Fritz Lang's first film for an American studio after fleeing his native Germany during the Nazi occupation, Fury is a dark and melancholy film that fits in nicely with a lot of Lang's other, better known works, even if it was obviously hurt by the tampering of MGM, who wanted a lighter movie that would be more marketable and more palatable than the one Lang originally intended to deliver.
Spencer Tracy plays a simple Chicago mechanic named Joe who is on his way to the countryside in Illinois to make an honest woman of and marry his lovely fiance, Katherine (Sylvia Sidney), who lives in the small town of Strand. Things start to suck for Joe when the local law pulls him over and books him on suspicion of involvement in a kidnapping plot.
While being held in the local jail so that the cops can validate his identification, word starts to spread about Joe and his involvement in the highly talked about case until the gossip starts to get so out of control that he's pretty much just assumed to be the guilty party by everyone in the area. This prompts the local townspeople to form an angry and vengeful mob, lead by a local troublemaker named Kirby (Bruce Cabot), who intend to take care of Joe their own way – with a good old fashioned lynching. Things begin to spiral out of control very quickly for Joe and the mob both, and the local sheriff decides he'd like some help from the National Guard to make sure things don't get even worse than they already are.
When Katherine finally finds out that Joe's been locked away, she heads into town herself only to find the jail in shambles. Soon enough though, Joe gets his day in court and his name is cleared but will that be good enough for Joe and his two brothers, Tom (George Walcott) and Charlie (Frank Albertson), or will their thirst for revenge rival that of the angry mob who got Joe into trouble in the first place?
Considerably darker and more despot than the typical Hollywood product of the era, Fury builds up very nicely to an appropriately bleak ending thanks to Lang's stoic and determined direction and an at times quite seething performance from Tracy. Given his experiences in his homeland a few years earlier it's not unreasonable for Lang to have held a rather pathetic view of mankind and his possible distrust of his fellow man and penchant for dwelling on the lesser parts of the human persona that are quite evident throughout his filmography are on proud display in this film as well. He accentuates this through his characterizations and through the cinematography in the film, with plenty of point of view shots, strangely lit shadows cast by the bars of the jail, and facial close ups on specific characters when they begin to fear for their well being when it all hits the fan. He portrays the mob mentality, a possible and likely metaphor for the general populace, as stupid and gullible and willing to go along with anyone charismatic enough to sway their opinions without really wanting to think for themselves (possibly an allegory for Hitler's control over Germany at the time the film was made?).
The lynching scene is the darkest part of the movie, when the population of Strand is seen at their worst in their attempts to harm or kill a man that the audience knows to be innocent. They show no remorse and it is frightening to think that this type of thing used to and still does happen in everyday life. Tracy does an admirable job in the lead, playing his part with just the right mix of fear, confusion, and determination and anger to come across as convincing. Sidney and Cabott are also stand outs in the cast, as they too turn in very solid efforts in front of the camera.
Fury is the recipient of a very fine 1.33.1 black and white transfer that looks amazing for a film of its age. The sharpness and the contrast levels for the picture are dead on, print damage is kept to a minimum and really only appears in the form of the odd speck here and there or as a tiny scratch now and again. Film grain never poses as a distraction and while it's there (and understandably so), it's never overpowering of upsetting. There's a surprisingly high level of foreground and background detail and the transfer presents solid and deep black levels with no evidence of compression artifacts and only some very minor shimmering and edge enhancement in a couple of spots.
The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is presented in its original English language version with optional subtitles available in English, French and Spanish. While a few scenes sound just a little on the flat side, again, for an older film Warner Brothers have done a very nice job. Dialogue and effects tracks are nice and clear and there are no problems with overwhelming hiss or distortion in the mix at all.
Warner Brothers has included a commentary track with writer/director Peter Bogdonavich (the same Peter Bogdonavich who directed Targets and The Last Picture Show) that is spliced in with interview clips from some sessions that he recorded with director Fritz Lang back in the 1960s. This track makes for an interesting crash course in Lang's film history and it covers a lot of personal stories and background information on the director rather than specific information on the feature film itself. Bogdonavich had a friendship, or at least an acquaintanceship with Lang during the sixties and as such, got to know him fairly well. While their relationship dissolved before Lang's death in 1976, Bogdonavich wisely does not go into sordid detail on why but instead focuses on the merits, themes, and attributes of Lang's working life, rather than his personal life. It all makes for a pretty interesting and informative track, even if it really could have benefited from more Fury specific information.
Rounding out the extra features is the film's original theatrical trailer.
While Warner Brothers probably could have put a little more effort into the extra features department of this release, they've provided viewers with great audio and video quality for a film that's long deserved the kind of quality treatment that DVD can deliver. Fury is a grim little film but one that's got loads of Fritz Lang's style and a fantastic performance from Spencer Tracy. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.