The Fury (1978)

FEBRUARY 14, 2010


My buddy Matt told me that Brian DePalma’s The Fury was superior to Scanners, and I agree. It’s not night and day better, but even though it’s longer the pace seems faster (at least at first, more on that later), the characters are more interesting, and DePalma didn’t blow his wad in the first 15 minutes, instead saving his money shot(s) for a glorious climax, paving the way for what may very well be the best ending in telekinetic movie history.

But like Scanners, it’s pretty light on actual horror elements. Most of it just plays out like a really weird spy thriller, as some shady guys try to kill Kirk Douglas, whose advanced skill at escaping/taking down his would-be killers is never really explained, nor is his seeming allergy to shirts, as he spends half of his scenes either shirtless or in one that’s more or less completely destroyed. DePalma is great at these sort of sequences (love the extended bit where Douglas, dressed as an old man, tries to escape from an apartment building with everyone watching for him), but none of Douglas’ stuff feels like a horror movie at all.

Amy Irving’s scenes do, however, albeit not as much as I would like. Maybe it’s just because many of her early scenes feel like a watered down Carrie remake (with that film’s Amy Irving to boot, albeit in the Spacek role), but these scenes simply aren’t as compelling as the Douglas ones. Not helping matters - her problems are pretty obvious, whereas in Douglas’ we aren’t entirely sure why these guys are after him or why they took his son, so they lack the intrigue as well. But her scenes take prominence (Douglas has the least amount of screentime I have ever seen given to the top-billed star in a major film), so it ultimately starts to drag a bit, especially when she goes to a school for psychics and goes through a bunch of “getting to know you” moments with the other people there. And I was excited to see DePalma regular William Finley early on, but he doesn’t appear again after the 30 minute mark, which is a shame as well - that guy can make anything scary (indeed, one of the best slow-build suspense moments in the film is the long tracking shot that ultimately reveals his character).

Speaking of that scene, it’s on a beach (look for James Belushi as one of the extras - he’s shirtless, so I’m starting to understand the film’s horror connection) in Chicago. But it follows a scene on a beach in the “Mid East”, which means we get a fade from one beach to another - has to be a first for a non surfing or Jaws-based movie.

Things pick back up after an hour or so though. Our tragic “villain” wipes out a few Middle Eastern amusement park enthusiasts, as they remind him of the guys he believes killed his father (Douglas), and there’s a great escape/shootout scene that results in the Douglas and Irving stories finally merging. And the ending, as I said before, is amazing - after the surprising death of one our leads, the other lead gets revenge on the real villain, which results in sort of an inverse Scanners moment - instead of the guy’s head blowing apart, his ENTIRE BODY explodes (which DePalma shows us from every conceivable angle) while his head remains more or less intact. And as the last piece of the guy’s body hits the floor, BAM! the movie goes to end credits. The bulk of the film may play more like an action/suspense film, but a gory explosion of that magnitude (as well as a “murder” that occurs about 10 minutes prior) has no place in anything BUT a horror film, and it’s certainly worth waiting for (the movie is just under 2 hrs long).

I mentioned Belushi before; the movie also boasts early (first?) appearances of Daryl Hannah and Laura Innes (from ER), so stuff like that is always fun. And as someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s (Michael’s era), it’s nice to see Kirk in the sort of role I would expect his son to play nowadays (well, nowadays maybe 10 years ago). My experience with him as an actor is primarily as “the old man”, so it was fun to watch him kick a little ass and show off his leading man charms. He also has one of the most mesmerizing donut chins I’ve ever seen, so there’s something.

As is the case with many 70s horror films, this one is based on a book. Based on the very short Wikipedia entry, the movie seems pretty faithful overall, except they make the bad guy’s name easier to say and made the ending more awesome (I guess she originally drowned him - zzzz). Can’t say I’m dying to read it, but if anyone has, does it explain Douglas’ character’s mad spy skills? Or why they were even in the Middle East to begin with? Or why he hates shirts (that is, if the shirt-hating was not a liberty that the filmmakers took with the source material)?

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. I simply adore your site, but I think you slipped in the end of your review and let us know who dies and who doesn't (you specified the gender of the person that inverse scanners the villain). No big deal since I doubt I will see the movie in the next couple of days (and probably forget who makes it through to the end), but some folks may be perturbed. You rock so I guess it doesn't matter anyway.

  2. Odd coincidence: the villain's body blows up, but his head flies up absolutely intact and undamaged, aside from the no-body issue... that's -exactly- what happens every time some terrorist in the Middle East blows himself up with a bomb vest. Head left undamaged. Weird.

  3. In regard to least amount of screen time given to a major actor in the "lead" role, how about Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, Brando in Superman, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee in Scream and Scream Again, or Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.

  4. I'm on a telekinesis kick and watched this last night. I had just watched Carrie and it was strange to see the glasses girl become the early bad girl antagonist in this film. It just doesn't have the tension of Carrie. Granted it's more of an action movie, so the shift in tone makes sense, but I wonder why someone who had such success making a teen telekinesis film would jump from one into another one just two years later... and then into a comedy and then into dressed to kill. Oh, nevermind, I see how he got to Scarface... he was guided by an overmind.

    1. Not the same girl actually. The "glasses girl," in Carrie is Edie McClurg (of Ferris Bueller's Day Off fame), and the "bad girl antagonist," in The Fury is Hilary Thompson. The do look very similar in those roles though.

  5. The ending of the movie where Robin and Peter die falling off the roof has me confused. If prior to the roof fall Robin shows the ability to float in the air, why did he fall off the roof and die?


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