Saturday, November 2, 2013


Brian De Palma, 1978
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Amy Irving, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress

Known for thrillers and crime films like Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), Scarface (1983), and The Untouchables (1987), director Brian De Palma also made two powerful films about teenagers with supernatural abilities and a whole lot of angst. The first, Carrie (1976), is considered an American horror classic, while The Fury (1978) is often forgotten in its wake. For its 35th anniversary, Arrow Films have released a restored Blu-ray to celebrate The Fury in all its violent, telekinetic splendor. 

Peter (Kirk Douglas), a government agent, and his teenage son Robin (Andrew Stevens) are on vacation when they are attacked by terrorists. Peter is believed dead and his friend Ben Childress (John Cassavetes), another agent, has kidnapped Robin and apparently orchestrated the whole event. Robin has telepathic powers and Childress plans to train him as a weapon. Peter, now on the run from other agents, is determined to get Robin back whatever the cost.

Meanwhile, another gifted teen, Gillian (Amy Irving), has begun to cause incidents at her school and decides to check into the Paragon Clinic. They have promised to help and train her and though she is happy for a time, they can’t contain her incidents. It turns out that Paragon has connections with Childress and his mysterious government agency and they are very interested in Gillian. A woman working there (Carrie Snodgress) is secretly helping Peter. Who can Gillian trust?

The Fury is a fast paced, energetic affair with a number of very stylish and suspenseful set pieces. Though it doesn’t have the same slow burn as Carrie, The Fury offers up a different set of pleasures. It seems strange that De Palma would make two films back to back about teens with psychic powers, but the two films are very different beasts. Carrie is most definitely a horror film that focuses on the terrors of high school, puberty, the emergence and repression of sexuality. The Fury does have some horror elements, but mostly feels like a crime thriller with moments of action, dark comedy, conspiracy, and paranoia. Stephen King’s novel Firestarter (1980) and the subsequent film adaptation from 1984 certainly borrow a few things from The Fury, as does David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981), which moves a similar plot away from adolescence and to the adult world.

The film almost feels like a teenage fantasy with the inclusion of some weird action scenes: Robin and his father on a speedboat, car chases and crashes, a machine gun battle, and an unpleasant scene at a carnival during a lover’s quarrel between Robin and the Paragon agent that is manipulating him. The script by John Farris, based on his own novel, is certainly flawed and meanders its way between action and chase sequences for nearly two hours. There are also strange moments of comedy early on with Kirk Douglas, particularly when he sticks up the apartment of a middle aged couple and their aging, but obliging and conspiratorial mother. 

The characters aren’t quite as interesting or developed as in Carrie, but Amy Irving (Carrie) is the centerpiece of the film as Gillian, providing warmth, innocence, and despair. Kirk Douglas at first feels out of place, but as soon as the script abandons Peter’s comic elements, he becomes more compelling. The smarmy John Cassavetes (Rosemary’s Baby) would benefit from a little more screen time, but is otherwise excellent as an ambiguous, not necessarily evil government agent. Carrie Snodgress (Pale Ride) is likable as Peter’s girlfriend Hester and Andrew Stevens (The Boys in Company C) is perfect in his brief moments as the troubled Robin. 

Despite its flaws, The Fury is a fascinating and unpredictable film, darker and more difficult than Carrie with a flashy, unexpected conclusion designed to shock and disorient. There are plenty of cartoonish and over the top moments, but they seem to work for the film, namely the outrageous ending where De Palma shows us a person exploding over and over again from a variety of angles. There is something comic book-like about The Fury and I can’t help but think of some of the darker X-Men story lines where characters struggle to live with their superhuman powers.

Arrow’s release boasts a new digital transfer taken from the original negative and restored by Arrow, Carlotta Films, and Shock Entertainment with the supervision of James White, who also worked on Arrow’s release of Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979). With a MPEG-4 AVC 1080p print and an aspect ratio of 1.83:1, The Fury looks better than it ever has. Though there is constant natural grain present, detail, definition, and color are all clear and sharp. There is plenty of soft focus used throughout the film, but there are no obvious damage issues and the print lacks any scratches, fuzziness, or debris. 

There are two English audio tracks included with this release: a 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track and an uncompressed mono 2.0 PCM track. Overall both audio tracks sound good. Dialogue is clear and there are no age damage or distortion issues. Arrow have also included John William’s (Jaws) excellent score as an isolated track. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, this is certainly one of the best scores for any of De Palma’s films. Optional English subtitles are also included. 

There are a lot of great extras included with this release, making this a must-have for De Palma fans. First up is Blood on the Lens, an interview with Richard H. Kline, The Fury’s cinematographer. Spinning Tales is an interview with actress Fiona Lewis, who plays Robin’s doctor and love interest. The Fury: A Location Journal takes a look at the film’s production and features an interview with Sam Irvin, former Cinefantastique writer and intern on The Fury. Also included is Double Negative, Irvin’s short film tribute to De Palma. There are yet more interviews in the form of archival footage from 1978 with De Palma, actresses Carrie Snodgress and Amy Irving, and producer Frank Yablans. Finally, there is a gallery of images, new artwork from Jay Shaw for the Blu-ray sleeve, and a booklet full of essays, interviews, stills, and posters.

The Fury comes highly recommended, thanks to the great video and audio restorations, as well as a wealth of special features. Keep in mind that this is a region B release, so U.S. fans will need a multi-region player to watch it. It was released as the first film in Arrow’s upcoming De Palma films trilogy including cult classics Sisters (1973) and Phantom of the Paradise (1974), which will be soon to follow. Arrow is building quite a wonderful De Palma collection on Blu-ray, as they also previously released Obsession (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980), and Blow Out (1981). Keep up the great work! 

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