2 July 2011 | Spikeopath
The Furies: Monsters of classical mythology, charged with keeping order by punishing the guilty in the Underworld.
The Furies is directed by Anthony Mann and adapted to screenplay by Charles Schnee from the Niven Busch novel. It stars Barbara Stanwyck, Walter Huston, Wendell Corey, Judith Anderson and Gilbert Roland. Music is by Franz Waxman and cinematography by Victor Milner.
"This is a story of the 1870's. . .in the New Mexico territory. . .when men created kingdoms out of land and cattle. . .and ruled their empires like feudal lords. Such a man was T.C. Jeffords. . .who wrote this flaming page in the history of the great Southwest."
Anthony Mann was a fascinating and talented director, his career in direction of films can be broken into three sections. The 40s where he progressed from "B" movies to film noir, the 50s where he can be credited as a main player in taking the Western to a new and more adult level, and finally the 60s where he would helm two enormous historical epics. In short he was versatile and one of the most significant American directors during that 30 year period. 1950 was a prolific year for him, a year that saw him direct four movies, three westerns and Side Street, a crime procedural with noirish leanings. Of the three Westerns, it's Winchester '73 that has the big reputation and the distinction of being the first of the five westerns made with James Stewart that are rightly held in high regard in Western movie circles. Yet the other two, seemingly under seen or forgotten about, are at least worthy of the same praise. With Devil's Doorway, in this writers' opinion, actually a better movie than Winchester '73.
The Furies serves as the perfect bridging movie between Mann's film noirs and his Westerns because it blends the two courtesy of the Western setting and the story, taking both and cloaking it neatly with noirish atmospherics. To which it is underpinned by two very strong and passionate father and daughter characters played by Huston and Stanwyck. She is wealth obsessed and single mindedly driven, yet still having shades of vulnerability, whilst he is a crude land and cattle baron who has a kink for Napoleon! It's their relationship, as murky and stand offish as it is, that is at the core of The Furies. However, there are a number of plot off shoots also dwelling in the narrative, making this a complex story, one that pulses with psychological smarts and psycho-sexual undercurrents, with part of the latter appearing to be an incestuous arc between father and daughter. While it's not a Western for those after the more "traditional" gun play trappings of the genre, it does have some smart set pieces and moments of adrenaline raising. Including a shocking scene that wouldn't be out of place in a Hitchcock thriller. But ultimately this above all else is about the story and the flawed characters within.
This was to be Huston's last film appearance, he would sadly pass away shortly after filming of The Furies had wrapped. Nice to report that he signed off from the mortal coil with a top performance, attacking the role of T. C. Jeffords with gusto and relish - with the ending of the film proving to be rather poignant. Stanwyck is excellent as Vance Jeffords, an actress capable of putting many layers to any character she was asked to play, here she two folds it by being utterly unlikable with ease, yet in a blink of an eye garnering our sympathy by way of child like vulnerability. In support Corey is fine as card sharp Rip Darrow, the man who Vance deeply courts, and someone who has a serious agenda with T. C. Jeffords. Yet it's Judith Anderson who takes the acting honours in the support ranks. Charged with the task of playing a character who threatens to take Vance's place in her fathers world, Anderson nicely combines subtle underplaying with emotive driven thesping. With Mann going for heavy atmosphere, Milner's photography is deep in focus and suitably evocative, and Waxman provides a robust - storm-a-brewing, musical score.
Prime Mann offering that's deserving of more exposure and more appreciative praise. 8.5/10