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|Index||25 reviews in total|
Very few westerns have the psychological impacts that this "Mourning
Becomes Electra" like saga dramatizes. Barbara Stanwyck, in the role
that must have influenced her "Big Valley" character for TV, is both
tough and tender as Vance Jeffords, the western princess of TC
Jefford's (Walter Huston) empire. Dare step on her toes, and you won't
be able to rest, as love interest Wendell Corey finds out. And dare
come between her and her beloved father, and you'll end up with a
surprising bit of vengeance as Judith Anderson as a gold-digging San
Francisco socialite finds out. John Bromfield appears briefly as
Stanwyck's brother who knows that he will never have the affections of
his father that Stanwyck has and pretty much resigns himself to the
fact that she will be daddy's heir, not him.
Barbara Stanwyck was the Queen of the west, and in almost a dozen Westerns, it was Barbara Stanwyck who gave many a western hero a run for their money. Walter Huston, as her patriarchal father, is a force to be reckoned with who has trained his daughter to be tough. When he betrays her one wish, he also becomes a victim of her vengeance.
There are also Gilbert Roland as a Mexican squatter, her life-long friend who becomes a tool in her father's revenge against her; Blanche Yurka, the great Hungarian stage actress, plays the bit role of his vengeful mama; Even in the small role, we are reminded of her excellent performance as Madame DeFarge in the Ronald Colman version of "A Tale of Two Cities" years before. Just watch her intense eyes as she cackles and curses in Spanish as she pushes huge boulders off the mountain in her effort to prevent Huston and Stanwyck from gaining access to the family's mountain hideaway.
Beaulah Bondi also shows up briefly as a society matron who aids Stanwyck in her efforts to take over the Furies. With all this talent, it is amazing that the scenery wasn't eaten up along the way. The great Judith Anderson, who played many of the types of roles on Broadway that Stanwyck did on screen, is subtle as she tries to worms her way into the role of Queen of the Furies, but it is Stanwyck's ultimate revenge which prevents this from happening. Later, when we get our last glimpse of the beaten Anderson, she gives herself a great exit line. This, ironically, was the second film in which one of Stanwyck's characters had an impact on Anderson's character; In the 1946 film noir, "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers", it is young Martha (who as an adult is played by Stanwyck) who pushes matriarch Anderson down some stairs to her death, giving that film its motivations.
The one problem with this casting is the performance of Wendell Corey, perhaps one of the dullest leading men in Hollywood history. Stiff and unappealing, there is no doubt in the viewer's mind that Stanwyck would never feel any passion for the tree trunk like character. He was perfect as the sap husband of Joan Crawford's in the same years "Harriet Craig" but didn't have the fire that Gilbert Roland did. The previous year's "The File of Thelma Jordan" paired them together and proved that Stanwyck's passion required her to have a man on her side (and in her bed) that was her equal.
Fortunately, Walter Huston is given more screen time, and is absolutely outstanding. He truly deserved an Oscar Nomination for his lively performance. When T.C. faces his final moments on-screen, he does it with such acceptance of his fate that it is truly heartfelt. It was his last film, as he died before the film was released. Stanwyck praised Huston publicly, and at her AFI tribute, Walter's son, director John Huston, praised Stanwyck (whom he had never met) for her professionalism and kindness to his father. The same year's "September Affair" took Huston's old recording of "September Song" and utilized it to great effect. Even by only being heard in that film, he truly made a huge impact, and ranks as perhaps my favorite actor of old Hollywood.
This is a good film to watch as autumn turns to winter. It's filled with old hatreds, revenge both old and new, explosive emotions and a subtle intelligence. Walter Huston and Barbara Stanwyck go on a powerful tear as T.C. and Vance Jeffords. There are hints of incest in the complex presentation of the lives of this father and daughter.There, most of all, is a escalating chill that sweeps down into the furies, that freezes hearts and cools ardor.Films like "The Furies", swirl around the omnipotent lives of stern and demanding patriarchs. We await their comeuppance, their downfall. We await it and we regret that these larger then life men fail to hold on to their wealth, their loves, and sometimes their lives. It is a shame that Walter Huston was dead a year before this, his final film was released. His performance is mesmerizing.
This thing is a wild ride - it really crackles with energy! Plus its one of those rare films where the actors chew up the scenery and spit it back out, and its expertly done, absolutely right, and works beautifully. Also its a film made by adults, for adults, starring adults; all the leads are in their late 30s and up. It is very stylized and the black-and-white cinematography was nominated for an Academy Award. So many scenes stand out, but the whole section involving the "battle" with the Herrera family is particularly vivid. Gilbert Roland registers surprisingly well also, the role was perfect for him at that age. The Herrera mother nursing her hatred is wonderful. Its possibly the peak of Stanwyck's career; I'd argue that she was never able to make as good a film again. I would pay 100 TCs to see it another time!
This one just keeps pulsating and bringing on the goods. Another of author Niven Busch's psychological westerns (preceded by "Duel in the Sun" and "Pursued"), this one has a dynamic father/daughter duo, a pretty and meek son (the late John Bromfield), and a smooth gambler seeking revenge for the death of his father. In fact, most of the characters are seeking revenge at one point or another---though the "Furies" of the title is the name of the contested ranch, in fact it could just as well refer to the motivations behind many of the characters' actions. Knockout score and photography and acting. Astounding that this one is not commercially available.
There's a lot of Freudian subtext in this unusual 1950 Western, but
what resonates most is how director Anthony Mann so smoothly transcends
the testosterone-driven genre to come up with an entertaining hybrid of
a woman's picture and a Greek tragedy. At the dynamic core of this film
is the masterstroke of casting Walter Huston (in his last screen role)
and Barbara Stanwyck as a spendthrift father and his headstrong
daughter at odds over running the expansive ranch that gives the movie
its name. In Roman mythology, the Furies were supernatural
personifications of the anger of the dead. As females, they represent
regeneration and the potency of creation, which both consumes and
empowers. It is this single-minded sense of empowerment that drives
Vance Jeffords to usurp her wily father T.C. while seeking his approval
at the same time.
Set in 1870's New Mexico, the story written by Charles Schnee ("The Bad and the Beautiful") is steeped in not-so-indiscreet psychological baggage. T.C. lives by his own rules by borrowing liberally from banks, paying hired hands with his own script, and allowing Mexican settlers to live off his land. Unlike her weak-willed brother, Vance enjoys provoking her father but to what end is never clear as an unacknowledged cloud of incest hangs over their strange relationship. At the same time, T.C. has a sworn enemy in gambler Rip Darrow who is looking to avenge his father's death at T.C.'s hands. Vance falls for Darrow, but she's also drawn to Juan Herrera, a childhood friend and one of the Mexicans now considered squatters. Complicating matters even more is the arrival of T.C.'s pretentious fiancée Flo Burnett, a devious socialite out to rid the ranch of the Mexicans and push Vance aside as the female head of the beleaguered family. This ploy leads to a most shocking scene that fits well within the story's noirish shadings.
As T.C., Huston gives a grand performance evoking both as the old prospector in his son John's "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" and the conflicted industrialist in William Wyler's "Dodsworth". Although a bit old for her role at 43, Stanwyck combines her no-nonsense manner with a childlike vulnerability in illuminating Vance's most complex psyche. This is excellent work from an actress who always seemed home on the range. Generally a pliable third lead in films ("Rear Window"), Wendell Corey doesn't lend charisma or a convincing edge to his swagger as Darrow, but Gilbert Roland shines in the smallish role of Juan and strikes sparks with Stanwyck that should have happened with Corey. However, it is Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca") who steals her brief scenes as Flo bringing out a palpable tension with Stanwyck in their almost-comically cutting scenes together (pardon the pun!). Veteran character actress Beulah Bondi also has a nice near-cameo as a banker's wife fully aware of her husband's prideful shortcomings.
The intensely passionate movie swirls in all its psycho-sexual emotionalism and Shakespearean-level acts of murder, revenge and greed, but oddly (and perhaps due to the edicts of studio censors), Mann applies the brakes in the disappointing final portion of the film. Still, it's well worth viewing in the new Criterion Collection's 2008 release chock-full of extras. First, there is the meticulously academic commentary track by Western author Jim Kitses ("Horizons West"). Then there is an interesting 17-minute interview with Mann ("Actions Speak Louder Than Words") conducted just prior to his death in 1967. Another interview is offered with Mann's daughter Nina specifically for this release as she recalls her father's often underrated body of work. More of a curio is a silly, obviously scripted 1931 interview with Huston where he evasively responds to the vacuous questions of a pretty reporter. The original theatrical trailer and a stills gallery round out the extras.
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
One of the best Westerns ever made. Superior to other films of its time because it possesses more realism and authenticity and shuns the silly, false and simplistic moralizing which was almost a requirement for American films of this period. This is a film about real, complex people involved is realistic, complex events. Film-maker Anthony Mann hailed from Great Britain - perhaps this had something to do with the unusual realism. Positives are: 1 - The beautiful cinematography alone is enough reason to rent. The lighting is superb, there is sumptuous use of darkness, and the twilight and night scenes are ravishingly beautiful. 2 - Strong, resourceful female characters instead of the usual phony, helpless, wilting flowers. These women are people in their own right, not merely appendages of some male character. 3 - The characters are an honest mix of good and bad qualities - not artificial cardboard cut-outs simplistically meant to serve as types. 4 - Minorities are portrayed as real people. The Mexicans are portrayed with sensitivity and understanding, instead of the usual condescending caricatures. 5 - Walter Huston, Barbara Stanwyck & Wendell Corey do an excellent job of bringing their characters to life. The other actors are solidly top drawer. 6 - Excellent story-telling at its finest. With repeated viewing, you see more deeply into the complex and surprisingly subtle motivations of the characters. The only negative is that the sensuality of real life was artificially pre-filtered out of the film; but in full fairness to "The Furies," this is true of all American films of this period, due to the de facto censorship which held sway at the time. In sum, a complex, vivid depiction of love, hate, greed, loyalty, betrayal, devotion, affirmation of life and the inexorability of death, as they course through the lives of real, breathing people. Anthony Mann was far ahead of his time in crafting this truthful gem. What a special achievement!
This Antony Mann Western is little-known compared to his collaborations with James Stewart or Man of the West or a good number of other Mann films, but it's an equal to his best work. Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston (in his final performance) star as a daughter and her father, powerful ranchers who own the titular land. Their relationship, much as the title suggests, has a psycho-sexual tinge. When men call on Stanwyck, her father balks. And when hoochies cling to Huston, well, then things get real ugly! The Furies shows Mann bringing a lot of his noir skills to the Western genre. One can easily see how that genre influenced Mann's characterizations, but, in terms of film-making, he had largely moved on. The Furies is just dark and often nasty. I have to wonder why the film is so little known. My thought is that almost all Westerns feature male protagonists, with the most notably exception being Johnny Guitar. I'm not going to rag too much on that film, because I do like it, but The Furies is far superior. Stanwyck was rarely better. I might actually rate this as her best. Huston went out on one of his best performances. It's hard to believe he died before the film was even released with as much energy as he shows. My only real complaint with the movie is that it peaks too early. The standoff at the Herrera's fort is one of the greatest sequences in the history of the genre, and it's so good that the remainder of the film drags a bit. Still, a masterpiece. Thanks again, Criterion!
In his final film, Huston plays a larger than life character who owns a big ranch that he is struggling to maintain financially. Stanwyck is the head-strong daughter that he clashes with, particularly when Anderson enters the picture as his fiancé. One can imagine her character later became Victoria Barkley in "The Big Valley." Mann specialized in Westerns and he does well enough here, but the problem is that the script is not very interesting. Huston and Stanwyck are always worth watching, but Corey seems to be miscast as the romantic lead. Waxman, who won the Oscar for "Sunset Blvd." the same year, provides a lively score. Interestingly, both Mann and Waxman lived from 1906 to 1967.
Probably a rarity as I can see it: Anthony Mann's The Furies would fit
in just as well on AMC or TCM as it would, if it would ever screen old
movies from the 40s and 50s, on the Lifetime network. What this means
is that for the film being technically classified as a Wetern, it
really has a lot more to offer for audiences of hardened men looking
for another memorable performance from Walter Huston, and for women
looking for a tough but conflicted heroine with Barbara Stanwyck's
character. Mann has terrific source material to work with (the writer
also wrote Duel in the Sun), in part because it doesn't cater simply to
those looking for a shoot-out. On the contrary, The Furies derives its
fascination as a work of psychologically complex family games of power
and personal ownership. The 'Elektra complex' issue touched on by other
reviewers isn't misplaced, but there's more to it.
This isn't quite to say it's entirely one of Mann's best films, or a masterpiece on the Western genre. It takes a little time to get started, past some of the daughter/father scenes of laughing with one another, and for the drama to really get plugged into about the dealings of ownership of the land of TC Jeffordses. The father, TC (Huston), says he'll give all he has to his daughter, Vance (Stanwyck) to run, but it might not be that easy of a transition. We see this tangled web develop, of Stanwyck's two love interests, one from way back with the Herrera's (still very bitter with TC for taking their land) and another with a banker who has a real love-hate thing for the fiery daughter of a big-bad baron like TC. And both the Jeffords' characters being what they are- really big, amazing personalities- require the actors to pull them off.
Luckily, Mann has the right two people with Huston and Stanwyck, especially with the latter the star projects such confidence and darkness and, at the same time, vulnerability it's not hard to see how she could have been the star in her day. Mann also gets some rich work from a supporting cast; one of which, playing the matriarch of the Herrera clan, is very memorable in a specific shoot-out scene where she talks to herself frantically with TC in her gunshot sight. There's also further development about a level of payback in the third act, and other more melodramatic touches involving TC's bond with an older woman that really gets Vance's gaul (not even so much her father bonding with her, but for her assertion into the clan to push her out far away into Europe, leading to a startling confrontation and a pair of scissors). If you're not strapped-in for some almost soap-opera-ish touches, look elsewhere.
But overall, Mann directs all of this with a fine eye for the darker corners of the western landscape, of the dry and barren lands of the deserts- some of these look shot at night, or developed to look darker than they are- with the cacti and horses riding on in them striking as something more evocative to go along with the big rooms and typical locations of a circa 1870 New Mexico set. And there's even a hanging scene in the film that should rank on any film-lover's list of important scenes; Scorsese even included it in his documentary on American movies, and it's well worth the inclusion. For some good stretches of time, and particularly for the second 2/3 of the running time, The Furies does its job well on its audience, drawing in both sexes for various reasons into its story of land ownership, love and loss, and a father and daughter bond that is touchy and amusing at most pleasant moments. 8.5/10
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