Peter Sandza is a secret government agent about to quit, with a son called Robin who has extraodinary psychic powers. His partner Ben Childress hatches a plot to kill Peter and kidnap Robin, aiming to harness his gifts, but Peter survives and embarks on a mission to find his son. Meanwhile elsewhere, a teenage girl, Gillian Bellaver, find she has similar powers and causes people to bleed whenever she is under stress. She goes to stay at a psi clinic, which is partly ran by Ben, and starts to have visions of Peter…….
It seems surprising that Brian De Palma was ready to launch into another movie about teenagers with psychic powers after the huge success of Carrie, and The Fury, while fairly successful at the time, seems to have almost been forgotten. This is a shame. It’s quite flawed and overall is not as fine a movie as Carrie, but it is highly entertaining and has sequences which equal and maybe even top that movie, at least conceptually. Unlike Stephen King’s focused, streamlined plot for Carrie, The Fury, scripted by John Farris from his own novel, is a much more complex affair, with lots of characters and sub plots, and to be frank De Palma seems to have a bit of trouble with it and finds himself exploding all over the place while allowing sections of the film to almost grind to a halt. In fact the movie originally had even more characters including a husband and wife who were assassins-it seems that Farris couldn’t bear to leave anything out from his book-but around half an hour of footage was removed before release. I actually can’t decide if the film needs lots of extra footage to make things clearer, or just needs a great deal of stuff removed! In terms of overall pacing and focus the film is quite sloppy.
Rather than as a unified whole, The Fury instead needs to be enjoyed in terms of set pieces, or even more than that, scene by scene, rather than as a whole. Sequence after sequence shows amazing audacity and invention by its director, it seems like De Palma was determined to do something different and interesting every now and again with whatever of scene he was filming, never mind if it doesn’t flow with the previous or next scene A nocturnal car chase is turned into a wonderful and almost abstract display of light and fog. An escape sequence is shot entirely in slow motion, and the result, despite containing some gunplay and a head crashing through a car window, is beautiful and slightly erotic. Gillian’s visions of Robin show her somehow projected into Robin’s world with 360% camera pans. Even simple dialogue scenes often have odd camerawork [and sometimes seem improvised], for instance the camera often doesn’t cut but just goes back and forth from one face to another. Stephen H.Kline films much of the movie in deep focus and like his director he seems to be relishing the chance to experiment and have fun.
Of course the highlights are when the two teenagers use their powers, with De Palma clearly relishing and making the most of the fact that Gillian can make people bleed. The amount of blood spilt must have seemed incredibly excessive for the time, especially the way each gory scene has more blood then the previous one, culminating in two unforgettable scenes. The first one remains extremely unpleasent, as Robin spins his mistress round and round in the air like she’s on some kind of torture machine and blood spatters everywhere. The second is more blackly comic, as a man literally explodes and De Palma allows us to see this lovely event five or six times from different angles. Also amusing in a somewhat sick way is a spectacular Ferris wheel death and there is actually quite a bit of humour elsewhere in the movie, especially in the first half, with a really random but funny scene when Peter breaks into an couple’s apartment to take some clothes and finds the mother of one of the residents on his side. There are so many bits and pieces to appreciate in this movie that I can fogive the unevenness and lack of focus in parts, and despite the screenplay’s flaws it’s admirable for its sheer balls. It seems to build on expectations for a typical Hollywood film and turns them on their head, with a supposed hero that often does the wrong thing, another prominent male character who goes mad, a possible ‘romantic couple’ who only properly meet when one is dying, people dying who you don’t expect etc. There’s a planned remake of The Fury [Boo! Hiss!] and I’d be surprised if all this made its way into it.
Kirk Douglas gives a really emotive performance as Peter [he has one especially great scene where he nearly breaks down telling Gillian about his son] and John Cassevetes is a fine slimy villain, but of the kind you love to hate, he’s so charismatic. I was no more convinced by Amy Irving here then I was in Carrie and she’s obviously very heavily made up here. The Fury is blessed with a tremendous score by John Williams [a shame this was the only film of his he scored], eerie, exciting and quite unlike what you’d expect to hear from this composer, but then De Palma always ensured his films had great soundtracks and that the music played a prominent part. One can easily be nitpicky about this movie and point out dozens of flaws, but that’s almost one of the reasons I like it so much. Despite the fantastical plotline and the show-offy technical prowess there’s a rawness to it and a fearlessness that characterises much of 70s filmmaking.