The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Fury

As I've brought up in several reviews before, I'm not a huge horror fan. Basically, I don't like being scared. Yeah, yeah, laugh at the scaredy cat! I usually need something to pull me into a horror movie, like an especially unique premise or as the case with 1978's The Fury, some cool casting you might not associate with the genre.

A former CIA agent, Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) is in the Middle East with his son, Robin (Andrew Stevens), getting ready to move back to the U.S. so Robin can go to college in the states. Well, that's the plan. Robin is kidnapped by a secret government agency with Pete's old friend and colleague, Ben Childress (John Cassavetes), leading the effort. What's behind the kidnapping? Robin seems to have some hidden powers and abilities; telekinetic powers that he doesn't have a full grasp of. Childress and the agency try to kill Peter, but he manages to escape. Now he's hiding out and trying to find out what happened to Robin and where he's been dragged off to. The key may be a high school student in Chicago, Gillian (Amy Irving), who has similar abilities to Robin and is slowly learning how to handle and manipulate them. If only all the pieces can fit together.

This isn't an out-and-out horror movie to be fair. From director Brian De Palma, 'Fury' is more of a supernatural horror flick. De Palma was coming off the mega-success of 1976's Carrie and takes the next natural step. It's not just about telekinetic creepy kids, but the government's involvement with said kids! Yeah! Reading about the story and the cast, I was psyched to give this one a shot, but in the end, I felt like the premise ends up being far better than the finished product. It's a long movie at 118 minutes and struggles with pacing and rhythm. At times, it's over the top to the point I thought it was kinda spoof-like. An uneven final product, lots of characters, some potential, but ultimately one quasi-horror flick that I won't be revisiting anytime soon.

The biggest pull 'Fury' had on me was the casting, a pairing of Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes. Douglas was in a lull in his career, the late 1970s and 1980s providing some real stinkers for the Hollywood legend. It's a cool part, if an underwritten one, as Douglas' Pete has all sorts of espionage experience that he tries to utilize to get back his son. At 62 years old here, Douglas isn't the prototypical action hero, but he more than holds his own in the chase scenes early in the movie. I grew up watching Cassavetes in The Dirty Dozen and little else so it's always cool seeing him pop up in a cast listing. He's calm, cool and impeccably sinister as Childress, head agent on this mission to acquire all sorts of telekinetic kids. Like so much else, I wish there was more backstory with Childress and this secret agency. What's the end game? What will these kids be used for? How much backing do they actually have or is this a bit of a roguish renegade? 

I thought then I was getting one movie from the plot synopsis and ended up getting another. 'Fury' isn't just a movie about old friends turned deadly rivals. It's two stories, the Douglas/Cassavetes story moving along with a separate angle of young Gillian exploring her own powers (however scary and violent they may be). Irving does a really good job as a teenager struggling to come to terms with it all, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Fiona Lewis, and Carol Eve Rossen playing assorted doctors, physicians and assistants associated with the Paragon Institute, an organization "working" with talented kids. This felt like it could (and should) have been its own movie but no such luck. We get the two different stories that will eventually cross paths in the third act, but the pacing is rough getting there and there were several points I considered completely bailing. Things get a little goofy and a tad bit stupid in the finale with an especially graphic final scene. Some shock value from the director of Carrie? Who would have thought of that?

Now, yes, not a horror fan, but I am a sucker for certain things. High on that list? Any movie filmed in Chicago or even remotely close to the city. 'Fury' films a lot in and around Chicago, including some familiar locations for any fans of 1980's The Blues Brothers. We see everything from Lincoln Park to North Avenue Beach, Water Tower Place to Lower Wacker Drive, even the Old Chicago Shopping Mall and Amusement Park. If the story is a little dull at times, the filming locations in the background certainly help inject some life into things.

A mixed bag, but one I can't really recommend. And that's considering Spartacus, Franco and Chicago play key parts in it!

The Fury (1978): **/****

1 comment:

  1. one time i watched this movie, late at night, and loved it. i felt it had everything. then, i rewatched it. thought it had too much. didn't like it so much. i prefer andrew steven's story to carrie part 2's story. btw i met andrew at an autograph show, and he said in his opinion the movie was kind of a mess. horse's mouth.