The 1870s, New Mexico territory: T.C. Jeffords is a cattle baron who built his ranch, the Furies, from scratch. He borrows from banks, pays hired hands with his own script ("T.C.'s"), and carries on low-level warfare with the Mexicans who settled the land but are now considered squatters. He has enemies, including Rip Darrow, a saloon owner who's father T.C. took land from. His headstrong daughter, Vance, has a life-long friend in one of the Mexicans, her heart set on Rip, and dad's promise she'll run the Furies someday. Her hopes are smashed by Rip's revenge, a gold-digger who turns T.C.'s head, and T.C.'s own murderous imperialism. Is Vance to be cursed by fury and hatred? Written by
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 40's where he progressed from B movies to film noir, the 50's where he can be credited as a main player in taking the western to a new, more adult, level, and finally the 60's 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 helm 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 5 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 its western setting and story, and cloaks it neatly with noirish atmospherics. Underpinned by two very strong and passionate father and daughter characters played by Huston and Stanwyck. She, wealth obsessed, single mindedly driven, yet having shades of vulnerability; he, 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, 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 adrenalin raising. Including a shocking scene that wouldn't be out of place in a Hitchcock thriller. But 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 who has a serious agenda with T. C. Jeffords, but 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, score.
Prime Mann offering that's deserving of more exposure and more appreciative praise. 8.5/10
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