5.11.2012

Guest Post: The Fury.

GUEST POST: THE FURY (1978)

[M.'s prologue: Normally, I won't give a prologue, because that's fucking retarded. But I feel like I have to mention that this is my first guest post, which is pretty awesome and I'm pleased as hell about it. All thanks to the badassitry and infinite patience of Thaddeus (seriously, ask him how long it takes me to respond to emails). If you're not stalking him already, check out Thaddeus at his epic blog, Net-Flixation. Now onto the good stuff. End transmission.]

A short while ago, I made a Hitchcock-style suggestion to our beloved M. Hufstader: let's go criss-cross, like Two Strangers on A Train; let's review two movies and share the results. My choices were The Fury and Scanners, a great supernatural pair. The result, unlike Two Strangers, would not be homicide... Hopefully.

I used to think so highly of Brian De Palma. As a kid, I knew him for Carrie and The Untouchables. When I started to become Half a Film Student, I knew him as the guy who made Sisters and Phantom of the Paradise. The more I look over his work, though, it's harder to give this director unqualified praise; he's full of flaws - big, honking, obvious flaws.

Whatever you think, Brian has great technical skill, and he often makes his style work well, at least for most of a movie. And so we come to the other De Palma pic I knew as a child, The Fury. Let me kick things off by noting that it just has a weird vibe because The Fury is half supernatural thriller and half action film.



Peter (Kirk Douglas) is a former spook whose son, Robin (Andrew Stevens), has special powers. On vacation in the Mediterranean, they're attacked by gunmen. Peter seems to be dead, but when he doubles back to the scene of the crime, he sees his best friend Childress (John Cassavetes) talking with the attackers. Peter fires at them with his assault rifle, then vanishes.

As Peter tries to locate his son, a Chicago teen, Gillian (Amy Irving), deals with her own problems. Whenever she's emotional and someone touches her, they bleed and pass out. She's scared of herself, of hugging her mom. When a foundation shows interest in Gillian, she's bound to confront this troubled family and her own issues.

Since this is a Brian De Palma movie, there's great interplay between the soundtrack and the footage. All the scenes are filmed well - the opening, the psychic visions, a foggy car chase, and the entire ending. It would be easy to mock a film where a seductive, odd theramin accompanies super slo-mo shots of Amy Irving's face; De Palma's a natural story-teller, so it never comes off badly.

I love Edgar Wright, and his smart comments on this pic.

For its time, The Fury's effects were top-notch; they haven't aged badly, either. The film's strengths are in carrying the emotions of Douglas, Irving, and the cast in general, which includes Charles Durning and Carrie Snodgress.  I don't know why De Palma was so good at capturing the spirit of youth, but Irving's scenes feel as true-to-life as those of the high school girls in Carrie.

This blends with the film's parental element. All the issues of "guiding," teaching, trying to reach out to and control teens - are all nicely conveyed in a way that hits the mark, perfectly. There will always be people who bully kids into "behaving," exploit them, push them too hard, or lie to them, and there will always be some who try to protect and nurture kids.

The Fury is just weird, honestly. It starts as an action film, and keeps that sentiment in most of Peter's scenes. That material requires quick movement and an exciting soundtrack, which De Palma delivers nicely, helped greatly by John Williams. But it's also a slow, creepy tale of the paranormal. This becomes a problem, though, when you try to mesh the two together; it's fine if you buy into the picture and its style, but if not, they seem to work against each other.

Yet, despite the issues, there's quality work here on-screen. Better still, it's a story that's unusual and hard to predict. And, perhaps above all, the amazing score does such a fantastic job of getting you involved... If this film got an Oscar, Brian would owe half of it to Williams. Horror films play on basic emotions, and if the score fails to evoke those feelings, you're dead in the water.

This music is just ****ing perfect.

I'm not claiming this movie is bad - it's at least decent (even by high standards), and at best, fairly good. But its vibe is a bit uneven; you might not even notice it. Anyone who read supernatural horror by Stephen King knows that exaggerated emotions and unsettling atmosphere either pull you in quickly,or seem slightly off. Here, it's a touch easier to lose your suspension of disbelief.

Unfortunately, the worst parts of this story revolve around Robin. Maybe Andrew Stevens wasn't a great actor, or Brian dropped the ball on his scenes. Childress is great as the hateful father-figure - but the way he pushes Robin is senseless. Sure, I can believe he'd be relentless and uncaring, but his moves look blatantly suicidal. Childress seems more "destructive" than "self destructive."

I won't trash this director. Flaws and failure happen to everyone - Soderburgh, Wright, Herzog... If I wanted to "slam" De Palma, I'd say that his later works don't surpass what he did before. But this is an early film, and this man's skill and vision are very strong here. He made this picture better than most anyone else could have.

Still, I'll take Carrie, Sisters, and Paradise-era De Palma over his work on The Untouchables, Raising Cain, Mission Impossible, or Femme Fatale (aka, girl-on-girl is hawt!). It's so much easier to give him "a break" during his first 10 years as director than the 10-15 years that followed after.

This is a smart, parodic look at old versus new Chicago.

I like that The Fury's solid tragic tale, a truly unpredictable movie. I like the story, and I love the ideas it plays with. The presentation is excellent work that promotes Brian De Palma's abilities. It's probably in the B/B- area, if I gave letter grades; since I don't use those, I'd say you can safely queue it on Netflix Instant, like I did, & enjoy the ride.

And god forbid I ever get an arm crippled, but if I survive, I'm definitely going with a black sling.

You can look forward to M's take, and our respective responses to Scanners, later. What did you think?

- Thaddeus, of Net-Flixation.

8 comments:

  1. Great work, Thaddeus. This movie seems like something I'd probably hate (I'm pretty much a jerk), but I think I'll give it a shot sometime, regardless.

    Loved the review and am anticipating M's take.

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    1. Thank you! Of all the bloggers in all the blogs of... f it, our dear Hufstader was the only one I wanted to do criss-cross reviews with.

      It would be easy to dislike this picture - the same way I didn't quite buy Vertigo when I saw it (for casually demeaning women, mostly). Yet one of the big problems I find in film fans is that they don't understand that the director of a movie is very important. And Brian De Palma, for all his continuity gaffes in The Untouchables, or his shameless bi-sexual dream-girl MTV-style-fantasizing in Femme Fatale, is still a quality director who deserves attention. That might be reason enough to watch.

      And, yes, I am very excited to see her take, too!

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  2. I really quite like this movie - and it's precisely BECAUSE of the weird vibe and the genrebending from action thiller to paranormal drama. There's no other movie quite like it - although there are any number of pairs of movies that you could mash together to be something like it - Marathon Man mashed with Carrie, for example. I think the weird vibe started in John Farris's novel first - since it mixed the same action thriller with paranormal drama - but added more teen angst and sex to make it an even more heady concoction. My favorite sequence in the whole movie is when Peter breaks in on the apartment with the two middle aged geezers and the old lady - to this day I still quote that scene when the world is mean: "The milk of human kindness has dried up at the tit!"

    Great crossover blog mashup (kinda like The Fury!) - would love to see more! Cheers!

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    1. Thanks, Craig. There's a lot to like here. Douglas wows with his easy charm, to the point I wonder if the part was written for him.

      The shifts in tone are interesting. They're an important part of the movie, and I figure the contrast may be the reason why the film's not more popular. I can't find many other flaws that would put people off; nor did that actually ruin the experience for me.

      I'm glad that Hufstader was up for it!

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  3. I always thought Amy Irving was an odd bird. And Andrew Stevens is just plain bad. So for the two of them to feature so prominently in this alongside Kirk Douglas and not come off looking like frozen spaghetti is a wonder in and of itself. Is it DePalma's direction or did they for once in their D-List careers rise to the occasion? Whatever the answer, this movie was good and I enjoyed all the performances. I love a good genre mash-up.

    Excellent guest post. I always love reading your comments here.

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    1. Y'know, I didn't want to trash Stevens, since it's not like I'm an actor, nor have I been asked to portray a teen who's been driven mad by a domineering sociopath.

      Amy Irving hits a soft spot for me: I liked her in Carrie, she was great in some movie with Richard Dreyfuss about competitive piano-players, and she was quite the cutie in her day. Oh, and Steven Spielberg ditched her for Kate Capshaw, so she has that going for her as well...

      Thank you, Melissa! I just hope I made a worthy contribution to Hufstader's quality work!

      Delete
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