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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 2:43 AM CDT
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Yesterday, Den Of Geek's Ryan Lambie posted an article about why Brian De Palma's The Fury "deserves a revisit"...
Sissy Spacek’s blood-soaked rampage at the end of Carrie is so effective because it takes on the tone of a blackly comic fireworks display. Like the build up to a great, very grim joke, De Palma makes us anticipate Carrie White’s prom humiliation for several stomach-churning minutes: Amy Irving’s fellow pupil at the prom, spotting the rope that leads to the bucket of pig’s blood at the school prom. Nancy Allen licking her lips in expectation as she prepares to send the bucket of blood pouring all over poor Carrie’s head. The girl’s response, of course, is one of pure rage, and De Palma captures every moment of it in slow-motion, split-screen and intense red filters. It’s horrific, for sure, but there’s also a suggestion of slapstick in the electrocutions and fiery deaths. It's the friction between horror and black comedy, I'd suggest, that makes De Palma's work in Carrie and his other great films so effective - just as it did in Hitchcock's thrillers (the 2013 remake, by contrast, makes Carrie’s prom melt-down into a more straightforward horror sequence).

The same fascination with the aesthetic power of comically outré violence is there in abundance in The Fury. A car chase in thick fog ends with a car flying off a jetty on fire. Robin uses his psychic powers to send a fairground ride spinning out of control, with distinctly messy results (for unexplained reasons, the ride is populated almost entirely by what appear to be princes from somewhere in the Middle East).

It’s in these scenes that De Palma’s baroque camera movements, which are largely low-key and understated during the scenes of exposition, suddenly come to the fore. A scene where Gillian demonstrates her supernatural powers on a train set could have been shot with a conventional series of cuts. Instead, De Palma uses a clever split-screen effect, which shows the train whistling by the camera in the lower half of the shot and Gillian’s staring, ice-blue eyes at the top. It’s an instance of De Palma producing a visual set-piece out of almost nowhere.

He pulls a similar feat near the film’s midpoint, where Gillian learns that the Paragon Institute she volunteered to join, and where Robin was also sent for a time, isn’t quite as idyllic as it first appears. While chatting to the seemingly benign Dr Cheever (Charles Durning), Gillian accidentally slips and grabs his hand to steady herself. As in Stephen King’s later The Dead Zone (adapted by David Cronenberg to memorable effect), this physical connection creates a psychic image of the future in Gillian’s mind. She sees Robin running from Dr. Cheever and falling from a window.

Again, De Palma uses a visual effect to put two pieces of action in one image: Amy Irving’s shot in front of a blue screen with the action projected behind her, thus allowing both foreground and background action to appear in focus. It’s only a brief moment, but it’s also a critical moment in the story, and De Palma’s filmmaking cleverly highlights it and underlines it twice.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 12:09 AM CDT
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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Film Stage's Jordan Raup celebrates the release of A Bigger Splash this past weekend by highlighting director Luca Guadagnino's top ten films, which he submitted to the Sight & Sound 2012 poll of the greatest films of all time. Listing his films alphabetically, Guadagnino included Brian De Palma's The Fury on his ballot, along with Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Fritz Lang's Blue Gardenia, Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma, and Ingmar Bergman's Fanny And Alexander, among five others.

Posted by Geoff at 11:52 PM CDT
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Friday, February 5, 2016
Brian De Palma's The Fury is now available to watch on Netflix Streaming, as well as on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and YouTube. Fangoria's Ken W. Hanley writes about the film in a column called "Crossing Over," which looks at films and series that are not considered part of the horror genre, yet have undeniable elements of horror, all the same. "To be honest," writes Hanley, "this writer heavily debated featuring this film for this particular column because on many levels, The Fury is a horror film. With make-up FX from Rick Baker, a post-Carrie Brian De Palma and an tension-ramping score from John Williams, The Fury has some truly shocking moments of bloody insanity throughout. And yet with all the aspects of action, mystery and political thriller strewn throughout, the horror of The Fury often becomes a footnote in the film’s legacy, which is a damn shame."

Read the full column at Fangoria.

Posted by Geoff at 12:42 AM CST
Updated: Friday, February 5, 2016 12:43 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Brian De Palma's The Fury is the midnight film this Saturday, November 21st at Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema. The film will screen from what we presume is Tarantino's own personal 35mm print of this De Palma classic.

Posted by Geoff at 1:48 AM CST
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Monday, December 1, 2014

Frank Yablans, who produced Brian De Palma's The Fury, passed away of natural causes Thursday at the age of 79, according to the Los Angeles Times and BBC News. In a 1978 promotional interview with Carolyn Jackson, Yablans was asked about his cameo in The Fury, saying it was "something Brian asked me to do." He added, "I've been trying to cut it out of the film ever since, but he won't let go of it." In the same interview, Yablans talked briefly about two scenes he directed in The Fury: one involving a telephone call with Kirk Douglas, and "the Arab sequence in Old Chicago." Yablans characterized all of these as "token contributions," stressing to Jackson that the producer role was his major impact.

In that same interview, Yablans told Jackson that he and De Palma would next be "doing a little film called Home Movies, with college students in New York." He said that after that, the two would be working on The Demolished Man. De Palma would indeed make Home Movies as his next film, but Yablans did not end up producing it. And unfortunately, the pair were never able to mount The Demolished Man, as The Fury, which is well-loved now, was not the hit they'd been hoping it would be.

Prior to taking it to 20th Century Fox, Yablans had begun The Demolished Man with De Palma at Paramount, where Yablans had been president from 1971 to 1975, presiding over the studio as it released the first two Godfather movies, The Conversation, Chinatown, The Parallax View, Harold And Maude, Serpico, Paper Moon, and The Day Of The Locust, among many others.

Posted by Geoff at 4:51 AM CST
Updated: Monday, December 1, 2014 4:53 AM CST
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Saturday, July 12, 2014
The painting pictured here, by Janet Hill, is titled At The Ursula Academy For The Supernaturally Gifted, Fawn Fielding Enjoyed Medieval Poetry, Spoke Fluent Italian, And Possessed Above Average Telekinetic Abilities. In a post on her blog, Hill recalls the inspiration for the painting, which her husband told her is The Fury. "This [painting] is actually born out of a scary experience for me when I was young," Hill explains in her post. "I have this memory of turning on the television in the middle of the afternoon- likely on a Saturday. I seem to recall that I was enjoying a grape freezie and wearing my pink jelly shoes, but that could be my imagination just playing games on me. I likely did some channel surfing with one of those clunky looking channel changers circa 1985 until I came across this weird movie. There was a girl with big curly hair moving things with her mind. WITH HER MIND!! This terrified me but I didn’t understand why. I think I was familiar with the idea of telekinesis having spent many a bored afternoon focused on my Barbie trying to get it to move WITH MY MIND, but it must have been the way it was presented in the film. I mentioned this to John as I was painting this painting and he immediately recognized it as The Fury which was directed by Brian De Palma. It all made sense. No one can creep me out as much as Brian De Palma, thank you very much. John also mentioned that we own the movie so guess what I’m going to do tonight. Perhaps I’ll watch it while enjoying a cool and refreshing grape freezie too."

Posted by Geoff at 7:39 PM CDT
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014
If you haven't been able to watch Arrow Video's Blu-Ray release of Brian De Palma's The Fury from last year, you can at least view a short clip from a special feature produced by Fiction Factory, in which cinematographer Richard H. Kline discusses working on the film. "The Fury, to me," Kline says in the video clip, "looking back now 35 years, whatever it was, in re-running it to prepare for this interview, I’m going to put it at probably one of the best pictures I’ve ever made, technically—you’re never aware of the technique. With the reality, the freshness of it. Seeing it again, it reminded me of how good it is. It really… De Palma did a terrific job of directing it, without a doubt."

There is a nice long interview article with Kline, covering his entire career, in the current issue (Vol. 10, Issue 28) of Cinema Retro. Alas, the writer of the piece glides right on by The Fury-- must have been conducted prior to the Arrow video and Kline's refreshed opinion of the film.

Posted by Geoff at 12:49 AM CDT
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Glenn Kenny, this week's guest DVD columnist for the New York Times, investigated the two Blu-ray versions of Brian De Palma's The Fury that came out this year. (The column was posted to the web on Friday, and appeared in the print edition of the NY Times today.) About five years ago, Kenny explains, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment mastered the film for high-definition, but then the recession led to soft Blu-ray sales, and the project was shelved. Kenny explains what happened after that:

Fox’s cold feet spelled opportunity for Twilight Time, the boutique label specializing in limited-edition high-definition versions of studio fare with collector appeal. (For instance, one of its early releases was a Blu-ray of “The Egyptian,” a 1954 CinemaScope building-of-the-pyramids epic that was the first wide-screen outing for the golden-age Hollywood master Michael Curtiz.) The company licensed “The Fury” from Fox, and using the high-definition master provided by the studio, released a Blu-ray in March.

The release was well reviewed, with the restoration and preservation expert Robert A. Harris (who oversaw, among many other projects, a new rendition of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” films) praising “color, shadow detail, resolution.” Mr. Harris, writing on Home Theater Forum, a tech-savvy and often argumentative site, noted, in the argot common in such forums: “The grain structure is totally filmlike. So much so that when we hit a long dupe shot,” viewers “can easily see the difference.”

And there, for some viewers of the Twilight Time “Fury,” was the rub. De Palma is a technical virtuoso and “The Fury” one of his most bravura works. He and the director of photography, Richard H. Kline, pulled out the stops with focus manipulations, cleverly orchestrated effects and rear-projection work. Composite, or dupe, shots are put together in a lab, combining materials shot under different conditions. Merging and rerendering these elements creates an inevitable downgrade from the quality of the original camera work; that’s what experts mean when they say a particular shot looks “dupey.”

In the first half-hour of “The Fury,” there’s a car chase in which Cassavetes’s sinister C.I.A. officer pursues an on-the-run Douglas, who hijacks a police car. It’s a night scene, shot in low light, with a number of composite shots. To top it off, the climax of the scene takes place on a foggy pier. “That scene in particular, and some other night scenes, always looked a bit problematic to me, especially compared to the surrounding day shots,” said James White, a freelance DVD producer who lives and works in Britain. “They really suffered, on account of the ‘pushing’ of the film stock, the heavy noise-to-grain ratio, the process shots. None of it really fit in well with the rest of the picture.”

Mr. White was part of the team at Arrow Video, a British genre and cinephile DVD/Blu-ray label, working on a version of “The Fury” for British distribution. In tandem with the French label Carlotta and the Australian concern Shock, the company financed an entirely new high-definition transfer, using advanced film-scanning technology, and the movie’s original negative (which includes the shots put together from different sources in the lab) for the picture source.

“When people say that the Twilight Time Blu-ray looked the way they remembered it in theaters, well, it probably did,” Mr. White said. “Because, to my eye, the version on that master looked like an inter-negative, the source from which 35-millimeter prints were actually struck for distribution. Using the camera negative, you’re offered so much more in terms of contrast, color and detail.”

And it’s true, the night scenes in the Arrow “Fury” have a smoother, less garish look than those on the nonetheless very watchable Twilight Time release. These two versions of “The Fury” caused some controversy among buffs in the Home Theater Forum thread following Mr. Harris’s review, and elsewhere. Many home theater mavens own region-free Blu-ray players that defeat the blocking technology meant to keep foreign-made DVDs unplayable in the United States and vice versa. For them, comparing the two versions was easy. Mr. White, for his part, said that in the online world of Blu-ray assessment, “people play favorites, and it gets out of hand.”

As it happens, Twilight Time has been subject to a lot of criticism over its limited-edition business model, which the label’s co-founder, Nick Redman, calls a “clean” model that satisfies studios licensing the product and in a sense guarantees the ability to put out more obscure material.

“The critics of our limited-edition model think that we’re somehow artificially depriving all the millions of people that would really want a copy of a given movie from having it,” Mr. Redman said. “In fact, an edition of 3,000 is completely in line with what 99 percent of all catalog releases will sell. The other thing we’re criticized for is our price point, which is $29.95 — completely in line with every other label, including Olive and Criterion, but because we are available at only one retailer (although now there are some copies available at TCM), we can’t participate in the discount deals that other labels that go through Amazon and the big-box retail stores can do.”

These sticking points, Mr. Redman said, might have contributed to the bad blood over “The Fury.” The label’s edition is, even so, a success, as it’s sold out. The Arrow “Fury” remains available, although you need a region-free player to watch it. While Mr. Redman stands by the Twilight Time edition of “The Fury,” he allows that he’s learned something from the kerfuffle: “Had we known that Arrow and Carlotta were planning to create a new master, we might have gone in on it with them. But we didn’t know.”

Mr. Redman said he now believes that better communication between international DVD and Blu-ray producers is essential to the survival of the formats. “As the studios back further and further away — and people are dreaming if they think the studios are not backing further and further away — from physical media,” he said, “it is going to totally default to the independent labels in each territory in the world to synergize and work together as best they can to make those libraries viable for those handful of people left who want them on disc.”


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 11:14 PM CST
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Thursday, November 7, 2013
The Arrow Video release of Brian De Palma's The Fury on Blu-Ray includes a booklet which has a new interview with John Farris, who wrote the Fury screenplay from his own novel. This great interview was conducted via e-mail by Chris Dumas, who also wrote a new essay for the booklet titled, "Who's Afraid Of John Cassavetes?" Farris tells Dumas that he came up with the idea to blow up Childress at the end of The Fury. When Dumas asks whether he and De Palma had discussed the ending of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point, Farris replies, "At the time we did The Fury, I hadn't seen it; I caught up to it years later. Brian never mentioned the movie to me."

While telling Dumas about changes from his novel, Farris mentions a song-and-dance couple: "As Brian worked on The Fury from his particular point of view, he requested changes, additional scenes, and eliminated other scenes, including those involving the old song-and-dance couple. I liked those characters but Brian was right: by that point in the movie they just got in the way. Another, later scene between Robin and his psychiatrist/lover in her bath was filmed but just didn't work."

When asked by Dumas whether the scenes involving the song-and-dance couple were ever filmed, Farris tells him, "Donald O'Connor and, I believe, Gloria De Haven were signed to play the song-and-dance couple and construction was underway on their apartment set when they were cut from the script, a few days before we began shooting in Chicago." Dumas further asks whether any test footage might have been shot, and Farris answers, "Test footage on O'Connor and Gray? I don't think anyone tested for The Fury. Brian knew who he wanted and what they could do."

Farris indicated above that he wasn't quite sure about who the female half of the song-and-dance couple was. According to Dumas, Farris had originally stated that the female was Dolores Gray, but just before the booklet went to press, Farris told him he was mistaken, and that it was actually De Haven. However, according to a 2005 article at Classic Images, it was Vivian Blaine. The Classic Images article also suggests that the scene with the couple may have been shot and then left on the cutting room floor.

"The Fury starring Kirk Douglas and made at Fox cast Donald O'Connor and Vivian as a song and dance movie team, similar to Marge and Gower Champion," writes Classic Images' Colin Briggs. "With a very gory horror plot, it was based on the best selling novel of the same name. When the film was previewed it was way too long and as their parts were expendable (they both meet an extremely gory end) their scenes were excised. Vivian's comments: 'My fans were disappointed but have them know, the pay was tops.'” (Thanks to Bill Fentum for sending in this article a while back!)

Farris also reveals a couple of cut/altered scenes, saying that the bus ride in the final act was originally written as a ferryboat ride across Lake Michigan (it was cut due to "budget and logistic considerations," according to Farris). "as for locations," Farris tells Dumas, "Brian wanted to do the beach scene in the Chicago Museum of Art. No Chance. As you know, the scene with Dunwoodie shadowing the girls and tuning into Gillian psychically he later adapted to great effect for Dressed To Kill. Dunwoodie's assassination and a nice overhead shot of his sprawled body with beachgoers walking around it were cut in editing." (Note: this sounds very much like the way the death scene of the former Castro confidante killed by Tony Montana in the refugee camp near the beginning of Scarface was staged and shot. The character's physical features suggest that this dying figure could have been played by Finley himself.)

There's a lot more great stuff in this interview. I'll do a second post about it tomorrow.

Posted by Geoff at 1:24 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2013 5:18 PM CST
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