Starring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Amy Irving and Carrie Snodgress
Directed by Brian De Palma
Release Date OUT NOW
A rip roaring visual stylist and quite possibly the definitive American auteur, Brian De Palma is a director responsible for some of the most breathtaking examples of modern pulp cinema. Like a magpie, he cherry picks shiny ideas and themes from a host of his favourite movies, directors and literary sources and reworks them, merging them often seamlessly into his own obsessions. Although his work spans a whole variety of genres, covering everything from crime (Scarface) to comedy (The Bonfire of the Vanities), it is for his glorious horror and thriller output he’ll remain best known.
Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise, Blow Out, Body Double, Dressed to Kill, Raising Cain… Good fucking heavens! That’s quite a selection isn’t it; each a potent Hitchcocktail of suspense, shocks, gallows humour and lashings of the old ultraviolence. Wonderful stuff. And then, of course, there’s Carrie. Ah, Carrie…
Adapted from Stephen King’s first (published, at least) novel, the teen centric tale of one girls telekinetic revenge against her tormentors is arguably De Palma’s crowning achievement- a dazzling, seductive whirlwind of tragedy and terror. A landmark seventies horror classic, the material obviously struck enough of a chord with De Palma to warrant a further exploration of frightening preternatural mind power, following it up as he did with the similarly themed The Fury.
An eclectic mix of paranoid thriller, action and Grand Guignol, The Fury stars Spartacus himself Kirk Douglas as Peter Sandza, an intelligence operative mercilessly betrayed by his pal Childress (indie film icon/one time fictional Satanist John Cassavetes) who plans to use Sandza’s psychic son in some vaguely diabolical “new weapon” project. Meanwhile, schoolgirl Gillian (the former Mrs. Spielberg Amy Irving) is coming to terms with her own blossoming and violent telepathic powers at the Paragon Clinic, an institute for psychic research which too has its own nefarious agenda…
Though not without its problems, The Fury is a lively firecracker of a picture- think a proto Scanners with added pomp. An unapologetically entertaining blast of crowd pleasing mayhem whos shortcomings (chiefly a patchy script from horror scribe John Farris, working from his own 1976 novel) can be more than overlooked thanks to its total commitment to endless audience excitement. Cracking set pieces and bursts of gruesome splatter (the finale being incredibly spectacular) are the order of the day here, punctuated by De Palma’s assured direction. Indeed, it is as a technical exercise that the film truly excels- De Palma and his crew were clearly operating at the top of their game.
Now part of the ever expanding Arrow Video label, The Fury arrives onto region B blu ray in style following a somewhat controversial stateside release earlier this year from niche company Twilight Time. Limited to three thousand copies, the Twilight Time disc used only a bog standard and now dated HD master resulting in the film looking only marginally better than the previous DVD incarnation. Although, for its time, the DVD was a revelation considering the awful history the film has had on home video this is something that is surely, to my mind at least, wholly unacceptable for a truly next generational viewing experience. The complete lack of special features on this overpriced dud added further insult.
Thankfully, Arrow have remedied this with what is the films most comprehensive edition to date. Painstakingly remastered from the original camera negative, it’s hard to imagine the film looking any better as cliched as that may sound. A marked improvement over previous home video releases which all seemed to be plagued by weirdly off tones , the clear transfer is much more in keeping with cinematographer Richard H. Kline’s naturalistic colour palette. It’s just a shame then that there’s just a tad too much visual fuzz in a few night scenes that stop it from being perfect. Still, for a film of this vintage it’s a brilliant effort.
Now, I’m no audiophile but to my admittedly near deaf ears (years of punk rock, I’m afraid…) both audio options are fine, making the choosing of either the 4.0 DTS or 2.0 Mono an entirely personal preference. On each, the gun shots are loud, the screaming piercing and the dialogue thoroughly audible- and that’s all I need! The real treat in the sound department, however, is the option of listening to Academy Award Winning composer John Williams’ isolated score. Much has been written previously about it and rightly so- it’s stupendous stuff, amongst the best soundtracks of the genre in fact.
Extras wise, Arrow have served up a relatively bountiful package- it’s just a pain in the arse that, outside of an archival interview from The Fury’s 1978 promotional tour, De Palma himself doesn’t pop up to offer his thoughts on his supercharged shocker. Famously commentary shy, he could’ve at least appeared for a one on one somewhere. His lack of participation sadly makes the whole thing seem a little incomplete. Still, what there is is solid:
First up is a near half hour chat with the aforementioned Richard Kline. The veteren DP is excellent, engaging company as he fondly recounts his time on The Fury, proudly hailing it as some of his best work. Likewise, actress Fiona Lewis has nothing but positive things to say about her experience- despite her initial reluctance to accept the part of Dr. Charles- in her ten minute yatter. The real meat of the set, however, is a fifty minute ‘Location Journal’ from Sam Irvin. A subsequent Charles Band/Full Moon alumnus (having directed both Oblivion and it’s sequel Backlash for the iconoclastic low budget studio), Irvin served as a Fury intern and wrote an eight day shooting diary article for Cinefantastique Magazine at the time, on which this exhaustive look back with him is based.
Covering everything from his start in the industry to his obvious love of watching De Palma at work, it’s a unique making of-esque feature. Irvin’s adulation carries over to the inclusion of his 1985 short film Double Negative, a fun and quirky “Valentine” to De Palma starring one of his stock actors, the late, great William Finley (Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise). The package is rounded out by the obligatory trailer, a scant behind-the-scenes gallery, archival interviews (producer Frank Yablans and stars Amy Irving and Carrie Snodgress to go with the De Palma one) and a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Dumas. Sadly, the booklet was unavailable in the review copy. Dammit!
The film 7 out of 10
Extras 7 out of 10