The Fury (1978) Review: How Brian De Palma got it so Wrong!

How did Brian De Palma's The Fury fail so badly?

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The Fury - Movie Review

What is The Fury about?

CIA agent Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas), miraculously escapes death at the hands of evil secret agent Childress (John Cassevetes), and returns on a rogue mission to free his son, Robin (Andrew Stevens), a para-psychological freak of nature, who has been kidnapped and is being programmed in order for his powerful psychic abilities to be harnessed for military purposes. Gillian (Amy Irving), another freak of nature, only not yet as strong as Robin, is manipulated by Sandza to find where his son is housed. An all-mighty confrontation is on the psych-cards… But who will survive and what will be left of them?

The Fury (1978) – Official Trailer

The Fury Review

After the smashing success of Carrie (1976), an adaptation of Stephen King’s excellent first novel, director Brian De Palma decided he wasn’t yet finished with telekinesis, so intensified the telepathy, doubled the angst, thrust his Carrie co-star (Irving) into the leading light, and delivered one of the most diabolical movies of his career. Diabolically awful.

Much of The Fury’s awfulness is due to the screenplay, courtesy of author John Farris adapting his own book. The story might’ve played out better on the novel’s page, but Farris lacks the necessary skills as a screenwriter. We’re left with a bungled arrangement of scenes where the tension is jolted and jarred along like the stop-start rhythms of a toy train set.

Within minutes of the movie’s opening, it is painfully obvious De Palma has dropped the ball. Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes are acting like a couple of prize hams. One familiar with Cassavetes’ own career as an indie filmmaker may forgive him, as he did high profile, well-paying Hollywood roles in order to finance his own leftfield DIY ventures, but still, it’s an embarrassment. Douglas had already been sliding into the cheese, and The Fury only upped the stink factor.

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While Amy Irving was good as support in Carrie, she’s out of her depth in the lead, frozen like a deer in the headlights. The rest of the cast are pitiful at best, especially the dreadful Stevens (no wonder his career sunk without a trace), and toffee-nosed Fiona Lewis, her face etched into a perpetual pout, as Dr. Susan Charles. Charles Durning, as another doctor, struggles to rise above the mire.

Operating like a melodramatic spy thriller, laced with the supernatural, The Fury descends into full-blown horror in the last ten-to-fifteen minutes. It’s a truly visceral epilogue, but it’s so over-the-top that it provokes a guffaw, rather than awe. De Palma indulges in the extremity, repeating the moment from not one angle, not two, nor three or four different angles, not even five, six, seven or eight … but thirteen different angles!

The special effects are hokey; the whole look of the production is like a TV movie, with only a couple of distinguishable “De Palma” set-pieces. The acting is abysmal, the thriller intrigue is tedious, the drama is pedestrian, and the horror is risible. Worse still the whole movie is entirely devoid of any of the emotional resonance it demands, it fails spectacularly on all levels.

It’s amazing De Palma could so royally screw up after getting it so right with Carrie. Thankfully he made enough notes to self and a return to form – and while Dressed to Kill (1980) is considered a notorious cult fave, its undeniable that he followed that with the two of the best movies of his entire career, the modern classics Blow Out (1981) and Scarface (1983).

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