Brian De Palma Andrew Sarris - Essay

Andrew Sarris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[If] I were tempted to turn off my mind, it would be for something like Brian DePalma's latest exercise in torrential terror. By the end of The Fury, the bloody, extra-sensory carnage seems a bit much, but I must confess that the film as a whole tended to absorb me into its wild fancies. I was entertained. The movie was fun. Still, the spoilsport critic within this fun-loving fool is not entirely sure that The Fury deserves a clean bill of health as a coherent piece of work.

To the adolescent aggressiveness of Carrie, DePalma and his novelist-scenarist John Farris have added the political paranoia of the post-Watergate era in which the CIA can be accused of virtually anything.

DePalma and Farris have more than one surprise in store for us before the ultimate bloodbath. At first glance, the director seems shameless in filching Hitchcock's wrist-clutching climaxes from Saboteur and To Catch a Thief, and Antonioni's explosive catharsis from Zabriskie Point, but DePalma develops his own gruesome variations on these stylistic flourishes, and overall there is more bloodshed here than in any movie since Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. Indeed, the spilling of blood in The Fury comes close to being hard-core pornography for the medium in a way that supposedly real sex is not.

For a project so lurid, the acting is surprisingly thoughtful and solid…. The Fury is much heavier on grown-up guilt than Carrie was, and there is no easy indulgence of the audience's thirst for universal revenge. It remains to be seen whether the public will rally to a movie that wallows so deeply in its own weltschmerz.

Andrew Sarris, "Blowing the Mind Circuits" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1978), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXIII, No. 12, March 20, 1978, p. 39.∗