Thursday, February 17, 2011

De Palma's Fury

According to the Internet Movie Database Brian De Palma (sometimes spelled "DePalma") has directed 37 movies and short films, going back to 1960. De Palma is a director whose work runs hot and cold for me. I love some of his work (Sisters, Carlito's Way, Wiseguys, parts of Scarface), hate some (Body Double, Carrie) or yawn my way through, like I did yesterday when I watched The Fury on DVD. I found myself fast forwarding way too often, because the story seems to drag in too many spots.

The screenplay was written by John Farris, based on his novel. The plot element of ESP in The Fury, and the ability to cause injury and death* via mind power is a very provocative theme, but hard to believe. Stephen King wrote Firestarter after The Fury, which repeated some of Farris' themes.

It's been 33 years since 1978 when The Fury was released, and the themes seem outdated. The occult, ESP, supernatural plots are still around, but seem old hat. The main thing I found interesting about The Fury is Kirk Douglas in a role as protective father, searching for his son, Robin, kidnapped by evil U.S. government black ops agents. Douglas is believable, even if the government as enemy is a cliché that has been played to death.

I also enjoyed John Cassavetes' performance. Some of the actors in The Fury are now deceased (Carrie Snodgress, Cassavetes), and some are now very old (Douglas and Charles Durning).

I won't go into the plot. Many reviews of the movie on IMdB complain of it being "boring," "long," "talky," and it is those things in spots. There is at least one WTF moment in the film, when one scene follows another and contradicts the preceding scene. Toward the end Kirk Douglas goes into a house where his son, Robin, played by Stevens, has been held in a sort of "honey trap," seduced by an older woman in order to keep him complacent. Robin catches on and kills the seductress, making a bloody mess of the room.

When Kirk Douglas, as his dad, enters the darkened room with a flashlight, Robin is shown levitating near the ceiling.

However, in the very next scene his dad is holding his arm lest he fall to his death off a roof. If he can levitate why did he fall to his death?

In the final scene Irving, as Gillian, uses her mind to blind and then blow up the evil Childress, played by Cassavetes.

Obviously they used a dummy, designed by Rick Baker. They blew it to pieces, but included 13 (and yes, I counted) clips of the dummy blowing up, shot from every conceivable angle. It was done, probably less for impact on the audience who wanted some good gore, but probably also because this was an expensive effect, and having many cameras cover it was a hedge against one camera failing while the one-time effect was filmed. It was, in the literal sense of the word, overkill. The goriest part is Childress's head blowing off his body, which, because I know you like this sort of thing, I've got on screen capture.

*This reminds me of the question on the psychology test: "If you could kill someone with the power of your mind and no one would know, would you do it?" According to what I read on this, most people answer "yes," which means more people would kill if they didn't fear punishment.

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