The Sound of Fury (1950)
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Family man and returning vet Howard Tyler (played by the always low-key Frank Lovejoy) is recruited into a life of crime by no more than ordinary desires for the American Dream. Desperate and unemployed, he falls into the clutches of a swaggering stickup man superbly played by a preening Lloyd Bridges. (Notice how subtly Bridges bends Tyler to his will on their first meeting at the bowling alley.) Joining Bridges, Tyler finally gets the standing he desires, but the spiral he has entered dooms him and his family's share of America's promise. (Note that conspicuous among the lynch mob's vanguard are fraternity boys, true to the actual event on which the movie is based.)
Throughout, the lighting and photography effectively undermine the facile voice of reason that the producers probably felt obligated to include. Endfield may have wanted an anti- violence film, but the resulting visual landscape implies a world of endemic violence. A sense of powerlessness pervades the film, one that mere admonishments cannot overcome. As a result, the characters appear caught in some terrible metaphysical web from which there is no escape. Events march relentlessly on to a conclusion that remains one of the most harrowing in Hollywood history. This is film noir at its darkest and most frightening.
Something should be noted in passing about the compellingly exotic performance of Katherine Locke as Hazel the manicurist. Watch her facial expressions as this highly repressed plain-faced woman experiences yet one more rejection in what a paste-on smile shows to be a lifetime of rejections. Never has a blossom perched so precariously on a cheap hairdo conveyed as much lower-class longing as hers, while the car ride with a guilt-ridden Tyler could serve as tawdry inspiration for a dozen feminist tracts. What ever became of this unusual actress, I wonder.
Without doubt, however, the film's dramatic high point is the lynch mob. It's one of the most coldly unnerving 20 minutes in movie annals, far surpassing (in my view) the better-known Fury (1936) in its depiction of mass violence. The fact that the mob is made up of ordinary citizens brought to fever pitch is especially telling. Unthinking violence is thus shown as potentially present in us all.
At the same time, the screenplay refuses to take the easy way out. In fact, Howard and Jerry are guilty, unlike, say, the three unfortunate cowboys in The Oxbow Incident (1943). Thus, what repels us is not the fact that innocent men are killed for a crime they didn't commit. That would be too easy. Instead, I think we're unnerved by how the crowd appears to celebrate the brutality of vigilante justice. Endfield succeeds in making this aspect especially ugly. Yes, in a very general sense, justice is served—murderers are in fact punished for their crime—but if so, justice is served in a particularly barbaric way even if the act does have popular support. In my little book, Endfield has fashioned the most effective of all anti- lynching movies, in part because it doesn't take the easy way out.
That Endfield exiled himself to England and a conventional career with Stanley Baker, shows how much was lost among those purge victims whose disappearance, unlike many others, went generally unnoticed. Just a couple of years after the remarkable "Try and Get Me" (and Endfield's also provocative "Underworld Story"), Hollywood began sanitizing the screen with the escapism of period spectacles, Technicolor westerns, and full-cleavage sex goddesses. Indeed times had changed. As Endfield already knew, the studios had to fight the Cold War too. There would be no more thought-provoking Try and Get Me's.
"The Sound of Fury" is a film with a simple storyline and an impressive conclusion. The manipulation of the masses by the "brown press" (tabloid) to sell newspapers is impressive and the consequence is scary. The reaction of the uncontrollable violent mob is the best part of this movie and shows the power of the free press, for the good or for the bad. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Justiça Injusta ("Justice Unjust")
Much of this picture was filmed in Phoenix, and the old city courthouse is very prominent, with it's beautiful copper doors. A true 'dive' nightclub, the "La Jolla Club" later known as the "Guys and Dolls" was used for a key scene.
Lloyd Bridges showed his wonderful range and capability as a wild-eyed psycho, and Lovejoy was tragically sympathetic as a tortured regular guy gone terribly wrong. The cast was very strong.
This is on a par with any of the noir films of the late 40s-early 50s, and holds up today.
Man, this is a different kind of film noir story, mainly because of the ending. It centers around two crooks, played by Lloyd Bridges and Frank Lovejoy. Of the two, Bridges is the more fun guy to watch. He and his girlfriend (played by Adele Jergens) have some very good dialog. Lovejoy and his potential girlfriend have some lines that are so bad they are laughable! It almost reminded me of poor Elisha Cook verbally duking it out with tough-gal Marie Windsor: in other film noirs corny but fun stuff.
This was an entertaining film almost from the start. The last 30 minutes are really intense after Lovejoy cracks, stupidly admits his crime and is unfairly accosted as the murderer (he was the accomplice, not the murderer.) Then, the townsfolk, fueled by sensationalist journalism by the local paper, form into a huge lynch mob and storm the jail after the two criminals. The scenes of that, and what happens, are horrific. I am not exaggerating. In fact, it was one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever seen on film, especially for a classic movie. The cheers from the crowd when they kill the two men (which is not shown) are downright chilling.
The film obviously is a powerful indictment on yellow journalism and of mob mentality. The last scene was so distasteful that I have never wanted to watch this movie again!
Also known as Try And Get Me, The Sound Of Fury is directed by Cy Endfield and is based on the novel The Condemned by Jo Pagano (who along with Endfield also writes the screenplay here). The story is incredibly based on a factual episode known as the Brooke Hart case that occurred in 1933 in San Jose, California. Fritz Lang's 1936 film Fury was also loosely based on the same story, which probably explains why Endfield's film had a name change to Try And Get Me.
A brilliant crime thriller, the film is a damming indictment of uncontrolled violence in small town Americana. Its themes involving class divides, the uncivilization and ignorance of some Americans, moral and social collapse and the irresponsibility's of the press, are all rammed home with force by the soon to be blacklisted director. By definition, Endfield and Pagano have crafted the ultimate social conscious movie. Filling it with relevance that will last the ages, the undervalued Endfield also come up trumps in mood setting and visual flourishes. This be prime film noir too. Tumbling pebbles, a crime shown in reflection, our protagonist standing in the dark ruefully looking out a window, a complete night club sequence shot off kilter, all indelible images that linger long in the memory (Guy Roe on photography). Then there's the finale, a brutal and shocking ending that had Raymond Borde & Etienne Chaumenton (A Panorama Of American Film Noir 1941-1953) proclaiming it to be one of the most brutal sequences in postwar American cinema. They aren't exaggerating, it is, and it caps off a stunning movie.
There can be a reasonable argument put forward that the film asks for pity towards the hoodlums of the piece. But that's a confliction that serves as a call for a deeper thought process with the film. The makers are merely adding drips of fuel to an already incendiary device. Hugo Friedhofer provides the music and Kathleen Ryan, Richard Carlson & Katherine Locke fill out the support cast. However, this is Bridges' movie, Lovejoy is excellent as the increasingly fretful Tyler, but Bridges goes from smarm to charm with ease and then to crazy psychotic in the blink of an eye, an unnerving character given the treatment by the big man. Still awaiting a DVD release, any chance you get to see this film you should grab with both hands. Powerful, intelligent stuff. 9/10
It's revealing to me that someone else.. as a child.. after so many years.. could have come away from the film with the same, exact feelings.
It's quite a trip and to get us there introduces us to the memorable character played by Lloyd Bridges, a cocky young psychopath whose petty crimes take along with him on the lure of easy money, unemployed, hard up family man Frank Lovejoy. It's not long though before Bridges' true character comes to light, escalating in no time to a kidnapping and brutal murder with disastrous outcomes for all concerned.
For its time, this is all pretty heady stuff, shown to us in matter of fact style by director Endfield with to my mind anyway, little real deference to noir conventions. The film is a bit slow to get started but once Bridges appears, it picks up on his manic energy. Some of the peripheral characters are just a bit too obvious, like the humanist professor friend of the sensationalist journalist whose screaming headlines, the film would have it, egg the local townsfolk to storming the jail while said journalist's own realisation of his part in the mayhem is also a little laboured but these are counteracted in some measure by some effective low-key character acting by Lovejoy and Katherine Locke as the lovelorn girl with whom Bridges sets him up for alibi purposes.
The concluding riot scene, (with it seems a lot of university students to the fore!) gets the biggest budget and is effectively staged, reminiscent of its predecessor in Lang's classic "Fury", before the big downbeat message is double-underlined for us as the credits roll.
A very watchable and considering its era, bold movie with interesting characters, dealing with big subjects and ending with a thundering moral message to boot. Quite a lot to pack in and done pretty well all round, I'd say.
I haven't seen it since I was a kid but the memory of that climactic collective murder still makes me wince.
It's impossible to comment on the performances, or on much else for that matter, after the passage of so many years but unless my brain has turned to tofu, I'm compelled to recommend the film. I remember Lovejoy as being a little stiff but Lloyd Bridges giving a dead imitation of a caged animal. Kathleen Ryan was winsome. And there is a touching portrait of a desperately lonely lady who hooks up with Lovejoy.
It was made at the height of the anti-Red hysteria in Hollywood, a time when subliminal pro-communist messages were being read into cinematic trifles. And the advertising campaign that accompanied this release seemed almost to goad the audience into mindless mob action. Get in on the ground floor of the explosive rage for justice! That sort of thing. In other words, hang the Reds.
It was completely at odds with the message of the movie itself, which was that ordinary guys can get sucked up by circumstances and find themselves suffering the same fate as those who are truly evil. Oh -- and mobs can be dangerous. (If you're a social psychologist, think "risky shift".) Out of all the simple black-and-white crime melodramas that appeared in the post-war period, this is one of the few that had me by the lapels.
Based on a real incident in 1930s San Jose, California.
If it shows up, be sure to catch it.
A late night "noir" double bill on channel 4 caused me to stumble across this film despite never having heard of it before. Although not strictly a noir, the film is an effective drama that does rely on the "normal" guy drawn into a destructive world of crime. The plot offers lots of potential in the dark content and is still good even if it doesn't really deliver on it. The narrative focuses on Howard's descent and I was surprised by morally quite how simplistic it all was. Howard's inability to deal with what he does is straightforward and the clear fate served him by the script is also quite easy. The media plays a part in the shape of journalist Gil Stanton and I hoped this would produce something of real insight but mostly he and other characters seem to exist to vocalise the moralising part of the script. They do make more of it towards the end but I wanted more in the way of consistency.
The moralising and simplicity across the film does rather make for a weaker second half but the "descent" is by far the best part of the film. In terms of delivery it offers more dramatic scenes but this also means more meat for the actors to work with. Lovejoy's desperation but yet conflict is written across his performance and at its best is pretty good. Unfortunately for him, he is totally in the shadow of a really enjoyable turn from Lloyd Bridges. Bridges is cool, arrogant, angry, slick, vain, violent and unpredictable and he is easily the most memorable part of the film. Inexplicable then that the script lets him disappear for the vast majority of the second half of the film his absence is felt. Carlson tries to be the heart of the later debate but he cannot do it and comes over quite insincere and simplistic. Ryan, Locke, Jergens and others are so-so.
Overall then this is an interesting moral drama that has plenty of good moments in the first half and plenty of potential in the second half's moralising. Bridges and Lovejoy deliver well in the first half. While it is a real shame that the second half feels weak, simplistic and no where near as intelligent and challenging as I wanted it to be, it is still pretty dark and interesting for the period and should be recognised for that.
First watch: 2017 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 8
A brutal, unrelenting tone is maintained throughout the film, and the film-makers use a sledgehammer approach to convey ideas, unnecessarily so in my opinion. OK I get it, you don't need to clobber me to hammer things into my mushy little brain.
Newspapers are portrayed in a devastating manner similar to the old Edward G. Robinson classic "Five Star Final", and with similar effectiveness although with an even more heavy hand. But the message holds up whether 1930's, 1950's or with today's sensationalized multi-media delivery of various "movement"-style causes that can result in violence by impressionable or disgruntled individuals who injure or kill innocent civilians or police officers in extreme cases.
Harsh, loud, impactful but rather unsatisfying as an overall well- rounded movie, this is a somewhat unusual film that is watchable mainly due to the outstanding performances.