Fury (1936)

Written by John Chard on December 16, 2015

Tormentors and the tormented given Lang's gifted touch.

Out of MGM, Fury is directed by Fritz Lang and stars Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney and features Walter Abel, Bruce Cabot, Edward Ellis and Walter Brennan in support. It's adapted by Lang and Bartlett Cormack from the story Mob Rule written by Norman Krasna. Loosely based around the events that surrounded both the Brooke Hart murder in 1933 and the Lindbergh kidnapping/murder case in 1932, the story sees Tracy as Joe Wilson, an innocent man who is jailed and apparently killed in a fire started by a rampaging lynch mob. However, as the lynch mob go on trial for his murder, Joe surfaces but is twisted by thoughts of revenge on those who happily watched him burn.

Widely considered a classic, this first Hollywood outing from director Fritz Lang is a remarkable look at mob violence and one man's limit pushed to its breaking point - and then some. That Lang survived studio interference to craft such a penetrating study of injustice is a minor miracle. Fury is neatly put together as a story, the calm before the storm as Joe & Kath are brought to us as the happy face of Americana. Then it's the middle section as rumours run out of control, the dangers of idle prattling rammed home as things start to escalate out of control-culminating in the savage assault on the jail (a gusto infused action sequence indeed). Then the fall out of mob rule actions - the court case and Joe's malevolent force of vengeance, that in turn comes under scrutiny.

The film was said to have been Lang's favourite American film, which is understandable given it bares all his trademarks. The expressionistic touches, shadow play dalliances and supreme cross-cutting between tormentors and the tormented, for sure this is prime Lang, with no frame wasted either. While it's no stretch of the imagination to think that Lang, having fled Nazi Germany, was pondering what he left behind as he moulded the picture together. Of the cast, Tracy is majestic as our main protagonist, while Sidney is brightly big eyed and hugely effective as the moral centre of Joe's universe.

Controversial at the time, the film has naturally lost some of that controversial power over the decades. But as the film points out with the lynching statistics, there was once a time when inhumanity was able to rear its ugly head in the blink of an eye. Fury serves to remind two-fold that not only is it a potent social commentary, but also that it's a damn fine piece of skilled cinema. 9/10