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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Anthony Mann
Cast:
Barbara Stanwyck, Walter Huston, Wendell Corey, Judith Anderson, Gilbert Roland, Thomas Gomez, Beulah Bondi, Albert Dekker, John Bromfield
Writing Credits:
Niven Busch (novel), Charles Schnee

Synopsis:
Director Anthony Mann's dark, psychological western tells the story of a ranch owner T.C. Jeffords (Walter Huston) at odds with his upstart daughter Vanca (Barbara Stanwyck) over matters of marriage and ultimately land. The mythic grandeur of the Wild West is superimposed with the the soul-churning struggles of Greek tragedy in this unusually intense frontier film. The Furies' stark black-and-white cinematography was nominated for an Academy Award.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/24/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jim Kitses
• “Action Speaks Louder Than Words” Featurette
• “Intimate Interviews: Walter Huston”
• Nina Mann Interview
• Theatrical Trailer
• Stills Gallery


• Copy of Niven Busch’s Original Novel
• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Furies: Criterion Collection (1950)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 24, 2008)

Recently I’ve checked out some of director Anthony Mann’s later flicks via the Sixties epics El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire. This Criterion release of 1950’s The Furies lets us visit the filmmaker’s earlier work in Westerns.

In Furies, we go to 1870s New Mexico. After a trip out west to raise some money, owner TC Jeffords (Walter Huston) returns to his ranch – called “The Furies” – for the wedding of his son Clay (John Bromfield). He grows tired of running the Furies, so he leans toward giving control to his daughter Vance (Barbara Stanwyck).

TC has one condition: Vance needs to marry someone of whom he approves. She maintains a lifelong semi-romantic friendship with Juan Herrera (Gilbert Roland), part of a clan who squat on Jeffords’ land, but he wouldn’t be a “suitable mate”. Enter Rip Darrow (Wendell Corey), member of a family with a long-term spat against TC. Rip shows up at Clay’s wedding, and despite – or maybe due to – TC’s initial anger, Vance takes to him. The film follows their relationship and a mix of complications that follow.

Normally when I go into a Western, I expect the usual cowboy and Indian fare, or at least a film with rootin’-tootin’ gunfights and all that jazz. Furies offers something different, and that makes it more intriguing than might otherwise have been the case.

For one, it’s unusual to find a Western that concentrates on a female character. That genre tends to be a man’s world; I’m sure that Furies isn’t unique in its use of a female protagonist, but it certainly is atypical. This choice never feels forced. It fits the movie and comes across as a natural, logical focus.

I hate to admit it, but Furies almost veers into soap opera territory much of the time. I dislike that term due to the sappy melodramatic tendencies it implies, but there’s so much interpersonal drama on display here that the soap opera moniker seems to fit. Plot elements remain fairly minimal, as the majority of the flick concentrates on the character drama.

And you know what? It does just fine in that realm. It never degenerates into sudsy silliness, partially because it’s distinctly cynical. For a flick with a mix of love-related threads, it sure doesn’t show much affinity for warmth and romance. Money and power rule the day; any fond feelings tend to take a back seat. That gives the movie a toughness it easily could’ve lacked.

An excellent performance from Stanwyck helps, as she takes control of the film. During my limited exposure to Stanwyck’s work, I’ve not been especially impressed. I’m in the minority, but I’ve never been wild about Double Indemnity or her acting in it. I’ve not seen enough of her other movies to generate a real opinion of her skills.

Furies shows her real talent. She provides a spirited turn that makes Vance bold and brassy but not a simple caricature. Stanwyck easily could’ve turned Vance into a mannish cartoon, but she retains the character’s feminine side as well. She feels like someone who could run a ranch but she displays the role’s princess tendencies too.

Not only could The Furies have been a sappy mess, but it probably should have gone that way. I’m pleased to report that it provides an unusual Western – and an unusually interesting one. Packed with character drama and excellent performances, the flick’s a winner.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

The Furies appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Very few issues materialized in this satisfying transfer.

For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. I noticed slight softness in a few shots, as some elements appeared slightly ill-defined. Those instances were exceptions, though, as the majority of the flick was pretty tight and nicely delineated. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering marred the presentation, but I noticed some light edge enhancement.

Source flaws were almost totally absent. The rare speck or mark might’ve cropped up, but these were exceedingly minor, especially given the movie’s age. This was a surprisingly clean image.

Contrast usually succeeded, though some exceptions occurred. I thought a few shots came across as too bright, but most of them showed adequate definition. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows seemed fairly good. At times some low-light shots could be a little dense, but they were good in general. The mix of issues knocked down my grade to a “B+“, but I still felt pleased with the transfer.

We got a perfectly adequate monaural soundtrack for The Furies. Like most films of the era, speech sounded somewhat metallic, but the lines always remained easily intelligible, and they lacked notable edginess. Effects were also thin and without much range, but they seemed fairly concise and didn’t suffer from significant distortion.

In terms of music, the score fit in with the rest of the audio. Music was somewhat shrill but reasonably clear and lively. I would’ve liked more low-end, but the results were fine for a flick from 1950. As for source noise, the track sounded a bit hissy but didn’t suffer from any pops, clicks or other distractions. The audio seemed more than acceptable for its age.

When we move to the disc’s supplements, we start with an audio commentary from film historian Jim Kitses. He provides a running, screen-specific track that looks at cast, characters and performances, the adaptation of the source novel, director Anthony Mann’s work and career, themes, tone and interpretation.

The latter topics strongly dominate this commentary. Oh, Kitses throws in the occasional filmmaking nugget and gives us a little information about cast and crew, but the vast majority of the chat looks at a view of the movie with a psychological bent. I suppose this may appeal to some listeners, but in my case, I didn’t much care for it. I enjoy a good examination of a flick’s themes and subtext, but I don’t think Kitses offers a particularly insightful take. He constantly refers to “phallic” symbols and grows tedious pretty quickly. It’s not a bad track, but I’d prefer one that better balances filmmaking issues with interpretation.

Three interview clips follow. Action Speaks Louder Than Words runs 17 minutes, 11 seconds and provides a 1967 interview with director Anthony Mann. He discusses his early career, influences, and some elements of his various movies. Though a fairly general piece, Mann includes a reasonable number of insights into his work. This becomes an informative piece.

Intimate Interviews: Walter Huston goes for eight minutes, 55 seconds. The short comes from a series of big-screen interviews that appeared in the 1930s. That means it has nothing to do with Furies, of course, but it’s a cool historical artifact. Don’t expect much real info, as it’s obviously a staged featurette more than it is an actual interview, but I still like it – especially when Huston hits on the interviewer!

Finally, a 17-minute and 27-second Nina Mann Interview appears. The director’s daughter chats about the director’s life as well as some aspects of The Furies. At times this degenerates into general praise for Anthony Mann’s career and the film, but Nina Mann offers a decent number of insights.

In addition to the film’s Theatrical Trailer, we find a Stills Gallery. 20 photos from the set appear here, along with some captions. Though it’s a short collection, it includes some nice shots.

Two non-disc materials appear here. Of course, we get the standard booklet found in virtually all Criterion DVDs. This one fills 40 pages and includes an essay from film professor Robin Wood as well as a 1957 interview with Anthony Mann. Criterion booklets are always solid, and this is another good one.

Even better, we find a copy of the original novel by author Niven Busch. This isn’t an abridged version; it provides the entire 1948 text. That makes it a very nice addition to the package.

Not many Westerns feature female protagonists, so that emphasis makes The Furies something different. The flick doesn’t just rely on this gimmick to create interest; it gives us a solidly crafted and well-acted film that consistently satisfies. The DVD provides very good picture along with adequate audio and a decent selection of extras that includes the complete novel on which the movie was based. This is a fine film and a solid DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main