The Fury (1978)
Brian De Palma, telekinesis and violence. When most people are addressed with those few identifiers the film they are going to come out with is Carrie. But there’s more, enter 1978 film the Fury; Brian De Palma’s other great telekinetic thriller and one that has been lost under the shadow of its older sister. Even with the lofty reception of Carrie, being discussed in the same breath as some of the greatest horror films ever made, that doesn’t mean there is a place in the world for another De Palma ESP film. Even if the shadow of Carrie will never be escaped, Arrow’s latest release will bring this lost great of 70s to a whole new audience.
With its screenplay by John Farris, The Fury tries to be too much in too little a window. Farris’ screenplay is a little complicated as there are two narrative arcs to contend with; to call his screenplay hectic is to zealously throw around understatement and hyperbole. Nonetheless, those arcs focus on Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) losing his extremely talented son after being ambushed, just before his son Robin is going to be put in a normal environment . Behind this ambush is a mysterious government agency fronted by Childress (John Cassavetes), Peter’s best friend. The second arc has considerable cross-over whilst being a fully-realised story in its own right, and that sees Gillian (Amy Irving) struggling to come to terms with her newly found powers and her psychic connection with Peter’s son, Robin (Andrew Stevens). In this there is a love interest dragged into Peter Scheme (Carrie Snodgress) and the manipulative and insidious methods that Dr. Susan Charles (Fiona Lewis) is using to turn Peter’s son into an ESP weapon.
Any political intrigue in the Fury is outright hokum. Using a mysterious un-named Government Agency is the 1970s equivalent of terrorists – uncomplicated bad guys that tap into anxieties of an era, eluding any real need to characterise instead trading in typecasts. It’s an all too common occurrence to see the antagonist skipped over, this is a tradition as old as genre cinema itself. Even if it throws bonkers ideas like ‘having his arm killed’ at him John Cassavetes deserves better, not just because of his reputation, but because he brings a real brooding malevolence to his scenes.
Despite all the stories competing for centre billing, the conflict between Sandza and Childress mark De Palma’s film as a deceptively simple film. Now tone is an entirely different point; De Palma jumps from intrigue to horror before breaking it all up with some comic relief. That’s not to talk down to any aspect, with the horror being grim and the comedy funny. The hostage situation is pure gold no matter how out-of-place it is. Then there is the horror that drops any lingering pretence of light and goes for a climax of rampant death and unexpectedly bleak character resolutions. Even as a hardened fan of horror it took me off guard, which just goes to show what sort of ends tonal manipulation (consciously or not) can be used towards.
The elephant in the room is the ESP and psychic trickery, and that allows De Palma to throw violence around with characteristic glee. The more common use of blood and violence comes with Gillian’s touch; any contact and she has a traumatic vision with the person she’s touching bleeding liberally as a consequence. Some of the more extreme instances are wonderfully over the top. The final moment of the movie is when De Palma lets any restraint go with a fully body explosion, it’s easy to see where Scanners got some of its influences from. Unfortunately the way Gillian (Amy Irving) reacts to these powers dents their ideas and imagery through plain old overacting, her ‘power poses’ border on the embarrassing. It’s not all violence, genre legend Richard H. Kline plays with memory and vision through some brilliantly dizzy and inventive cinematography.
Even if each tonal flavour has many triumphs, the inescapable truth remains whereby it’s difficult to actually pin down what De Palma was trying to achieve. This makes the sheer entertainment value all the more appreciated when the actual storytelling is so widespread with contradiction. All that put to one side, it’s a joy to see such an oddity of Brian De Palma’s filmography brought into the 21st century with a such a kingly treatment.
- Brand new digital transfer of the film from the original camera negative
- Optional uncompressed mono 2.0 PCM and 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio audio
- Isolated John Williams score
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Blood on the Lens: An interview with Cinematographer Richard H. Kline
- Spinning Tales: Fiona Lewis on starring in The Fury
- The Fury – A Location Journal: An interview with Sam Irvin, intern on The Fury, author of the film’s shooting diary and then correspondent for Cinefantastique magazine
- Original archive interviews from the 1978 promotional tour, featuring Brian De Palma, producer Frank Yablans and stars Carrie Snodgress and Amy Irving
- Double Negative: A short film tribute to Brian De Palma by Sam Irvin, starring William Finley
- Gallery of behind-the-scenes production images
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Dumas, author of Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma and the Political Invisible, as well as a re-print of a contemporary interview with Brian De Palma, and a brand new interview with screenwriter John Farris on the writing of the film, his and De Palma’s unrealised adaptation of Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man and more, illustrated with original stills and posters