Quick Takes: Fast Company, The Fly, Dead Ringers

fastcompany_1Fast Company (1979)
threehalfstar

Starring William Smith, Claudia Jennings, John Saxon, Nicholas Campbell, Don Francks, Cedric Smith, Judy Foster, Robert Haley, George Buza, David Graham, David Petersen
Directed by David Cronenberg

Just a few months before unleashing The Brood, Cronenberg released this love letter to drag racing. It is easily the least “Cronenbergian” film from him I’ve seen, but even if I didn’t go into it knowing he loved cars, Fast Company would’ve told me as much. The film’s cinematography is superb, capturing wonderful, wide vistas of the Canadian roadways, as well as close-up shots of gleaming engines, smoking tires and all kinds of other machinery. I was especially taken by an intense close-up of a spark plug gap being checked. Also of specific note is an in-car shot of a complete funny car run, with a timer on-screen to further add to the wow factor. I’m not an experienced fan of drag racing, so I was quite impressed with the speed and the precision with which everything is carried out. The film’s story is relatively cliched, and it gets super campy — AKA Fun! — as it goes along, but during the racing segments it actually feels closer to a documentary. It is real cars with real drivers doing some real racing, after all. I think it would be a fine choice for a rumbling double feature with Mad Max: Fury Road. Plus there’s a Springsteen-like theme song, what more can I ask for? Anyone that loves cars, specifically when they were hulking beasts of steel and thunder, should check this forgotten gem out.

theflyThe Fly (1986)
threehalfstar

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Leslie Carlson, George Chuvalo
Directed by David Cronenberg

As I worked my way through Cronenberg’s films, I was eager to re-visit his take on The Fly. It was the first Cronenberg film I saw (as a kid sometime in the late ’80s), and all I remember from that viewing was that I thought it was really weird. I didn’t know how to comprehend or process it. Then I watched it again about 10 years ago, and while I liked it a lot more that time, it still felt kind of emotionally cold and I couldn’t get into it completely. When I look back on these experiences after this most recent re-watch, I’m shocked at myself. The Fly is one of Cronenberg’s greatest achievements, and the FX work that slowly transforms Jeff Goldblum into the Brundlefly is absolutely exquisite. My journey with the film is a testament to re-watching films at different ages; the Brundlefly may evolve rather quickly, but it takes much longer for a human such as myself. Sometimes you see a film too early for it to resonate, and thankfully when I watched it this time it felt exactly right.

deadringersDead Ringers (1988)
threehalfstar

Starring Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske, Barbara Gordon, Shirley Douglas, Stephen Lack
Directed by David Cronenberg

Dead Ringers is an interesting film for Cronenberg to make directly after The Fly. Where that film went hard into the grotesque, Dead Ringers is reserved and intensely psychological. I must say that I prefer the methods of The Fly, but Dead Ringers succeeded in winning me over despite this. Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists, and it’s this absolutely riveting dual performance that glues you to the screen. Irons manages to create two distinct, believable characters, and Cronenberg somehow managed to often include them in the same shot without any hint of optical compositing or other visual trickery. It’s really something to see. Definitely a weird movie, though, so I don’t know who I’d recommend it to other than people who are already Cronenberg fans.

Scanners (1981)

Starring Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Michael Ironside, Robert A. Silverman, Lee Broker, Mavor Moore, Adam Ludwig

Directed by David Cronenberg

Expectations: Very high. I’ve seen the head explosion like fifty times, but have never seen the movie.


Oh man, this is gonna be a tough one. One one hand, I loved Scanners. It has a strange vibe with incredible visuals and some really intense moments (not to mention the gore). On the other hand, it belongs to that era of film that I almost always find slow, plodding and hard to watch. So yeah, I kinda loved Scanners while also kinda hating it. In the end, the two emotions blended into a definite liking of the film overall, but I can’t dismiss the fact that the film was kind of hard to sit through. Part of that is me, I had a super long day and I was exhausted when I started it. I knew going in it was a sticky situation, and if the film didn’t completely hold my attention I’d be quickly counting sheep. I fought—and I fought hard—but Scanners just didn’t do it for me like I expected it to. Fucking high expectations, ruining a perfectly good telepathy movie for me.

Scanners is about scanners, genetically special people who can read minds and, in certain cases, control them. Without going too in-depth, there’s one “good” scanner, Cameron, sent to hunt down Revok, played by a young Michael Ironside who’s looking very Jack Nicholson-esque. Revok is an evil scanner who blew up a dude’s head in his introduction scene a few minutes into the movie. While you might think that signals a film filled with insane, gory special effects, that’s not the case. That head explosion is the lion’s share of the gore, but there are a few other choice moments. So anyway, the drive of the movie is Cameron trying to hunt down and kill Revok, but that makes it sound action-packed (or somewhat similar to Blade Runner) and it’s not really.

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