"Fury" was legendary German director Fritz Lang's first American film. He spoke English, but not well enough at the time to write fluid dialogue, so Lang worked on the script with writer Bartlett Cormack, who did the actual writing. Lang and Cormack based this morality tale of mob psychology and revenge on a story outline by Norman Krasna entitled "Mob Rule", but they incorporated some elements of a real lynching case that had recently occurred in San Jose, California. Lang's intention was to give the film a realistic, documentary feel. "Fury" gives the impression of looking at the laws and customs of the United States through foreign eyes, which, of course, it is, but I don't know if Lang meant that to be so evident.
Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) is a man very much in love with his fiancée Katherine (Sylvia Sydney). The couple are eager to get married but don't yet have enough savings. Katherine takes a job in another city to earn more money, while Joe works hard in Chicago. After over a year of this arrangement, Joe has saved enough money to marry Katherine, and he sets out in his new car to join her. But he is intercepted by police en route and arrested on suspicion of being part of a kidnapping gang. He is held in a small town jail pending further investigation, but gossip spreads of the arrest, and an angry mob descends on the jail. When the mob is unable to break into the cells, they burn and dynamite the jail. Joe is thought to have died in the fire. But he escaped and is determined to avenge his attempted murder by seeing that the lynch mob is prosecuted for murder.
"Fury" isn't the least bit subtle in its message. It states its morals outright, but that doesn't undermine its power. The film is neatly divided into 2 parts: Part one concerns the Fury of the Mob, and part two is about Joe's Fury. The fury of the mob is transferred to its victim, and, although Joe's anger is more justified, "Fury" asserts that it is just as corrosive. At one point, the town barber delivers a monologue on violent impulse. The entertainment value that the public finds in both the lynching and subsequent trial is emphasized. And the state's Governor is reluctant to answer the Sheriff's request for National Guardsmen to protect the jail on account of election politics. The film is generally complimentary of the justice system, but scathingly critical of "mob justice" and vigilantism. "Fury" wasn't a failure when it was released, but neither was it a big success. Looking at it now, I wonder if that may have been because the film is critical of its audience. That's always a recipe for dismal box office. In any case, "Fury" is a smart "social conscience" film of the 1930s that doesn't align itself with any political party or group.
The DVD (Warner Brothers 2005 release): The picture and sound quality are good, but I don't think this is a restored print due to occasional small white specks. The flaws would hardly be noticeable unless you were looking for them, though. There is a theatrical trailer and an audio commentary by Peter Bogdanovich and director Fritz Lang. Yes, Fritz Lang! The commentary alternates between Peter Bogdanovich discussing Lang and the film in the present day and an interview with Fritz Lang that Bogdanovich did in mid-1965. Lang talks about his career, writing and filming "Fury", and differences between American and German filmmaking. Lang's commentary is quite a treat and very interesting. Bogdanovich is also interesting, as he fills in some of the gaps in Lang's comments. The audio commentary is definitely worth a listen. Subtitles for the film are available in English, Spanish, and French.