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Friday November 22nd 2019

The Fly | 1986

The Fly filming location: Liberty Street, Liberty Village, Toronto
The Fly location: Seth Brundle's loft / laboratory: Liberty Street, Liberty Village, Toronto

David Cronenberg takes an approach to filming George Langelaan’s short story which is both more cerebral as well as more visceral than the 1958 film.

The setting is not mentioned but, unsurprisingly for a Cronenberg film, it’s Toronto – you can clearly see the CN Tower at one point.

The production was based at the old Kleinburg Studios, now Cinespace Film Studios in Kleinburg, west of Vaughan to the north of the city, where some interior sets were built.

There’s still plenty of real Toronto, though.

Endearingly nerdy scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) meets Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Quaife (Geena Davis), a science reporter for Particle magazine, at a ‘Bartok Company’ bash held in Walker Court of the Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West at McCaul Street, downtown Toronto. The gallery is now dominated by a vast modernistic spiral wooden staircase.

Bursting to tell her about his world-changing research, Brundle invites Ronnie back to his lab…

She’s seriously underwhelmed on first seeing Brundle’s warehouse loft apartment/lab, though there’s no denying it’s spacious.

This former industrial area has been redeveloped as an artsy hub of small businesses and the shabby industrial block has since been smartened up as part of the renovation of the Liberty Village neighbourhood, west of Downtown.

Brundle's place is still recognisable at 135 Liberty Street and, coincidentally, it’s just at the rear of the apartment where the MacMahon brothers lie low in Boston-set cult film The Boondock Saints.

Although the lab interior itself was built in the studio, the film uses the building’s real hallways.

In turn, Ronnie can’t wait to play her clandestine recording of Brundle’s crazy idea for ‘teleportation’ for her sceptical editor Stathis Borans (John Getz).

The Fly filming location: Manulife Building, St Pauls Square, Toronto
The Fly location: the HQ of 'Monolith Publishing', publisher of Particle magazine: Manulife Building, St Pauls Square, Toronto

The imposing HQ of ‘Monolith Publishing’ is the Manulife Building, officially 200 Bloor Street East, but actually on St Pauls Square, not far from Bloor-Yonge Metro station.

After a couple of, unfortunate, mistakes, Brundle appears to have solved all the glitches and recklessly teleports himself, with initially successful results.

Despite the jealousy of Borans, who also happens to be her possessive ex, romance blossoms between Ronnie and Brundle. From a street stall in Kensington Market, Brundle sweetly buys her a necklace and all seems to be going well.

The first indication that something has gone awry comes when a manically speeding Brundle, shovelling spoonful after spoonful of sugar into his coffee, gushes about how remarkably energized he’s become since transportation.

The coffee shop was John’s Italian Caffe, which stood at 27 Baldwin Street, Baldwin Village, west of Downtown. It closed in 2014 and has been replaced by Taiwanese restaurant Charidise.

Disconcerted by Brundle’s messianic claims, Ronnie refuses to follow him in being ‘transported’. The increasingly crazed Brundle throws her out of his apartment and storms out in frustrated rage to find someone more adventurous.

He finds himself in a rough-looking bar where challenges an unwitting local hard-man to a bout of arm wrestling which shockingly reveals his new-found strength. The bar was Stoopy’s once confusingly also known as Soupys – a regular location in Toronto films which also appeared in Cronenberg’s 2005 A History of Violence. It’s since closed and is now incorporated into hotel the Royal Oak Inn, 376 Dundas Street East at Ontario Street, Cabbagetown.

As the dominant alpha-male, Brundle drags away a not-entirely unwilling woman, Tawny, from the bar back to ‘his place’. She’s bundled impatiently along bustling Yonge Street, past the ever-unchanging Zanzibar nightclub.

As Brundle continues his relentless metamorphosis into an insect, Ronnie is less than delighted to discover she’s pregnant with his child.

Cronenberg expertly and terrifyingly taps into the fear of someone contemplating what might be growing inside them.

The hospital, where she suffers a traumatic nightmare, is Toronto General Hospital, 200 Elizabeth Street. As her ambulance pulls up, we see the city’s telltale landmark CN Tower in the background.

The clinic, where Ronnie makes it clear she wants an abortion immediately, is the Chinese Consulate, 240 St George Street, Yorkville, north of Downtown.

Brundle, now transformed into the hideous Brundlefly, abducts Ronnie from the clinic. The rooftop overlooking the city on which he tries to persuade her to splice with him is that of Bishop Strachan School, 298 Lonsdale Road, Forest Hill South, north of the city.

Then it's back to the lab for the final act.