"The Fly" (1958) respected what the American public of the late 50's wanted to see on screen with a twist. A respect of the family as an institution, the women depicted as working in the kitchen, making food, taking care of the child, etc. The role of men is put forward, with Francois, actor Vincent Price, acting as a base for the story to be built around. An interesting difference between the two movies is the inclusion of a government institution. It shows as a righteous force, who, even with Helene's memorable story, decides to arrest her. Their position seems adamant until the end of the movie, where we see the inspector changing his position after killing the Andrefly. This shows the direction the movie takes after the transformation. The roles evolve. The woman, Helene, takes on a bigger role, altering the social views of the time. She is the one who decides to take off the fabric of Flyandre's head, in spite of his orders. She counters the orders of her husband! As said earlier, the inspector changes as well. Was this a precursor to the changes society would go through in the sixties?
"The Fly" (1986) chose a completely different path, as expected of a twenty eight year evolution of morals and values in the society. What Empire called "Cronenberg's most triumphant and accessible film to date", illustrates the massive changes wrought into society. Andre could have been soaked in bodily fluids, walk in a weird crooked way and look a bit more like the monstrosity of the remake. It could have been done in 1958, but it hasn't. Society in the 80's wanted to see the fluids, wanted to see what excessive trust in science causes. The AIDS epidemic of the time, and to a larger scale, disease, is represented as traumatic experience, to be feared and abhorred. Yet Seth Brundle accepts the disease saying: " It wants to... turn me into something else. That's not too terrible is it? Most people would give anything to be turned into something else."
He accepts the disease. He knows he will die or becoming something else and lose control, and to avoid the fear of that thought, he turns the whole thing into a positive experience. Is this a reaction AIDS infected people have? Do you simply go on in life as if nothing was happening? Caryn James, from the New York Times says that "Jeff Goldblum is a graphic fly for the fact-crazed 80's". Does to much knowledge destroy knowledge? Wouldn't ignorance be better rather than know with certainty how you will die? The latest movie that comes to mind when speaking of a slow metamorphosis is "District 9". While "The Fly" remake plays with failed scientific experiments, D9 works on the fear of the foreigner and all the chemicals present in the our life today. What is most relevant in these movies to the situation today is the fear of change inside us, where we can't see it. These word by Seth sum up quit a lot, " I'm saying... I'll hurt you if you stay. " The fear, again, of damaging your surroundings, of hurting your relatives is also relevant for people affected by incurable diseases.
To conclude, I would like to use this opening paragraph of Caryn James's review which explains quit well the difference between those two fils:
"David Hedison portrayed a quite decorous fly-man, who for most of the film kept a black veil over the insect's head that topped his human body after a failed experiment. In David Cronenberg's new version, Jeff Goldblum is a graphic fly for the fact-crazed 80's, transformed into a creature so repulsive he makes the monster in ''Aliens'' look like Grandma in a Norman Rockwell painting."