Blu-ray Review: Fury | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, January 19th, 2022  

Fury

Studio: Warner Archive

Jan 06, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The first film that Fritz Lang made in Hollywood after fleeing the rise of Nazi Germany, Fury plays very much like an American retread of M, his 1931 masterpiece about a child predator who becomes the victim of mob justice. A savage indictment of society’s collective blood thirst and the rotted power structures that allow it to persist, M is not only a sobering piece of social commentary, but also the template for every serial killer procedural of the following nine decades.

Fury Americanizes the general plot of M in several key ways; the target of the mob in this film is actually an innocent man and there is less of a distinction drawn between the mob and the system itself. The film also takes on an element of class consciousness that was somewhat unavoidable with the country still in the grips of the Great Depression. Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sydney play Joe Wilson and Katherine Grant, a young couple who are deeply in love and long to get married but are struggling financially. Katherine is forced to move west to take a job while Joe stays behind to open a gas station with his brothers. Once they’ve saved enough money, Joe heads west to meet Katherine. The early scenes of Tracy and Sydney together display an affectionate, sexy chemistry between the two performers, a crucial element of the film given that they spend much of the second and third act apart.

Joe stops in a small town on his way to meet Katherine where circumstantial evidence leads to him being detained on suspicion of a child kidnapping - shades again of M - that has had the town on edge. Although the sheriff wants Joe to see a fair trial, rumors and hysteria whip the townspeople into a frenzy and they lay siege to the jail, burning it down with Joe still trapped inside. Unbeknownst to anyone - including Katherine - Joe escapes the jail and hires a lawyer to prosecute the townspeople for his murder.

At turns a romance, a social thriller and a courtroom drama, Fury packs a lot of twists and turns into a tight 90 minutes. But where the film really shines is via Lang’s aesthetic and thematic sensibilities. One of the masters of the silent era, Lang’s mastery of wordless images is still just as potent in his sound films, particularly when it comes to expressive close-ups. There are two in the film - a look of horror when Sydney’s character arrives just in time to see the jail burning, and another during a vindictive speech Tracy gives late in the film - that reinforce the simple power of human expression. There’s also the numerous bits of dialogue and visual gags that reinforce Lang’s political points better than any dramatic monologue ever could. The montage juxtaposing the gossiping townsfolk with squawking chicken. The worst instigator of the mob being a strikebreaker. The shot of a Black man peeking into a bar window and then diving out of the way as the mob exits to burn down the jail. And that’s to say nothing of the governor being concerned with “government overreach” if he were to send troops in to disperse the mob.

It’s no surprise that Lang knew how to make a crowd of people marching down a street seem sinister. In Fury, the people aren’t uniformed, jackbooted Gestapo, but ordinary citizen linking arms, skipping and sharing drinks. Late in the film, Joe laments the loss of the pride he once had that “my country was different from all others”. Foreigners are often best suited to puncturing the lie of American exceptionalism.




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