Fury (1936) Blu-ray Review

4.5 Stars Exceptional American debut drama for Fritz Lang.
fury 1936 screenshot

Fritz Lang’s coruscating examination of mob mentality at its most venal has lost none of its power in 1936’s Fury, one of the director’s most powerful films and certainly one of the best movies he made after coming to America.

Fury (1936)
Released: 05 Jun 1936
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 92 min
Director: Fritz Lang
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Cast: Sylvia Sidney, Spencer Tracy, Walter Abel
Writer(s): Bartlett Cormack, Fritz Lang, Norman Krasna
Plot: When a wrongly accused prisoner barely survives a lynch mob attack and is presumed dead, he vindictively decides to fake his death and frame the mob for his supposed murder.
IMDB rating: 7.9
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 11/09/2021
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 4.5/5

Fritz Lang’s coruscating examination of mob mentality at its most venal has lost none of its power in 1936’s Fury, one of the director’s most powerful films and certainly one of the best movies he made after coming to America after escaping the Nazi regime. Spencer Tracy was given one of his earliest big chances at establishing the same kind of galvanizing power and presence that he displayed on the stage with this movie, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Sylvia Sidney, top-billed and just as solid as her co-star, justified her presence above the title.

After going their separate ways for over a year in order to earn enough money to get married, engaged couple Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) and Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney) run into trouble when Joe is stopped and held in custody on the flimsiest of evidence, suspected of being involved with a gang of kidnappers. Town gossips and hot-headed reactionaries decide to take the matter into their own hands and storm the jail determined to lynch Joe without so much as a trial. When the National Guard is called out, the jail is burned down as the townsfolk flee, and even though Joe inevitably escapes, he keeps his presence unknown to all but his two brothers (Frank Albertson, George Walcott) waiting to see what happens to the twenty-two townspeople who are charged with his murder.

Director Fritz Lang penned the screenplay with co-writer Bartlett Cormack based on an Oscar-nominated original story by Norman Krasna, and it achieves its greatest power not in the climactic courtroom scenes which occur in the film’s final third but in the unruly scenes of the riotous lynch mob out for blood and vengeance. From early scenes of clucking hens (symbolizing the town ladies gossiping up a storm and passing their thoughts as truth along to their menfolk) to the disturbing close-ups of crazed, twisted faces as the men storm the jail resisting tear gas and jets of water sprayed to calm them down, Lang doesn’t miss any opportunity to show humankind at its savage worst. He has brought with him the expected German expressionistic lights and shadows (an evocative rainstorm is reflected menacingly on the wall), and the burning jailhouse is both starkly beautiful and harrowingly terrifying as Tracy alone inside grapples with the window bars in his desperation to survive. The courtroom scenes slow the pace down as the district attorney (Walter Abel) and the defense attorney (Jonathan Hale) jab and spar with one another as Tracy’s Joe listens to the proceedings over the radio and thinks of every possible way he can get evidence to the trial that will convict the twenty-two defendants for his “murder.” While the resolution is thought of by many as too sentimental for a nihilist like Fritz Lang, one must remember the Production Code was in full swing by 1936, and the ending we get is pretty much pre-ordained, especially for a film produced at MGM of the time.

1936 proved to be a watershed year for Spencer Tracy in the movies. Not only did he have his powerhouse performance in this film on display (and which probably should have merited him a Best Actor nod), but he got great notices for his comic turn in Libeled Lady and an Oscar nomination for his work as a priest in San Francisco, both films also nominated for Best Picture. Sylvia Sidney’s gentle, fluttery performance is pure nerves from the mid-point onward, and it’s one of her most impressive screen portrayals. Also of note are Edward Ellis (the Thin Man himself) as the town sheriff who tries his utmost to maintain order and serve justice, Walter Brennan as the uppity deputy “Bugs” Meyers who longs to prove to his fellows that he’s a bigshot, and hotheaded Bruce Cabot as the leader of the lynch mob Kirby Dawson. George Walcott and especially Frank Albertson make a believable pair of brothers for Spencer Tracy while Jonathan Hale and Walter Abel do just fine in the courtroom scenes.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 is faithfully rendered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The film’s grain structure is most admirably consistent in this transfer even if one might not find it quite as sharp as some other high definition transfers of 1930s films. The grayscale is solid with black levels perfectly acceptable (if not quite as inky as they might be) and whites clean and crisp. There are no instances of scratches, splices, or other anomalies. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is a little underpowered but clear of any age-related problems with hiss, pops, crackle, or flutter. Frank Waxman’s score and the sound effects have been combined with surety to the dialogue passages to make a solid single track.

Special Features: 2/5

Audio Commentary: director/historian Peter Bogdanovich contributes a start and stop commentary punctuated with generous portions of interviews he conducted over four days in the mid-1960s with filmmaker Fritz Lang.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12, HD)

Overall: 4.5/5

With an insurrection within our own consciousness over the past year, Fritz Lang’s portrayal of a mob unrepressed is frighteningly prescient in Fury, only one of several reasons filmgoers should add this film to their must-see lists. Highly recommended!

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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benbess

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Matt Hough wrote: "Fritz Lang’s coruscating examination of mob mentality at its most venal has lost none of its power in 1936’s Fury, one of the director’s most powerful films and certainly one of the best movies he made after coming to America after escaping the Nazi regime. Spencer Tracy was given one of his earliest big chances at establishing the same kind of galvanizing power and presence that he displayed on the stage with this movie, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Sylvia Sidney, top-billed and just as solid as her co-star, justified her presence above the title...."

I've never seen this movie, but after reading Matt's review I've just ordered the blu-ray of Fury. I've been a Spencer Tracy fan since the 1980s, plus I've been impressed with the Warner Archive blu-ray releases since they started several years ago. I'm glad for the past couple of years they've been including bonus materials with their blu-rays.
 

mskaye

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Matt Hough wrote: "Fritz Lang’s coruscating examination of mob mentality at its most venal has lost none of its power in 1936’s Fury, one of the director’s most powerful films and certainly one of the best movies he made after coming to America after escaping the Nazi regime. Spencer Tracy was given one of his earliest big chances at establishing the same kind of galvanizing power and presence that he displayed on the stage with this movie, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Sylvia Sidney, top-billed and just as solid as her co-star, justified her presence above the title...."

I've never seen this movie, but after reading Matt's review I've just ordered the blu-ray of Fury. I've been a Spencer Tracy fan since the 1980s, plus I've been impressed with the Warner Archive blu-ray releases since they started several years ago. I'm glad for the past couple of years they've been including bonus materials with their blu-rays.
It is not a perfect movie and even Lang in interviews stated that he made many compromises and that he had to come to terms with what American audiences and producers expected from him. But this is a film with several sequences of unparalleled cinematic vision and mastery. And like others have said, a painfully relevant message.
 

mskaye

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It is not a perfect movie and even Lang in interviews stated that he made many compromises and that he had to come to terms with what American audiences and producers expected from him. But this is a film with several sequences of unparalleled cinematic vision and mastery. And like others have said, a painfully relevant message.
Viewing it now. A huge improvement over the DVD. Damn! Lang was a prophet. I'm just shaking my head in astonishment over Lang's genius and the relevancy of this film. And the commentary by Peter Bogdanovich is essential too - to the understanding of the film and the worldview and career of Lang.
 
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Robert Crawford

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It is not a perfect movie and even Lang in interviews stated that he made many compromises and that he had to come to terms with what American audiences and producers expected from him. But this is a film with several sequences of unparalleled cinematic vision and mastery. And like others have said, a painfully relevant message.
Viewing it now. A huge improvement over the DVD. Damn! Lang was a prophet. I'm just shaking my head in astonishment over Lang's genius and the relevancy of this film. And the commentary by Peter Bogdanovich is essential too - to the understanding of the film and the worldview and career of Lang.
I'll be watching my Blu-ray in the next 7 or 8 days. No, it's not a perfect movie, but not many movies are perfect. With that said, I think it's an outstanding movie that is very relevant today after 85 years since it's release.
 

benbess

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Although Fritz Lang and Spencer Tracy didn't get along while making Fury, they both bring a lot to this movie.

Lang and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg create an expressionist style in some scenes with dutch angles, things seen in reflection, behind bars, and so on. The mob scenes are a bit shocking even today, and were influenced in part by this real life event....


Ruttenberg was the DP for a lot of films before 1936, and in the 40s photographed The Philadelphia Story, Waterloo Bridge, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Random Harvest, Gaslight, etc.


In the audio commentary in the blu-ray Lang himself talks about how he didn't know he had to give lunch breaks on a movie set, and that in Germany they might work until 1 am if they had to. And so Spencer Tracy apparently told Lang that it was time for lunch, but when Lang refused, this is what happened according to imdb's trivia on the film....


"This was Fritz Lang's first film in Hollywood, and he wasn't accustomed to labor laws that require meal breaks. Shortly after filming began, Lang ate a quick lunch between set-ups and resumed filming. Some of the crew members wondering about their lunch break asked Spencer Tracy, who in turn pointed out to Lang that it was "1:30 pm and the crew had yet to take their break". Lang replied that it was his set and that "I will call lunch when I think it should be called." Tracy then smeared his make-up with his hand, knowing that it would take at least 90 minutes to fix it, yelled "Lunch!" and promptly walked off the set with the crew."

And if the dog in the movie looks familiar, well....

"Terry, better known as Toto from "The Wizard of Oz (1939)", appears in this film as the dog that Spencer Tracy takes in from the rain at the beginning of the movie, becoming his traveling companion into small-town America."

I've sometimes wondered why after Metropolis Fritz Lang didn't do any more "epic" films, but in the interview on the blu-ray with Peter Bogdanovich Lang says he avoided that kind of movie, seemingly because he didn't feel he could do something as serious with an "epic."

This movie is somewhat stagey in places, but still effective. I like the ending, which apparently was not what FL wanted. But Fritz Lang's M
creeps me out too much.

Picture quality on Fury is quite good for a movie of this era, but not great. I'm guessing the OCN no longer exists, but I really don't know.

The movie was a reasonable hit, and according to wikipedia "The film earned domestic rentals of $685,000 and $617,000 overseas.[3] According to MGM records, the final profit was $248,000.[2][12]

One last thing. I learned a new German word from Fritz Lang in the commentary: Kadavergehorsam, which means something like authority that is so strong, and subjects who are so obedient, that even their cadavers obey. Creepy! I remember learning the word Weltshmerz way back when I was in college in the 1980s and thinking, "Oh, that's what I've been feeling!" lol

Fury_(1936_US_six_sheet_poster).jpeg
fury 2.jpg
 
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Santee7

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I saw this decades ago I think on WGN out of Chicago on a night when the skip was in, (late at night some tv stations you didn’t really get would skip into your neighborhood and if you held the turning knob just right you would get a snowy picture!)

In my little town of Onalaska Wis. At that time we only got three channels and great late night movies were few and far between. I had read about this movie in a little paper back called the Celluloid Muse and had long been wanting to see it. At that time due to the snowy picture at 2 am I had a vague idea that it kinda lived up to it’s reputation. But wasn’t quite sure. Not as good as a Bogart movie though. I thought.

Last night I saw it for real. My God I was blown away. I thought I had actually just watched this play out in real life. And it sure seemed more powerful now then it did in the thirties.

I was totally mesmerized.

I stayed up and watched it twice. And never was Spencer better.

I had also read in one of those old film books that no one had “Cinematic eyes” like Sylvia Sydney. I never forgot that quote but didn't understand it. I do now! That author was so right.

Just an amazing film. To think I thought I had “seen it” on that snowy 19 inch picture screen way back in ’75, ( punctuated by Burt Wienman Ford commercials).

Thanks again to Warner Archives.
 

mskaye

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At the moment this one is $8.90 from amazon.
Along with Fritz Lang's two great noirs - Scarlet Street and The Big Heat, FURY is his greatest American film. This is a bargain price for one of the great singular works of the 1930's, and still powerful today. The fact that it was made by MGM (it plays more like a WB film) makes it even more special. There is one sequence that should be taught in film school. Forgive the hyperbole but it's great and retains much of Lang's style from the time of M and Testament of Dr. Mabuse.
 
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