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The Fury (1978)

Twilight Time
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/12/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/25/2013

A friend once said to me, "Isn't it funny that when you look back on relationships, all that you remember are the good time?" That person was clearly intoxicated, as I don't agree with that statement at all. However, I do think that this can be true with movies. Hopefully all movies (even the really bad ones) have their high points, and this is what usually sticks with us when the film is done. But, this is can cloud our memories and we can put too much emphasis on those impressive moments and erroneously have fond memories of a movie which may not be all that great. That was my experience with The Fury.

The Fury opens in the "Mid East", which I suppose is like the Middle East, but more casual. Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) and his son, Robin (Andrew Stevens), are enjoying a day on the beach and discussing the fact that they will be moving to the United States when gunmen attack the area. Robin believes that Peter is killed in the attack and Ben Childress (John Cassavetes) vows to take care of the young man. The story then leaps ahead one year. Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving) wants to be a normal teenaged girl. But, people around her keep getting nosebleeds and a classroom demonstration of psychic powers goes awry. She convinces her mother that should visit the Paragon Institute in order to be studied. There, she meets Dr. McKeever (Charles Durning) and Dr. Lindstrom (Carol Rossen) who promise to help Gillian. Meanwhile, Peter is friends with Hester (Carrie Snodgress), a nurse at Paragon. He's asked her to help him find Robin, who has psychic powers as well. Hester informs Peter that Gillian may be the key that he's been looking for. However, the sinister Childress wants to have control over the powerful youngsters.

I can remember seeing The Fury on TV back when it was a big deal for a theatrical movie to have its broadcast television debut, and I can clearly remember the film's big set-pieces. I saw it again years later, and was delighted to find those familiar scenes intact. Having seen the film again, I've come to realize two things -- First, those major scenes are still impressive, and Secondly, they only comprise about three minutes of this two hour movie. The rest of The Fury is very talk and clunky, and when you really analyze it, and ignore the "Did that just happen?" scenes, it's not a very good movie.

The Fury was directed by Brian De Palma, coming between Carrie and Dressed to Kill. The Fury has the look of a De Palma film, as it features the soft-focus and slow-motion which were his calling cards of this period. The film's bigger-than-life moments also show the sort of zeal which De Palma infused into the finale of Carrie or Dressed to Kill. However, the rest of the movie has a very pedestrian feel and doesn't have the feel of a De Palma movie. (Although the scenes with Gillian and her friends does feel like Carrie.) It's hard to ignore the fact that De Palma made movies about psychic teenage girls back-to-back, so maybe he was going out of his way to make the film not feel like one of his movies. The result is a movie which focuses far more on the story and less on the horror potential.

Speaking of the story, the screenplay was written by John Farris, who also wrote the source novel. I have not read The Fury, but I have read some of Farris' other works, and I know that they can be very dense and multi-layered. The story here simply comes across as muddled and it never gels. One of the main problems here is the lack of backstory and details. Peter is some sort of covert agent, but that's all we learn. There also appears to be history between Peter and Childress, but this isn't explored. At the outset, Peter hints that Robin has powers and at the end, we see that Robin does indeed have powers, but how much of his potential was he aware of? The film also seems to be intentionally avoiding any deep discussions of ESP and psychic powers, lest it be labeled as too "new age". However, this leads to a lot of vague conversations about what Gillian can do.

Watching The Fury again, the most striking issue with the movie is the pacing. No movie from the 70s about out-of-control psychics should be this boring. The exciting opening is then followed by some awkward dialogue scenes. The movie then completely switches tones with a truly cheesy chase scene in which Peter is pursued by Childress' men. This includes some awful rear-projection shots in a car and some cringe-worthy comic relief with Gordon Jump and then a young Dennis Franz. The relationship between Peter and Hester is then introduced, but it feels hollow, and the ensuing scenes with Gillian at Paragon have a lot of chatting, but little depth. There's no denying that The Fury ends with a bang, literally. (And it's interesting to note that once that bang happens, the credits roll, as if De Palma was saying "Thanks for coming folks. Drive safely!") However, the remainder of the movie is sluggish and dull. All fans of De Palma and that particular brand of bid-budget Hollywood horror film which followed the success of The Exorcist should see The Fury. But, expect for your fast-forward trigger finger to be very itchy.

The Fury has one of the most ineffective disguises in movie history on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Twilight Time. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 37 Mbps. Given the attention offered to their special editions, I'm sure that the good folks at Twilight Time put a lot of work into this transfer, despite some built in obstacles. As noted above, De Palma's soft focus photography is on display here and this causes some scenes to lose detail. Also, the relative age of the film also means that grain is present in some shots. However, other scenes are very clear and show realistic colors. One thing's for sure, the HD transfer has made the rear-projection car chase scene incredibly obvious. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The score sounds very good and doesn't overpower the dialogue. The only notable effects here come from left and right channels, but these do show good separation.

The Fury Blu-ray Disc contains only two extras. The viewer can choose to watch the film with the "Isolated Score Track" featuring the music of John Williams, which is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. The other extra is the ORIGINAL TRAILER for the film, which gives away far too much.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.