The Fury (1978) Short Review
This was WAAAAYYYY over the top. You have to expect that from a Brian De Palma film. Over the years his consistency in quality is akin to something like a drunken blind man trying to hit a dart board with a bowling ball. If you’re witness to it, it may be a good idea to take cover. With the exception of The Untouchables and the Stephen King horror classic Carrie, De Palma has offered up a healthy helping of mediocrity. HOWEVAH… When he goes down he doesn’t go down in flames as much as he assaults the viewer with a full on thermonuclear first strike. The Fury isn’t in the class of those two I mentioned, but it does rise above De Palma’s typical offerings, possibly in no small part to the grand ridiculousness of it all.
That he would direct this film, having directed the aforementioned Carrie, a film about a girl with psychic powers, with Amy Irving in a lead role (having been a supporting actress) as a girl with psychic powers, takes big ones as a director.Or maybe he found his reoccurring directorial theme that some directors lock onto. Whatever the reason, he was in familiar territory. It’s interesting to me that a number of films that came after this had a number of elements that seem lifted from here. Stephen King had a number of books/films that included plotlines that were extremely similar. This actually preceded the Dead ZOne by a year. David Cronenberg’s films, too (Scanners in particular). I’ve even seen films like Stir of Echoes that mimiced scenes fom The Fury… I have to wonder if I had seen this way back and seen these other films afterwards instead of before, would I have been calling them ripoffs?
The Fury’s story probably needed a good re-write. There’s a lot of redundancy. It wanders. Not aimlessly, but it wanders. It’s still entertaining. It begins with what looks to be a terrorist attack on a Mid East beach. Kirk Douglas is frolicking on the beach with his son. Yes, frolicking. It’s that over the top. I was uncomfortable. Anyway, right before the terrorist attack, it’s revealed that Kirk’s son has a ‘special’ talent and that Kirk is leaving an unnamed government agency. A colleague (John Cassavetes is congratulating him when the terrorists attack. There’s some extended gun violence where the son thinks he’s witnessed his father being killed in a boat explosion. He isn’t. While the son is whisked away by the men that work for Kirk’s former colleage, Kirk swims ashore. He immediately discovers that it wasn’t a random attack, but a hit on Douglas in order to separate him from his son. Cassavetes is behind it. That sets up Kirk being on the run for the rest of the film.
On a side note, there was a supreme effort made in this to show that Douglas still ‘had it’ to a nigh-embarrassing degree. He wrestles the son on the beach. He shows off his clean shaven man-boobs. He spends an inordinate amount of time in his skivvies. He jumps from buildings. Scales walls. Intimidates men half his age. Displays the sex drive of a recently deflowered virgin. He fights off German Shepards. He carries the girl (And slaps her around a little). We get it Kirk of 1978, we get it.
The film’s just getting started, though. The film cuts to Chicago where now Amy Irving is in a bikini at the beach. Much better.We find out she’s got the gift of being psychic… or telekinetic… or psychometric… or all of the above. She doesn’t fit in because of this (much like Carrie) and ends up being sent to a special institute where the bad guys await. The story zips back and forth between Douglas searching for his son while eluding ‘the man’ and Irving having unintentionally bloody psychic episodes. There is also Douglas’ former ladylove that gives him an inside view of the institute where Irving is kept. Lucky coincidence.
It was surprising that the ending was not as over the top as perhaps it could have been. Don’t get me wrong, the movie goes out with a bang reminiscent of Scanners (or that one being reminiscent of The Fury). It actually goes one step further. But the buildup, even with the scrambled storyline, was a little better than the slightly nonsensical double ending.
This isn’t as well crafted as the nightmarish Carrie, but it isn’t intended as straight horror. This has a lot more in common with Firestarter (another one that seems influenced by this). it’s a little super-heroish rather than intended to scare. It doesn’t skimp on the blood, though. De Palma throws in a lot of Scarface like shoot ’em up scenes as well as a lot of 70s style humor. With all the different elements in the film, I wouldn’t have thought that this would work, but it did. Douglas and Irving are probably a big reason why.