Son of Fury has long been loved by Tyrone Power fans as one of the last of his big swashbuckling roles (though it's not properly a swashbuckler) before he left 20th Century Fox to join the "fighting stars" of WWII. For me, however, it was always the film that let us see one last ravishing glimpse of Frances Farmer before her unfortunate years of institutionalization.
The film is a typically slick early 40s Fox star vehicle for Power, based on the then-popular novel The Story of Benjamin Blake. Following an almost Dickensian formula of a well-born English lad denied his due by unscrupulous relatives, only to return as an adult to claim it while wreaking havoc on those who attempted to deprive him of it, the film is surprisingly short on the action one would expect for a Power vehicle. It makes up for it, however, with an unusually "deep bench" of supporting performances, including the aforementioned Farmer (absolutely riveting as a high-born beauty with some dark complexities), George Sanders (as Farmer's father and Ty's evil uncle), Elsa Lanchester, John Carradine, and, in his American film debut, Roddy McDowall, playing the Power character as a child. Gene Tierney is Ty's purported co-star, as a tropical island vixen with whom Power falls in love, but her role is the one laughably underwritten one of the film, and Tierney does little with what she's given. She's beautiful to look at, but there appears to be very little going on beneath the surface.
The film is directed with his usual panache by the always reliable John Cromwell (father of Babe's pig farmer James Cromwell), with top-flight art direction, cinematography, and especially music (Alfred Newman, in what is generally thought of as one of his very finest Fox scores). There are the occasional filmic non sequiturs--Power makes no attempt at an English accent (probably a good thing), and there is something a little creepy about his love affair with his first cousin (Farmer), but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise smashing entertainment.
The film is available as a standalone at the MSRP of $19.98, but you'll do better, if interested, to buy it as part of the 5 DVD Power boxed set (The Swashbucklers of Tyrone Power), where you'll end up paying around $7 or $8 per disc, getting some fine other Fox classics at a better value.
The transfer of all these Fox Power titles is superb, and Fury is no exception. The crisp black and white image is reproduced with excellent contrast and no artifacts.
Both the original mono mix and a reconfigured Dolby digital stereo mix are offered in the Audio options. To my ears, the mono is preferable, but I'm a purist. Either way, the sound is robust and full, and Newman's impressive score is also available as an isolated track.
Aside from the isolated score (a worthwhile extra to any general music or specific Alfred Newman fan), there is a short, typical talking-heads featurette (Tyrone Power: Behind the Scenes), the theatrical trailer, an advertising gallery and a stills gallery. Not bad for a "budget" release (if bought in the boxed set), but also nothing staggering (especially the featurette, which will be generally worthless to any Power fan--why rehash old generic information when a little specific info on the film at hand would have been preferable).
Son of Fury is one of the most highly regarded of Power's Fox features, and rightly so. Smartly written and directed, expertly cast and played, and gorgeous to see and listen to, the film is well worth your while if you're a fan of golden age action/adventure or historical films.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet