Brian De Palma’s “THE FURY” (Arrow Blu-ray Review)
THE FURY just may represent Brian De Palma at the peak of his insane 70s powers. Coming out of the New York underground filmmaking scene, it’s easy to forget that in his early days, De Palma’s work were as influenced by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard as Alfred Hitchcock. By the time De Palma got to THE FURY, he’d already made his first Hitchcock riffs SISTERS and OBSESSION, as well as his first major mainstream hit CARRIE, but the self-conscious humor and go-for-broke lunacy of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE was very much still central to his powers.
On paper, THE FURY may have seemed like a logical follow up to CARRIE with its central focus on disenchanted teens with psychic powers, yet while the Stephen King adaptation was rooted in a certain level of harsh high school realism, THE FURY takes place in De Palma’s tongue-in-cheek movie-movie land. It’s a hodgepodge of genres, effects, stunning set pieces, and delirious self-conscious humor that only this filmmaker could deliver. Yet, it’s also sadly overlooked in the director’s storied career, so thank god the good folks at Arrow have decided to give the cult flick the prestige Blu-ray treatment it deserves.
As with many DePalma movies, the plot of pure pulp is almost incidental to the film’s pleasures. After a delightfully ludicrous opening sequence in which Kirk Douglas and his son’s hilarious swimming contest in a generically title-carded “Middle East” setting is rudely interrupted by a John Cassevetes ambush, the film settles into fugitive/conspiracy thriller mode. Douglas is a man on the run determined to uncover a conspiracy, while Cassevetes is assembling psychic teens for a special school where they can be trained as government weapons. Douglas’ son was the first involuntary inductee. Amy Irving’s CARRIE–like teen is the second, but she joins by choice. Essentially it’s a comic book tale, a mix of X-MEN (developing special powers = puberty, etc.) and a psychic thriller and given that comics were considered kiddie crap at the time, De Palma plays it all for melodramatic laughs. Douglas mugs it up while winking through silly scenes like holding an elderly couple hostage. Cassevetes delivers a giddily sleazeball villain that steals the show. Irving acts as the film’s heart. Fiona Lewis plays an evil ice queen as villain #2 and Andrew Stevens revels in evil as Douglas’ lost son and star of the final battle. The acting is all fun, in an exaggerated De Palma way, but as per usual in the director’s work, the real stars are the set pieces.
THE FURY marked the first time De Palma had a massive budget at his command, and wielded those resources expertly. From the opening shoot-out to Ferris Wheel freak out and the psychic flight finale, De Palma really cuts loose on spectacle in a way that still holds up. In particular, a few set pieces here qualify as some of the finest he ever achieved. A remarkable 360 degree rear projection with Irving at the center remains visually striking. The bloody nose/fingernail psychic attacks are as gag-inducing as they were in the 70s. And most importantly, the explosive finale De Palma staged not only tops the far more famous Cronenberg-conceived head explosion from SCANNERS, but is one of the finest applause-worthy gore moments of the 70s as a whole. The mixture of stunning horror/action and darkly comedic cheese throughout THE FURY is vintage De Palma and the two hours of delirious entertainment on display is as fun a film as he ever made. To top it all off, the score comes from John Williams immediately after his work on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and STAR WARS. The mixture of Williams’ thunderous score and De Palma’s operatic imagery is so effective that you’ll curse the fact it was their only collaboration.
THE FURY hits Blu-ray in an incredible package from Arrow. The transfer is an absolute revelation. The film has never been treated well by Fox on home video, so to see the movie glow with such stunning detail and bright colors, while the sound mix pounds Williams’ score through speakers in a way that will rattle walls, is incredible. Even better are the special features…
About 25 minutes of vintage promotional interviews with De Palma, Irving, and others provides some nice insight from the star collaborators and also an amusing look back at silly 70s film promotion. Cinematographer Richard H. Kline sits down for a 30-minute interview and, given how visually driven De Palma is as a director, there are obviously plenty of interesting anecdotes and facts to be mined from the piece. Fiona Lewis also sits down for a 15-minute interview and the lovely actress shares some fond memories of the film including details about a scene that was deleted because De Palma found it too harsh (!).
Best of all is a 50-minute interview with Sam Irvin who was on the FURYset as a Cinefantastique reporter and he shares an incredible amount of behind the scenes stories (including Dick Smith and Rick Baker’s uncredited effects work and the day that Amy Irving pretended to direct to De Palma’s amusement). Irvin provides everything anyone could ever want to know about the making of the film and then to top it off, the set also includes a short film homage to De Palma that Irvin made in 1985 that is well worth a look for fans. Toss in the usual trailers, still gallery and a hefty booklet packed with essays and interviews and you’ve got the finest Blu-ray release for THE FURY that fans could have hoped for.
If you’ve never scene this underrated 70s gem from De Palma, there’s no better way to dive in. If you have seen the movie, then chances are you ordered the disc before the end of this review, and I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.