Nothing can really put a damper on some quality father-son bonding time on the beach quite like an assassination attempt. One minute Peter and Robin Sandza (KIRK DOUGLAS & ANDREW STEVENS) are rolling on top of one another, topless in the sandy surf and then, before you can say, “Dad get off me, people are starting to stare!”, supposed friend and colleague Ben Childress (JOHN CASSAVETES) orchestrates a failed hit on Peter with a dozen or so men in Iron Sheik regalia wielding Uzis. An army of Arabians with automatic weapons is clearly no match for KIRK DOUGLAS (I mean really, who is?) and he does manage to permanently injure CASSAVETES arm, thus necessitating the use of a dapper, black arm sling for the remainder of the film; however, CASSAVETES makes off with boy wonder Robin, a young man whose flawlessly feathered hair and dashing good looks are only surpassed by his telekinetic powers. CASSAVETES runs one of those unnamed, shadowy government agencies exploring the use of telekinesis as potential super weapon in the quest for world dominance, and STEVENS is the heir apparent to the atomic bomb.
Meanwhile, across the globe at an elite private girl’s school in Chicago, it is discovered during one of those psychic power presentations that were so prevalent in high schools in the ‘70s that teen Gillian Bellaver (AMY IRVING) can use telekinetic alpha waves to derail a toy train set. More disturbing than her disregard for Lionel locomotives is Gillian’s inexplicable ability to cause spontaneous hemorrhaging with the touch of her hand. In the name of science, a parlor trick of this magnitude requires investigation, and IRVING willingly submits to observation and intense study at the Paragon Clinic run by Dr. McKeever (the reliably slimy CHARLES DURNING).
At first, everything seems hunky dory at the Paragon Clinic; IRVING becomes fast friends with staff nurse Hester (Unkle Lancifer’s undying crush CARRIE SNODGRESS) and two share a smile over ice cream sundaes. Of course, the Paragon Clinic is nothing more than a grooming stable for the aforementioned shadow agency run by CASSAVETES, and before long IRVING starts receiving psychic transmissions from STEVENS who’s being studied at some lavish mansion across town under the care of Dr. Susan Charles (FIONA LEWIS, or as I like to call her, the poor-man’s SAMANTHA EGGAR).
In one of those “It’s a small world after all” plot points, DOUGLAS resurfaces as SNODGRESS’ paramour, and he uses her to get to IRVING to get her to help him get to STEVENS. Does that make sense? Regardless, that’s how it plays out in the final act and the reunion of father and son is (SPOILER ALERT!) tragic. IRVING, who spends the bulk of the finale sobbing and being (how do I put this delicately?) an all around spaz, delivers one of the most explosively ecstatic final girl scenes, firmly securing her place on Aunt John’s short list of cine-magical moment makers (full list to follow one of these days):
Directed by the once genius BRIAN DePALMA, THE FURY is well worth a lookie-loo. Watching it for the first time today, your Aunt John was fully expecting the trademark DePALMA split-screen camera tricks that dominated his earlier works SISTERS and CARRIE. And don’t get me wrong; I am a huge fan of the way he does it, no one does it better. Surprisingly, this never happened in THE FURY and I have to commend him for the innovative (at the time) sequence involving IRVING and DURNING on the stairwell of the Paragon Clinic. Nowadays such things would be shot using C.G.I, and I did hit the pause button to see if there was that telltale green-screen line around IRVING’s figure, but I couldn’t see it. Also, DePALMA gets major points in my book for effectively utilizing a musical score to manipulate the tension during pivotal action sequences. Case in point, IRVING’s escape, with the help of SNODGRESS, from the Paragon Clinic (Note to UNK: Do Not Watch THIS!). Mad props to you Mr. DePALMA for creating another cinematic chestnut, but to quote JANET JACKSON, “What have you done for me lately?” And this not to say that he owes me anything, but did anyone really make it through BLACK DAHLIA satisfied? Really?