The Criterion Collection
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A cattle baron's daughter vows to ruin his ranch and gets a shady banker to help her do it.
Seconds into Anthony Mann's hardboiled horse opera, Barbara Stanwyck absent-mindedly plays with a pair of scissors. Not to worry: she'll put them to use soon enough. Until that time, Stanwyck's volatile heiress, Vance, alternately flatters and manipulates her egotistical father, T.C. Jeffords (a feisty Walter Huston in his final performance). It's the 1870s and T.C.'s ranch, the Furies, inspires envy throughout the New Mexico territory. If Vance picks a suitable husband, T.C. promises her a handsome dowry. Unfortunately, she chooses brutal gambler Rip Darrow (Rear Window's Wendell Corey). If it wasn't for Vance's friendship with Mexican-American squatter Juan (Gilbert Roland), she wouldn't inspire much sympathy, but Vance stands up for the Herreras when financiers pressure the Jeffords to throw them off their land. Then, T.C. takes up with scheming socialite Flo (Rebecca's Dame Judith Anderson), and the tense relations between father and daughter explode into all-out war. By the end, those scissors end up in someone's face, leading to a cycle of revenge-oriented violence. Adapted from Niven Busch's novel by Red River's Charles Schnee, The Furies isn't as deliriously over-the-top as Busch's Duel in the Sun, but it plays more like Shakespearean tragedy than Technicolor camp, and Stanwyck owns the screen from start to finish. The excellent extras include erudite commentary from film historian Jim Kitses, a terrific 1967 interview with Mann for British TV, a playful 1931 chat with Huston, remembrances from Mann's daughter Nina, an essay from critic Robin Wood, and a new printing of Busch's original novel. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
- New, restored digital transfer
- Audio commentary
- A rare 1931 on-camera interview with Walter Huston, made for the movie theater series "Intimate Interviews"
- New video made with Nina Mann, daughter of director
- Stills gallery
- Booklet featuring a new essay by critic Robin Wood and a 1957 "Cahiers du cinema" interview
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This is an extraordinary Western, at times electrifying in its storytelling. It is about love turned to hatred and the search for revenge.
At its heart is a complex and intense relationship between a father and his daughter. At times they look at each other like lovers, at other times taunt each other and compete for the upper hand. The man’s son is an irrelevance to him, his daughter the sole focus of his attention. Most of all, though, he loves power.
She has a relationship with an older man, a squatter on her father’s vast property, who is like a father to her except that they share kisses which seem to go beyond the platonic.
She also develops a relationship with a gambler and businessman which looks like love but has a violent edge to it, kisses often alternating with slaps. Most of all, though, he loves money.
There are two acts of savagery in the film which shock the viewer and illustrate the brutality and ruthlessness to which the perpetrators are willing to go to hurt their enemies. The Director does not dwell on these acts - one occurs offscreen - but this does not lessen their impact.
The director (Anthony Mann), scriptwriter (Charles Schnee) and cinematographer (Victor Milner) have created a film that is noirish, at times an operatic melodrama, but never less than gripping and intriguing. Mann frames the story against a huge, rugged landscape and the night time sequences, rich with moody cloudscapes, are striking.
The father and daughter characters are brilliantly played by Walter Huston and Barbara Stanwyck respectively, both infusing subtle layers and complexity into their portrayals. Another exceptional performer is Judith Anderson, who holds her own in the scenes with the other two formidable actors and breaks the heart in her final scene with Huston.
The film is let down by its finale, whose sentimentality does not fit with the key characterisations so deeply developed in all that has proceeded.
The Criterion edition includes a copy of the fine novel by Niven Busch on which the movie was based. Reading it strengthens one’s appreciation of Mann’s artistry in turning the essence of the book into a great visual experience.
‘The Furies’ was released in 1950 and also that year came ‘Winchester 73’, the first of Mann’s superb Westerns starring James Stewart. The former film loses nothing in the comparison.
Movies like T-MEN, RAW DEAL, SIDE STREET and DESPERATE showed his strengths in composition, cinematography and gritty realism in his storytelling (if at times a little uneven). However...Mann really hit his stride when he began directing the "western". Here Mann is in his element.
1950 was the year that made Anthony Mann a directing icon. Filmed before 1950's WINCHESTER 73, yet released after is THE FURIES (1950) This is a deliciously demented mixture of film noir and classic western elements.
Walter Huston plays T.C Jeffords, the widowed, ruthless, cold blooded, yet charismatic cattle baron. Barbara Stanwyck plays Hustons spoiled, headstrong tomboy daughter Vance Jeffords. While he has a son (played by John Bromfield) Huston has chosen Stanwyck to be the eventual ruler of his empire once he has retired. However...after being away on a long trip, Huston returns with a new love interest, the more "society friendly" Flo (played with great complexity by Judith Anderson)
Flo and Vance butt heads and when it is clear that she is jockeying for control of the ranch and trying to edge out Vance, Stanwyck reacts with a disturbing act of violence that has horrific results. Stanwyck flees the ranch and takes refuge with her long time friend played by Gilbert Roland. Roland is a squatter on Hustons land and in retaliation, Huston reacts with an act of violence of his own to spite Stanwyck.
In the aftermath, Stanwyck spits out the most memorable line of the movie at Huston
"now I hate you in a way I didn't believe a human could hate. Take a good long look at me T.C. You won't see me again until the day I take your world away from you!"
And thus begins an epic clash between father and daughter.
As with all of the Mann westerns, the terrain figures prominently in THE FURIES just as much as in Winchester 73, The Man From Laramie and Man Of The West. Unlike Ford, who emphasized and incorporated the beautiful vistas and sweeping grandeur of the southwest, Mann goes for something different. Mann sets his stage in desolate, remote, dangerously rocky hills. He goes for an almost claustrophobic feel. Bullets richochet off boulders, horse and riders struggle on unsure, gravely ground and rocks and boulders tumble dangerously down hillsides.
In a Mann western, the terrain is just as dangerous and deadly an opponent as any black hat wearing villain.
The film also has a memorable performance by Wendell Corey as a gambling house owner whose father was cheated out of his land by Huston, and who may or may not be an ally of Stanwyck. Also of note is Thomas Gomez as Hustons gleefully evil henchman "El Tigre".
It's logical that THE FURIES and Winchester 73 would incorporate a lot of noir style in them as that was Mann's forte prior. But THE FURIES mixes the two genres to the best effect I think. It has possibly some of the best cinematography I've ever seen in a B&W western, Red River and Winchester 73 being the possible exceptions.
Again, like most Mann westerns, there is a "King Lear" style father figure in Huston. Stanwyck has a wonderful and demented strength and stands toe to toe with the imposing, wiley Huston all the way through. Corey is smartly understated next to these two titans. An excellent film, a great western and on my own personal top 20 greatest movies list.
I suggest getting the Criterion dvd of the movie. It has a great commentary that analyzes practically every frame of the film, an entertaining, fact filled booklet with interesting analysis of the film as well as an unpublished interview with Mann. There is a 1930s era interview with Huston at his home. The set also comes with a new printing of the Niven Busch novel on which the film is based. It is shown in its original aspect ratio.
Mann has always seemed to me to be the bridge between Fords more traditional vision of the west and the bleak, amoral, bloody violence of Peckinpaw. There would be no Peckinpaw without Mann, but there would be no classic Mann westerns without Ford. While The Furies is not as entertaining as the collaborations between Mann and Stewart, it is one heck of a ride and definately worth buying just to see the excellent treatment that Criterion gives this, until now, rarely seen little gem.