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.
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.