Saturday, April 20, 2013

Blu-ray Review: THE FURY (1978)

THE FURY (1978) 
The Limited Edition Series 

Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 118 Minutes
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English Subtitles
Cast: Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Amy Irving, Andrew Stevens, Charles Durning, Dennis Franz, 
Director: Brian DePalma

Following the success of 1973's supernatural prom-scare Carrie Brian DePalma continued his exploration of the supernatural with this spy-thriller mash-up, definitely a weird ride that begins with Robin Sandza (Andrew Stevens, The Terror Within) having a conversation about the direction of his life on a Middle Eastern resort beach with his CIA agent father Peter (Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory) when terrorist storm the beach in a hail of gunfire, the target is Peter, Douglass even at 62 years of age was looking fit as a fiddle and rocking a pair of white shorty shorts while taking out terrorists and arming himself with an AK-47. It's a thrilling start to the film, action-packed and loaded with DePalma's signature moving camera.

During the attack Peter's son is protected from harm by Sandza's CIA friend Childress (John Cassavetes, Rosemary's Baby) who it turns out set-up the attack in order to take-out Peter and obtain Robin for a CIA-funded telekinetic murder squad, that bastard. Robin, believing his father dead, turns cold and disillusioned by the tragic event. The Agency with the help of seductive mentor, Dr. Susan Charles (Fiona Lewis), dope-up and brain-wash the psychic assassin, the process further unhinges Robin who becomes a powerful and soulless weapon. 


Meanwhile, Peter who actually survived the staged attack is now searching for his son while evading clandestine CIA agents, this plot thread leads to some weird, humorous scenarios with Peter dropping in through a window and holding a family a gunpoint while he disguises himself with shoe polish and a fresh set of clothes. When the CIA track his whereabouts he escapes the apartment in an age defying Bourne Identity-esque series of gymnastic feats. Fresh from this agile escape Peter hijacks two on-duty police officers, one of whom is played by DePalma regular Dennis Franz (Blow Out) as Peter leads them on a wild ride through a fog-laden construction site while escaping a CIA tail. 


Eventually Sandza tracks his son down to the Paragon Institute with the help of his girlfriend Hester (Carrie Snodgrass, Pale Rider) and a young psychic recruit Gillian (Amy Irving, Carrie). The psychic warfare prep-college is being run by Dr. Mckeever (Charles Durning, Dark Night of the Scarecrow) who always delivers a great villain when onscreen, good stuff. However, when Peter attempts to spring his psychotic son from the institute the results are expectantly tragic and psycho-kinetically explosive. 


The film is a bit of a clunky mash-up, the  spy-thriller and supernatural elements don't exactly mesh quite perfectly, when the two meet head-on during the finale it's fun stuff if a bit odd. The Fury is an interesting watch with some great moments, during the finale when Robin's eyes are burning irradesent blue and the psychokinetic mayhem is full-tilt it's fun stuff. Douglas is quite entertaining as the betrayed agent in pursuit of his son, and Cassavetes is an calculating and intense villain, he's one of those presences you just can't take your eyes off. As ever Amy Irving is delightful as the naive and sympathetic Gillian, a young woman recruited by the Paragon Institute, really pulls you in, which is great because Andrew Stevens doesn't exactly ever make yo feel anything for his character, turning in the most non-effectual performance of the film.  At nearly two hours the film struggles a bit to keep a decent pace despite DePalma's enjoyable visuals, the interesting bits just don't add up to form a cohesive story. 


I think the film's biggest flaw is the script, it's incoherent at times, but DePalma's tense directing style and some strong performances keeps the weirdness flowing along without much scratching, it keeps you off balance just enough to go with it, thinking about it too much would be detrimental to your viewing experience, trust me. 


There's some nice effects and gore peppered throughout, including a great Scanners-esque finale, the film shares quite a bit with Cronenberg's classic, but falls a bit short on it's promise. We get the usual array of DePalma cinema magic, a great scene of Gillian escaping from the Paragon Institute plays out in beautiful slow-motion, nearly silent, the escape is successful but not without collateral damage, a victim's life ends on the shattered windshield of an out-of-control car, it's pure DePalma awesomeness. While it's not a perfect film this is supernatural spy-thriller has some nice horror elements and is worth a watch even if it struggles to maintain coherency from time to time. 


Blu-ray: Brian DePalma's The Fury (1978) comes to Blu-ray for the first time from Twilight Time with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer presented in widescreen (1.85:1). Having just recently thrown on the Fox DVD for a view when this Blu-ray was announced I am pleased to say it's an improvement. Colors are nicely saturated plus fine detail and sharpness are improved. One thing you will definitely notice an abundance of film grain throughout, not just a fine silted layer either, this is robust stuff. The black levels suffer a bit, definitely handling them better than the DVD but they're pretty murky and infused with grain and contrast issues. The source print is not exactly pristine either, there are minor instances of print damage with scratches, white specks, there doesn't appear to have been much of any restoration afforded the film to my eyes past a clean-up. Not to say the presentation is not generally pleasing to the eyes, the 1080p upgrade shows increased fine detail and sharpness,  while it's not on par with Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) on Blu-ray if you're a fan of the film, if you love DePalma, I can safely tell you this is worth the upgrade provided you are willing to shell out $35 for the Twilight Time edition. . 


Audio options include both the English 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English Subtitles. The 4.0 wins the contest quite easily with a pleasing dynamic range, dialogue and effects are nicely balanced. John Williams brassy Bernard Herman-esque score sounds nice and full, a definite upgrade from the DVD even if the surrounds don't get much of a workout.



Twilight Time have been releasing some recent Blu-rays stuffed with extras, check out Our Man Flint (1965), In Like Flint (1967), Christine (1983) and Major Dundee (1965), all of which are are dripping with great extras. Unfortunately, we don't get much in the way of extras with The Fury, what we do get is the signature Isolated Score Track, John Williams score is pretty fantastic, Williams is strongly channeling Bernard Herman and it's a joy to listen to. Also included is the Original Theatrical Trailer and an 8 pg. Collector's Booklet with Julie Kirgo's extensive liner notes which frame the film in a post-Carrie (1976) world with DePalma further exploring the occult and supernatural. While features are a bit anemic they are certainly appreciated, would have loved a commentary, interviews with the cast or crew, but the original Fox DVD had none and keeping with Twilight Time's business model they have not sourced new features, but we do get the nifty Julie Kirgo liner notes and a great isolated score.  

Special Features: 
- John Williams Isolated Score Track 
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Collector's Booklet with Extensive Julie Kirgo Liner Notes

Verdict: Not a top-tier DePalma film by any means but an interesting supernatural actioner mash-up, it's fun to see DePalma further explore the occult following Carrie (1976), it's just not as successful a film. As usual Twilight Time's Blu-ray is limited edition of only 3,000 and available exclusively from www.screenarchives.com, so get it while you can. 3 Outta 5 

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