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Warner Home Video presents
Fury (1936)

"You know where I've been all day? In a movie. Watching a newsreel of myself getting burned alive. I watched it 10 times or 20 maybe. Over and over again, I don't know how much. The place was packed. They like it. They get a big kick out of seeing a man burned to death. A big kick!"
- Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy)

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: May 10, 2005

Stars: Spencer Tracy, Sylvia Sidney
Other Stars: Walter Abel, Walter Huston, Bruce Cabot, Edward Ellis, Frank Albertson, George Walcott
Director: Fritz Lang

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:32m:24s
Release Date: May 10, 2005
UPC: 012569701793
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-A-B+ B-

DVD Review

Though we may not think much of it now, mob justice and lynchings were part of the landscape in the early decades of the 20th century. Fritz Lang's 1936 film Fury tried to deal with this problem head on, though the film is undercut by some of its plot contrivances. It remains a powerful piece of filmmaking though, and is recommended.

Fury is the story of two characters, really: Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) and the town of Strand, where the action takes place. Wilson is a typical guy; he wants to marry his girlfriend Katherine (Sylvia Sidney), but they must build their nest egg before doing so. She leaves to go west for a new job that will help earn that money, while he remains home in Chicago. Wilson believes in the basic tenets of the American dream, trying to instill a work ethic and honest living into his younger brothers Charlie (Frank Albertson) and Tom (George Walcott). Charlie has been running with a dangerous crowd, and under Joe's guidance, he turns to the straight and narrow when Joe and the brothers begin running a gas station. Eventually, Joe has earned enough to meet his goal. He writes to say he is coming to marry her, and leaves in his new car.

On the way, he is stopped by local law officers outside Strand, where a gang of kidnappers are on the loose. Hauled in for questioning, Joe runs into some extraordinary bad luck, which is enough to have him held until they can verify his identity, but in the meantime, one of the sheriff's deputies flaps his gums about Wilson's "capture." From there, the story snowballs, getting embellished along the way, until a mob forms and decides to take matters into its own hands. The sheriff expects the National Guard to assist, but political considerations make the governor hold off. In the meantime, Katherine, who has been waiting for Joe to arrive all day, finally hears of Joe's imprisonment and heads for town. She arrives to find the jail stormed and ablaze.

In the days that follow, Joe's innocence is established, but it does little to satisfy Joe's brothers, who want revenge. They decide to go to Strand and kill those responsible. Before they can do anything, they are shocked by the appearance of Joe. He is alive, but possessed by anger at what has been done to him. He wants revenge as well, and wants his brothers to help him get it. Strand, however, just wants to forget it ever happened.

Fury was legendary director Fritz Lang's first American film after escaping Nazi Germany, and he produced a fierce, if somewhat compromised, film about mob rule and American life, with a cynical, pessimistic ending that the standard Hollywood ending can't hide. The main weakness of the film, at least in terms of the mob element, is that the film indicates that "good," normal people wouldn't do this sort of thing. The people need pushing from more unsavory types. Those types are seen in Kirby Dawson (Bruce Cabot), a notorious town troublemaker, and a visiting strike-breaker who riles the menfolk by accusing them of cowardice. In one sense, this lets the town off the hook, at least initially. Cooler heads appear to prevail, until Dawson and his ilk push the good people into criminal actions.

The scenes of the mob building and then running amok form the best section of the film. Beautifully shot and edited, Lang pushes every button in displaying the feral qualities of people who have surrendered their individuality for the overriding personality of the mob. After the apparent death of Wilson, however, the film is hindered somewhat by Wilson's inability to participate actively in the story. He can only operate within himself, as the film needs him to change to effect its message. Lang equates the pursuit of revenge with childishness; early in the film, Katherine tells Joe, "You're still a kid—a lot of you is." This comes back into play as Wilson single-mindedly pursues the death of the men on trial, until he realizes that the cost of their deaths to his conscience would be greater than letting them live would be to his sense of justice. When Wilson appears to save the men from the death house, he describes how his faith in America and justice is gone, burned to death in the jail. Even the Hollywood ending of having Sidney and Wilson reconciled can't erase the bitter taste and the feeling that nothing between these two characters can be the same again, revenge or no.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Fury wasn't subjected to one of Warner's extensive cleanups, but it looks fairly good here. There is some speckling, dirt, and small shifts in contrast, but it's a pleasing picture overall. Detail level is good, and the blacks are solid. Better than I would have expected.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The film's mono soundtrack does everything it needs to, and I can't say much more than that. It isn't perfect, but everything is clear and intelligible.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Peter Bogdanovich, with audio tape of Fritz Lang
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extra, aside from the trailer, is an audio commentary with director/writer Peter Bogdanovich, which includes excerpts of interviews Bogdanovich conducted with Lang in the mid-1960s. It's a decent track, with the clips of Lang being of primary interest. Bogdanovich discusses his memories of Lang and Sidney, in addition to the film. His comments are fine, though Lang diehards probably won't find much to take away from his material. If you're unfamiliar with Lang or the film, you'll find it worthwhile.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Fury is a polemic, handled well by Lang despite some compromises in the script forced upon him by MGM. Warner's DVD isn't packed with extras, but it's a must for fans of Lang or Tracy, and worth a look for those who are not.


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