.

Outcome: Chris Walas Inc.’s makeup is still to this very day evidence of exemplary and near-unsurpassable work of fine grotesque craftsmanship. They should work on any and every film in need of a touch of brilliance. The Fly is one of Cronenberg’s masterpieces; the makeup is a significant contributing factor.

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Reader Comments (6)

His idea of foreplay is to strip down and perform a few snazzy gymnastic moves on a horizontal bar like he’s trying out for the Olympics. Geena looks bored but straddles Jeff anyway.

Lol, this was really fun to read. And reading it I remembered I've got a VHS copy of this movie getting dust. What's one supposed to do with VHS videos once you don't have a VHS player?

October 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

I think, in true Cronenbergian fashion, old videotapes are ideally meant to be inserted into the stomach region!

Glad you had fun reading it, Iggy. I enjoyed writing it. I love The Fly, it's one of the best films of the '80s.

October 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

LOL This is so funny.

October 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

I have been meaning to rewatch this movie forever. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum were so good together and damn those makeup affects. totally worthwhile oscar win. it's like the only Cronenbergian Oscar.

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Gustavo - Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

Nathaniel - They should've at least given the Oscar it won a novelty fly's head or something...

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

As excellent as The Fly and it's make-up effects were, I feel the other film nominated that year, Ridley Scott's Legend, truly deserved the Oscar. Rob Bottin is a legend unto himself.

November 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter A. Quinn
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