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FURY, THE (director: Brian De Palma; screenwriter: from an original story by John Farris; cinematographer: Richard H. Kline; editor: Paul Hirsch; cast: Kirk Douglas (Peter Sandza), John Cassavetes (Childress), Carrie Snodgrass (Hester), Charles Durning (Dr. Jim McKeever), Amy Irving (Gillian Bellaver), Fiona Lewis (Dr. Susan Charles), Andrew Stevens (Robin Sandza), Carol Rossen (Dr. Ellen Lindstrom), Jane Lambert (Vivian Knuckells), Joyce Easton (Katharine Bellaver), William Finley (Raymond Dunwoodie), Dennis Franz (Bob, The Policeman), Michael O’Dwyer (Marty, The Policeman); Runtime: 118; 20th Century-Fox; 1978)
“Cassavetes is a great villain.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brian De Palma’s idea of a thriller is short-changed as far as plot and substance in favor of style. He has created a silly but entertaining film, where one shocking scene tops another in shocks and numerous Hollywood cheesy gimmicks are used instead of relying on John Farris’ tightly drawn suspense story. This is a follow-up to his commercially successful Carrie, and squarely puts the director into the business of making popcorn movies.

It is 1977 someplace along the Israel seacoast, where the widowed Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) is on the beach with his teenager son Robin (Andrew Stevens) and his workplace colleague, Childress (John Cassavetes). They have known each other for some twenty years, where they both work at a secret government agency for psychic research. Robin has just been told by his dad that he will be going to a special high school in Chicago for his psychic gifts, and he is alone with Childress after going for sodas. Suddenly a group of Arabs arrive by boat and an Arab machine-gunner on a tower starts shooting at Peter, but he escapes and grabs a dead Arab’s gun. He wounds Childress, realizing that he is the one who is behind the attack. Childress manages to kidnap Robin because he has a special gift for telekinetic communication, which he intends to use for secretive government activities.

The next thing we know we’re in Chicago and Peter is looking for his son, but is being tailed by Childress’s Federal agents. Peter has hired the psychic Raymond Dunwoodie to get him a more gifted psychic to track down Robin. Childress’ men are able to pinpoint the hotel Peter is staying at by tailing Dunwoodie. When located Peter jumps out of his hotel window in his underwear, bursts into someone’s apartment and steals their clothes and dyes his hair, and goes out into the Chicago streets. But his disguise wasn’t good enough, as he is spotted by the agents. So he carjacks a brand new Caddy with two of Chicago’s finest sitting in it and takes them for a daredevil ride, trying to avoid the pursuing agents. There’s some comedy to be had as the policeman who owns the car, only hopes his brand new car doesn’t get scratched and after riding over a bridge in the fog and other dangerous crossings at high speed the car doesn’t have a scratch on it. But at the last minute, Peter has to drive the car into the lake in order to fool his pursuers of his whereabouts.

The story also tells about another psychic, a teenager, Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving). She comes from a wealthy family and had trouble with the children in her prep school because of her genius in psychic powers; she talks her mother into enrolling her in a special school that does research in these matters, little realizing that the school is a recruitment place used by Childress.

Peter has been looking the last eleven months for Robin to no avail. But he accidently met someone who works in the research clinic, Hester (Snodgrass), and she believed him when she heard his story. She keeps him in contact with any developments in the clinic and when Gillian arrives and demonstrates that she is the real thing by making everyone she touches bleed profusely and also has disturbing visions, there is little doubt that she’s the real thing. Peter is told about her. But, unfortunately, there are spies in the clinic, like Dr. Ellen Lindstrom (Rossen), who tell Childress about her. The director of the clinic, Dr. Jim McKeever (Durning), is forced to let Childress take her, even though he doesn’t want to let her go. The girl has the same power as Robin and the two can even communicate with each other when at far distances through their ESP skills.

Meanwhile Robin is told his father is dead (I wonder- if he’s such a great psychic why doesn’t he realize that this isn’t so!). He has been taken to a secret estate where a team of psychics are training him. He has developed his psychic skills to a great degree but has also developed a serious personality disorder and is being constantly drugged and is under constant stress. The attractive Dr. Susan Charles (Fiona) is in charge of his training program and tries to keep the young man happy by providing him with her sexual favors, which he appreciates; but, he still distrusts her.

Any hope for this being a thought-provoking film soon goes down the drain and the movie turns into a slash-and-gore horror film, specializing in special effects such as rolling demonic flashing eyes and some shockingly bloody scenes. The two psychic prodigies have different reactions for discovering there is another one like them in the world. Robin is jealous, figuring she will replace him and he will no longer get such good treatment. She, on the other hand, wants to help him, after Hester tells her of what is going on. Peter plans to get her to escape from the clinic, and to show him where his son is. The escape works, but is costly. Hester suffers a gruesome death, as she is hit by a car driven by one of the agents who was just shot by Peter.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

The final scene is the bloodiest one of all, as Peter sees his antagonistic son Robin suspend himself in mid-air and there are a few dead bodies on the floor with blood splattered all over the walls. When Peter tries to rescue Robin from this house of horrors, they both fall to their death from the ledge. But if you hang around for the ending, then you will finally see Childress get what he deserves the next morning. Childress comes into Gillian’s bedroom and sweet talks her into believing that he will treat her as a father would, because he knows that he needs her powers with the demise of Robin. But Gillian rolls her supernatural eyes and blinds him and then explodes his head, which De Palma shoots again and again in slow motion.

Cassavetes is a great villain. But there’s really not much in this film that is plausible, except a chance to escape from the world for two hours or so into a world that is even more insane than the present one.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”