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Brian De Palma's The Fury at 40

Contributed by
Mar 10, 2018

In the land of mega blockbusters of the late '70s like Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Alien, a few notable films remain cult favorites that struggled to make their mark amid the major studio tentpoles.

Brian De Palma's criminally underrated paranormal classic, The Fury, is one such title that deserves to be elevated to a more prominent position and it's ripe for a remake on the big or small screen. Settle into an Alpha state and let's explore why.

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Today marks the 40th anniversary of The Fury and geeks of a particular generation can most likely recall some of the film's more unsettling scenes. These psi-struck sequences all lead to an instinctive avoidance of the Paratrooper ride at carnivals, a deep paranoia of electric train sets, and equipping oneself with a plastic slicker when in close proximity to an exploding villain.

Starring the legendary Kirk Douglas in one of his handful of sci-fi or horror films, Andrew Stevens, Amy Irving, and John Cassavetes, the story centers around a father whose telekinetic son is kidnapped by a sinister government organization bent on exploiting the youth's intimidating mental powers and a girl of like-minded abilities he's inexplicably linked to. It's Fox's Legion meets Carrie (another De Palma-directed classic) and Firestarter with a gritty '70s-era plotline.

Dropped into theaters in the no-man's land of early spring on March 10, 1978, The Fury is a dignified supernatural feature filled with startling ESP attacks, a charismatic cast, a riveting pace, and an immensely satisfying, explosive climax. (stop snickering). This 20th Century Fox movie was De Palma's follow-up to the hugely successful adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie from 1976 and sailed in similar superpowered waters, this time using a pair of teen hyper-psychics.

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The Fury was budgeted at $5.5 million and based on the 1976 novel of the same name by John Farris, who also was credited with adapting the intense screenplay. This film also benefits from an excellent Hitchcockian soundtrack by the acclaimed John Williams, who composed the sweeping, operatic score considered to be one of his finest efforts. Audiences were considerably less enthused than for Carrie, but the horror thriller still managed to collect over $24 million after its theatrical run completed.

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Most psychics-gone-wild offerings of today tend to stray toward comic book films and fantasy spin-offs so it's refreshing to remember when Hollywood ventured outside those predictable realms.

On the occasion of its 40th birthday, here are four reasons why Brian De Palma's The Fury demands a repeat viewing.

SPOILERY TERRITORY AHEAD!

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The Macho Coolness of Kirk Douglas

There'll never be another Kirk Douglas and any cinephile will rank him in the upper echelons of all-time leading men in Hollywood. From Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory to Vincente Minnelli's Lust For Life, Douglas poured every ounce of his considerable talent into any role he occupied. This was only one of a few genre flicks he appeared in, along with 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, The Final Countdown, and Saturn 3. Douglas digs into the role of Peter Sandza and gives the film a pronounced gravity playing the ex-CIA operative and renegade father to telekinetic son Robin, who was portrayed by Andrew Stevens.

On December 9th, stop whatever you're doing for a moment and raise a respectful toast, real or imaginary, to this immortal icon as he turns 102 years old!

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Keep Andrew Stevens Away From Carnival Rides

Believing his father to be dead at the hands of Middle Eastern terrorists, Robin wanders amid the crowds of an indoor amusement park. Lightbulbs burst in his brooding wake and when he spies a pair of robed Arabs aboard the Paratrooper, he focuses his psychic energy on the carnival ride's motor and mechanisms causing it to spin out of control.  As bolts and safety arms fail, the pod carrying the Arabs is flung into the rafters and crashes through a restaurant window where another group of Arabs is having lunch. The throbbing vein in Robin's forehead signals the frightening destruction he's capable of. He should have used those brainwave darts to defeat the ring toss game and win a giant stuffed purple elephant!

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Amy Irving's Freaky Illuminating Eyes

The former Mrs. Steven Spielberg (they were married from 1985-1989) debuted in De Palma's Carrie in 1976 and this was her second feature film appearance. Spielberg met her while George Lucas was casting for Star Warsin 1976 and Irving auditioned for the part of Princess Leia. Irving delivers an inspired performance as Gillian, the gifted youth and injects true terror and sadness into the role, causing bloody noses galore and an innocent Lionel train to go hurtling off its tracks. But she saves the best outburst for last as Robin's psychic talent is absorbed into her brain as he dies, allowing Gillian to target her enemy by unleashing a furious blast of vengeance.

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Cassavetes Imitating A Human Stick Of Dynamite

Still don't believe that the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force? Brain power trumps an armored space station every time! Slip on your raingear and check out John Cassavetes' nefarious PSI director, Ben Childress, as his body bursts like a bloody pinata courtesy of Gillian's amplified telekinetic powers. De Palma tops David Cronenberg's exploding head in 1981's Scanners with this sensationally sloppy finale that used nine high speed cameras to film. Cassavetes' body was replaced with a dummy likeness packed with explosives during a flash cut to white and then detonated in a shocking symphony of slaughter.

Are you a fan of De Palma's The Fury and what was your favorite scene?

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