For our latest entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, let’s take a look at one of the silliest films ever made, Brian DePalma’s 1978 horror/thriller hybrid The Fury.
The Fury opens on a beach in Israel. CIA veteran Peter (Kirk Douglas, who grimaces up a storm) is hanging out with his teenage son Robin (Andrew Stevens) and his friend and colleague Ben Childress (John Cassavetes). Two things quickly become apparent.
First off, Robin has psychic powers. We know this because Peter is obsessed with protecting him from being captured by a shadowy government agency that wants to use his power as a weapon.
And secondly, Ben is evil. We know that Ben’s evil because he’s played by John Cassavetes. As one of the first truly independent filmmakers, Cassavetes would often raise the money to make his fiercely individualistic films by playing villains in bad B-movies, like this one.
Ben, in fact, is so evil that he’s arranged for terrorists to attack the beach. After Peter is apparently killed in a ludicrously violent gunfight, Ben takes off with Robin.
However, Peter is not dead! Somehow, despite the fact that both the beach and the ocean were pretty much blown up with him on it, Peter survived and now, he’s looking for his son. Peter makes his way to Chicago where he calls up his girlfriend, Hester (Carrie Snodgress), and says things like, “I want your body, baby.”
Hester, meanwhile, works at the Paragon Clinic, which is run by Dr. James McKeever (Charles Durning) who, himself, is secretly working for Ben. The Paragon Clinic is a front to try to discover other teenage psychics and to turn them into weapons as well. The newest patient is Gillian (Amy Irving), a teenage girl who might be able to help Peter track down his son.
Of course, what Peter doesn’t take into account is that, in his absence, Robin has turned into a power-mad sociopath who spends his time doing things like killing tourists at amusing parks…
Wow, that’s a lot of plot, isn’t it? And, with all of that, I haven’t even gotten into what happens during the second half of the film!
The Fury is an enjoyably silly film, an awkward attempt to combine DePalma’s previous film, Carrie, with a paranoia-fueled political thriller. There’s a certain charm to a film that takes itself so seriously and yet, at the same time, manages to be totally over-the-top and ludicrous.
For example, just consider the performances of the high-powered cast and the fact that none of the actors appear to be acting in the same film. Playing a character who is a bit of a hero by default (because, seriously, how stupid did he have to be to not realize that Ben was evil to begin with), Kirk Douglas grimaces so manfully that Peter’s stupidity almost starts to feel like a satiric comment on hyper-masculinity. John Cassavetes, on the other hand, is so disdainful of the film that he actually rolls his eyes while delivering some of his more melodramatic lines. Meanwhile, Carrie Snodgress is forced to say things like, “Here comes the Pony Express!” and Charles Durning brings the full weight of his talent to deliver lines like, “If you’re having your monthlies, I don’t want you near the patient.”
And finally, there’s Amy Irving. In DePalma’s Carrie, Irving played Sue Snell, the sole survivor of a psychic rampage. In The Fury, Irving gets to play the psychic and she gives such a dramatic and emotional performance that you almost get the idea that she was trying to challenge Sissy Spacek. “This is how you play a psychic, Sissy!” she seems to be shouting. Of course, the big difference is that Carrie was actually a good film whereas The Fury is a bad film that happens to be watchable.
Finally, no review of The Fury is complete without talking about Brian DePalma’s direction. To put it lightly, Brian DePalma directs the Hell out of The Fury and the effect is something like what an episode of Agents of SHIELD would look like if directed by Martin Scorsese. The entire film is a collection of tracking shots, zoom lenses, and sweeping overhead shots with the camera only stopping long enough to linger over scenes of violence and spilled blood. In perhaps the film’s most ludicrous scene, Amy Irving runs away from the clinic in slow motion while the orchestral score plays out on the soundtrack. We get close-ups of Irving’s face and close-ups of the faces of her pursuers. One character gets shot multiple times but we don’t hear the gunshots. Instead, we only hear the music and watch as the character overacts and dies in slow motion. It’s almost as if DePalma was trying to win a bet by achieving the most counter-productive use of slow motion in film history.
Ultimately, The Fury is so thoroughly silly and over-the-top that it simply has to be seen.
Other Entries In The 44 Days of Paranoia
- Executive Action
- Winter Kills
- Interview With The Assassin
- The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
- Beyond The Doors
- Three Days of the Condor
- They Saved Hitler’s Brain
- The Intruder
- Police, Adjective
- Burn After Reading
- Quiz Show
- Flying Blind
- God Told Me To
- Wag the Dog
- Scream and Scream Again
- Capricorn One
- Seven Days In May
- Broken City
- Pickup on South Street
- The Informer
- The Lives of Others
- The Departed
- A Face In The Crowd
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- The Purge
- The Stepford Wives
- A Dark Truth
- The Fugitive
- The Day of Jackal