BR: Fury, The (1978)

May 11, 2013 | By

 

Film: Good/ BR Transfer: Excellent/ BR Extras: Good

Label: Twilight Time/ Region: All / Released: March 12, 2013

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Synopsis: A father uses an empowered teenager to help find his telekinetic son and stop an ex-colleague’s mad world domination scheme.

Special Features: Isolated Stereo Music Track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment.

 

 

Review:

After the success of Carrie (1976) at Columbia, rival studio Fox wooed Brian De Palma back (the director had made the cult favourite Phantom of the Paradise for Fox in 1976) and with presumably carte blanche, De Palma chose to engage gothic thriller novelist John Farris to adapt his 1976 novel for the big screen.

Farris had written and directed a TV movie back in 1972, but his inexperience in writing a big budget feature film script still shows decades after The Fury’s release: the story makes little sense, and the dialogue is amateurish, making the film’s mixed critical reception rather justified.

A classic case of a novice screenwriter paired with a director known for a strong visual style, Fury is mostly a series of tacked together chase montages that periodically halt for a semblance of the plot. De Palma seems to have liked the book’s proof-of-innocence / on-the-lam structure – redolent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), Saboteur (1942) and North by Northwest (1959) – but he reportedly chose to beef up the scope of the story, which now dealt with a rogue governmental agent and his crew grabbing the telekinetic son of a former colleague for a future game of global telekinetic war with rival powers China and the U.S.S.R.

Once evil agent Ben Childress (John Cassavetes) snatches Robin Sandza (Andrew Stevens) from his father Peter (Kirk Douglas), the three characters are largely absent from the narrative, making room for the film’s real main character, Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving), another teen who reluctantly agrees to attend an elite school to appreciate and control her own super telekinetic skills.

Once she discovers the school’s purpose is to find variants of super-kids like Robin and Peter Sandza finds Gillian, the film becomes a meandering road movie as the pair search for Robin, and De Palma infrequently interrupts their frequently nonsensical chase montages with abrupt cutaways to show how Robin, now Childress’ prisoner, has been seething with rage and is poised to use his explosive powers for his own revenge.

Not unlike De Palma’s next thriller, the equally absurd Dressed to Kill (1980), Fury is about atmosphere and meticulously conceived sequences, and as pure supernatural trash, the film delivers the goods. The cast is hugely attractive: Douglas shows the world his bare chest and muscles to prove his viability as a mature leading man (in both Holocaust 2000 and Saturn 3, he’d go farther and reveal his birthday suit); Irving is charming; and the normally wooden Stevens suits the role of a reticent, buffed monster.

The film also has a great supporting cast of character actors and newcomers: both Daryl Hannah (Blade Runner) and Laura Innes (E.R.) make their film debuts, and Melody Thomas Scott (The Young & the Restless) and Hilary Thomspon have small roles. A slender and full-haired Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue) appears as a cop in the film’s wasteful car chase, and sultry-yet-stiff Fiona Lewis (Strange Behavior and Strange Invaders) endures an especially nasty death in arguably the film’s most disturbing sequence.

De Palma’s use of camera and editing are exceptional, with trick shots, slow-motion sequences, and portrait compositions heavily benefitting from the skilled eyes of cinematographer Richard H. Kline (The Andromeda Strain, Body Heat). Paul Hirsch’s editing is razor sharp, and the infamous exploding body finale is still De Palma’s most operatic death, shot from multiple angles using a high-speed camera.

(The finale has striking similarities to a quartet of films, and one wonders if there’s a connection between De Palma borrowing the slo-mo explosion from Dario Argento’s severely retarded decapitation in Four Flies on Grey Velvet; David Cronenberg borrowing from De Palma in his exploding head opus Scanners; and William Fruet indulging in inflating and exploding heads in Spasms.)

Fury feels like an espionage-supernatural-Hitchcock concoction, and its wonkiness is strangely tempered by John Williams’ overly bubbly score, which itself borrows quite blatantly motifs and stylistic touches from Dracula (1979) and Jaws 2 (1978). It’s a beautiful score that offers nothing new, but its gloomily unwinding main theme is very effective in evoking a sense of evil within our suburban midst, and the general malfeasance of secret government departments with power-hungry agendas.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray sports a very lovely HD transfer, with rich colours and film grain, plus enough details that reveal even some of the slightly soft and out of focus shots De Palma chose to retain due to his use of long takes and telephoto lenses.

The sound mixes are uncompressed versions of the bullshit 4.0 surround and original mono 2.0 mixes on Fox’ DVD. There are significant differences between the two: whereas the mono mix is flat, the rechanneled surround mix adds great depth to bass hits, but the rear surrounds suffer from the same drainpipe effect typical of Fox’ fake stereo mixes on their DVDs.

TT’s BR doesn’t include the stills gallery from the Fox’ 2001 DVD, but they’ve added cordially appreciative liner notes by Julie Kirgo, great cover art adapted from the film’s attractive poster campaign, and an isolated score track where Williams’ score really booms in uncompressed DTS. Pity there’s no way to craft a true 4.0 mix using the original music stems.

John Farris’ other film credits include writing and directing the 1972 TV movie Dear Dead Delilah (1972), which also features a decapitation scene (a fetish, perhaps?) and scripting The Fury (1978). Adaptations of his novels and short stories include Because They’re Young (1960), the TV movie When Michael Calls (1972), and the Masters of Horror episode “We All Scream for Ice Cream” (2007).

 

 

© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

 

External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography

 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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