The Fury

(USA - 1978)

by Mike Lorefice

Cast: Kirk Douglas, Amy Irving, Andrew Stevens, John Cassevetes, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Fiona Lewis, Dennis Franz
Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Director: Brian De Palma
Screenplay: John Farris based on his novel
Cinematography: Richard H. Kline
Composer: John Williams
Runtime: 118 minutes

The Fury can be looked at as the second chapter in a four part series by expert stylists Brian De Palma & David Cronenberg. De Palma has always been credited for modernizing or accused of ripping off the master, Alfred Hitchcock, but he really put himself on the map in 1976 when he gave the world something fresh, the telekinetic supernatural horror. Carrie was an excellent film, his best of the decade. Two years later, De Palma came back with The Fury, casting Andrew Stevens and Carrie co-star Amy Irving and teenagers with psychokinetic powers that the government was looking to exploit. Cronenberg, with his more technical and psychological style, entered the picture in 1979 with The Brood, a great highly underrated gem dealing with physical manifestation of hate. Cronenberg then really puts himself on the map in 1981 with Scanners, a quite good but inferior film about psychic powers strong enough to control or damage other people's minds that boasts some of the best special effects of its time including probably the best head explosion ever.

The Fury is the worst film of the four because, while it's pretty understanding when it wants to be, there's not a lot of substance behind it. It deals with how the world can't handle people that are superior, so they make fun of them, torture them with their tests, and ultimately destroy them. In our fascination with them, we ultimately forget they are human beings. We make them tools for our amusement or our discovery. The Fury is their revenge, not only on the exploiters, but sometimes on any inferior being that happens to be around them.

The best part of the story is the maddening transformation of the Andrew Stevens character. He witnesses his father, played by Kirk Douglas, "killed" by these government agents. Later, these kind officials/doctors/scientists (I'm not really sure what to call them, government exploiters perhaps, but basically it's cashing in on post-Nixon government paranoia) led by a very convincingly self-centered and maniacal John Cassavettes show him the videotape of it. They push him too far too fast. They more or less teach him how to use his powers, but in doing so they cultivate an impatient, self-centered, hateful, and violent human being.

Unfortunately, the movie is an interrelated tale that focuses more on Irving's character and Douglas' character. Some of the stuff involving Irving is really good, no thanks to her, like the Carrie-esque scene where she's picked on in school for being special and she involuntarily lets out that the girl picking on her is pregnant and makes her bleed. Once she starts living with the doctors, the movie grinds to a halt with the exception of the scenes where her powers allow her to witness what Stevens went through or is going through.

Douglas is supposed to be some agent from an unnamed faction of the government. He's searching for his son the whole movie, but his character is basically just there for fun. Douglas can be loads of fun, for instance his sly sarcastic portrayal of the satan worshipping black sheep of the family in the very good revolutionary war satire The Devil's Disciple, but like almost everyone else he needs something to work with. His character seems to only have been designed out of some moments De Palma thought would be interesting or humorous to film. Some of it is cool and some of it is funny, but some of it never makes any sense, not that anyone involved seems to care.

All of this is secondary to the point of watching the film, which is the style. If De Palma proves two things with The Fury, it's that whether you like him or not, he's an excellent and gifted craftsman that isn't afraid to push the boundaries of what can be done technically and what can be shown (this time with the violence). The film is steeped in style. It's raw, but loaded with impressive effects. The work of the constantly moving yet unobtrusive camera is awesome, mood creating and voyeuristic. In this regard, the film was way ahead of its time. Even some 23-years-later, only the big explosion near the end, which looks really fake here but was perfected by Cronenberg a few years later, looks dated.

One killer scene has Irving slip and Charles Durning grab her hand to keep her from falling down the stairs. This induces her powers, and she sees what happened to Stevens on a fateful night. Her superimposed image is foregrounded over the Stevens scene, but what makes it brilliant is the way her dizzying movement goes with the action of the scene behind it as Stevens tries to run away. At the end of the scene where Irving sees Stevens being forced to watch the tape of his father dying, she sees a reflection of Stevens screaming in the glass table she's sitting at. There's also a fantastic slow motion escape scene highlighted by the way we see a bullet go through a windshield and into a head. Later on, we see a woman lying face down rise straight up like a stiff reverse Nosferatu, levitate, and then spin around like the fastest top except while in midair and with blood shooting out of her until she dies.

The highlight of the movie is clearly the amusement park scene, which is simply amazing and has to rank among the best sequences ever in a horror film. De Palma makes us feel like we are the poor sheiks on, and later flying off, the ride. It's the only thing I've ever watched that made me feel dizzy and like I was losing my stomach, and this is before things got out of control. Stevens, veins bulging out of his forehead, does a great job here because we see his hate and intensity, but also his sadness and sorrow.

In addition to the special effects and cinematography, the special effects makeup by Rick Baker and editing by Paul Hirsch are outstanding. They give the movie its feel and its edge almost as much as the camera does. The reason is most of the key scenes are done as cuts between close-ups of the intense looking - and in Stevens case bulging and pulsating at the forehead veins - head of the kinetic and the destruction they are causing.

John Williams once again proves that he's no Bernard Herrmann. Like most everything else with The Fury, there are a lot of things to like and dislike about his score. It's one of those scores that is great if you just listen to it, but loses a lot when you see how it goes with the images. It's complex, but it doesn't have any edge, any grit, so it fails to generate tension and suspense. Williams is a great composer for cartoon movies, which means his work when De Palma is simply having fun is great, but it's like someone forgot to tell him that Fury is supposed to be a horror.

The Fury cheats the audience out of a solid plot, but it's still worth watching to see all the ways De Palma makes the camera lie.




* Copyright 2001 - Raging Bull Movie Reviews *