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Director Fritz Lang (M; Metropolis; The Big Heat) made this, his first American film in 1936 and many critics regard it as his best American film.
Sylvia Sidney (Dead End; You Only Live Once; Damien: Omen II; ; Beetlejuice)& Spencer Tracy (Test Pilot; Northwest Passage; Bad Day at Black Rock; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) star in this powerful thriller which still packs an emotional punch today.
Joe Wilson (Tracy) was due to marry his fiancee Katherine Grant (Sidney) when mistaken for another man he is jailed and thought to have died in a jail fire started by a bloodthirsty lynch mob.
However miraculously he didn't die and now filled with vengeance, he sets out to bring to his would be executioners the same brutal justice they tried to do to him.
Shockingly prior to this film's release in 1936 during the previous 49 years, some 6,000 people had become victims of lynch mobs in the U.S.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Smart 1930s Morality Tale from Fritz Lang with Spencer Tracy14 May 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
"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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
FRITZ LANG & SPENCER TRACY: WHAT A TEAM!29 Jan. 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
A very unusual M-G-M film from 1936: because of its theme of social consciousness, it seems much more a likely candidate for Warner Brothers. It's a dilly with an outstanding performance by Tracy as the wrong man: En route to see his fiancee, Katherine (Sylvia Sidney) Joe Wheeler (Spencer Tracy) is arrested as a suspected kidnapper and is jailed pending trial. The evidence against him is strickly circumstantial: he possess a bill from a ransom statement. Then a mob forms around the jail, but Sheriff Ellis (Walter Brennan) manages to disband them & send them home... And that's all I'm going to give out plot-wise. Obviously, there is a whole lot more to this famous film in which Fritz Lang made is American directorial debut. This was Lang's favourite American film - and rightfully so: it demonstrates his directorial genius in wasting NOT A FRAME of film, telling his story with sharp cross-cutting between victims and tormentors, while unravelling the mindless and murderous passion of a mob out of control. Sylvia Sidney is excellent as usual as Katherine: this was her sole role for M-G-M. The film awakened America to what the reality of mob violence means. The original working titles for the film were THE MOB & MOB RULE. For a great companion piece, view the excellent Lang production YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE with Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney made the next year, in 1937: it's available on video.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Powerful Stuff!3 Sept. 2000
- Published on Amazon.com
The film begins as a fairly routine romance: Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney fall in love, are forced to separate for a time, and plan their reunion. All goes well until Tracy is arrested on a kidnapping charge. When Tracy is taken to the small-town jail, the local gossip begins. From this point, the film becomes a gritty, raw study of mob violence. The direction and action are relentless. Watching Tracy's reaction to the happenings around him is one of the pleasures of the film. Compare the way the local people act to the recent acts of violence we see today. (Have things changed much?) FURY is powerful, forceful, and memorable.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Blind "Fury"26 Feb. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Are people essentially good or evil? This is an age old question that Fritz Lang's movie tries to explore. But it's a difficult question to answer. Take a look throughout history and it seems to be filled with violence, wars, and assassinations. But then an event like 9\11 or hurricane Katrina happens and we see an outpour of goodwill and generosity. And again we must ask ourselves are the fundamental impulses of man good or evil?
"Fury" tells the story of Joe Wilson (Spence Tracy) a man who is about to get married to Katherine (Sylvia Sidney). Katherine has found a high paying job in another town and has agreed to take it so she can save up enough money for the two to get married. Joe promises once he gets enough money as well he will travel out to Katherine. A year goes by and the two are still apart. But through Joe's hard work he finally has enough money to marry Katherine.
Early on in the film the theme of right and wrong is presented. Joe is a nice guy. Always trying to do the right thing. When we first meet his brothers, who he lives with, one of them is doing work for the mob (though this is never really played out) and the other brother comes home drunk. Joe strongly protest their behavior. Joe even saves a stray dog in another scene.
Now when Joe drives out to Katherine he is pulled over and suspected to be involved in a kidnapping scandal that has affected the small town. Things are made worst when the find out Joe eats peanuts, because so does one of the kidnappers. And of course there can only be room for one person in the world to eat peanuts. I wonder if peanut sales went down after the release of this picture? And Joe is found with a five dollar bill that matches the serial number on one of the bills that was given for the ransom.
As soon as people find out about Joe a frenzy starts. The town's people want to take matters into their own hands and kill Joe. An absence of law and order ensues. The govenor decides not to send help to the police station because it is an election year and it might not be a good move for his re-election. So the people try to lynch Joe. Sadly all of this is done in front of Katherine.
To reveal more of the plot would be a very big mistake. But the movie is clearly taking on some very big issues. The whole subject of lynching is definitely contoversial. Historically we tend to think of lynching as race crime. I'm sure everyone is aware of the large amount of African-Americans who were lynched in the past. There was even a song written about it called "Strange Fruit". Also one has to wonder is Lang making a statement about the Nazis. It should be pointed out this was Fritz Lang's first American film. He left Germany as the Nazis started to gain more power. Was Lang saying it's wrong to side with the masses when they lead to violence?
This all sounds very serious and yet the story was based on one written by Norman Krasna called "Mob Rule". Krasna actually wrote many comedies. "Lets Make Love (a rather poor Marilyn Monroe vehicle)", "Bundle of Joy" and a Ronald Reagan comedy "John Loves Mary (which is actually pretty good)". But there are no laughs to be found here.
The downside of the movie is the ending. We understand what is going to happen to these characters but it ends to abruptly in my opinion. And seems slightly preachy. Although this is the only time I thin it does that. Some might agrue the entire movie is an editorial but I don't find it to be so.
In the end there is very little to dislike about this picture. I feel it is one of the greatest movies ever made. Definitely one of the greatest films of the 1930's, which makes it all the more the shame the movie was nominated for only one Oscar, "best screenplay". Where were the nominations for "Best Picture", "Director" and "Actor"? Oh well, the Academy blows anyway.
Bottom-line: One of Fritz Lang' greatest films and one of the greatest movies ever made. The movie makes a powerful comment on the nature of human impulses but does so without be preachy. The performances are excellent and Lang's directing is spot on.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mob Mentality Yes, But This Film is Also About "The Other"24 July 2007
Todd and In Charge
- Published on Amazon.com
I agree with the many reviewers who focus on the lynching aspect of the morality tale spun so expertly by Fritz Lang. But having watched this recently, I also found much that was directly relevant to our modern times. In particular, the film really exposes how the heartland, the community, can be exclusionary and vicious to those it perceives as "the Other," whether that person is a suspected kidnapper, a gay person, or some other person selected by the town elders to be the subject of ridicule, disdain, and marginalization.
Consider those who raised objections to the war in Iraq, and how they were treated by the media and the "town elders" in Washington. They were reviled, shunned, marginalized, and forgotten, victims of a mob mentality that drove us to war and to celebrate on the nightly news our conquests and destruction.
Lang's point is a larger one, and one that applies as much today as it did when the noxious practice of lynching was rampant across our country. As the barber slyly notes, it is the "impulse" that must be controlled, lest it burst out and consume us all.