There’s a lot to like about Brian De Palma’s The Fury, his big-budget 1978 follow-up to horror classic Carrie (1976). For one thing, there’s the monumentally dramatic score from celebrated film composer John Williams, which swoops and creeps with a sense of epic malevolence. Add to the mix De Palma’s stunning operatic visual flair, Rick Baker’s special effects, and the remarkable cinematography of Richard H. Kline, and you’ve got yourself a potent slice of late 1970s mainstream cinema. It’s a shame it completely bombed on its initial release, mostly due to it not being Carrie.
The plot literally is the stuff of those pulpy paperbacks that fill the shelves of airport bookshops, adapted for the screen by John Farris from his original novel. (Farris was also responsible for other such sensational literary titles as The Corpse Next Door and The Axeman Cometh.) Kirk Douglas plays government agent Peter Sandza, whose telepathic son has been abducted by colleague Ben Childress (John Cassavetes), who plans to exploit the boy’s psychic abilities for warfare. Sandza’s desperate search for his son brings him into contact with a teenage girl named Gillian (Amy Irving), who also has immense telekinetic powers. Together they join forces in the hope of saving his son from the evil grip of Childress before it’s too late.
Aging Hollywood legends Douglas and Cassavetes don’t seem to have any delusions as to what kind of film they’re in, and give it everything they’ve got. Douglas is great as the tormented father, and Cassavetes is equally memorable as his incredibly intense and menacing adversary. Between all the running about and telekinetic hocus-pocus, it’s fantastic to see such movie heavyweights sharing the screen. Amy Irving is a very sympathetic heroine, who’s picked on by fellow classmates, confused by her special psychic abilities, and unaware of her full potential, but without Carrie’s religious baggage and domestic issues.
Essentially a supernatural horror tale, The Fury also succeeds as an action film and a mystery/suspense thriller, with De Palma never slacking on the pace and effortlessly balancing out the elements of each genre into a very entertaining cinematic hybrid. Of course, there are moments (mostly during the final act) that are complete nonsense in terms of narrative, but it’s extremely well-composed and directed nonsense, with lots of split diopter shots and wondrous over-cranking, culminating in an unforgettable final scene that could quite possibly be an incredibly humorous, horrific and gruesome homage to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point.
Although The Fury has never been perceived as one of De Palma’s more credible efforts, it’s definitely worthy of attention, and still stands up as a compelling, entertaining and enjoyable thrill ride.
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