The Fury (1978)

The Fury is definitely a 1970s movie.  For one thing, this was at a time when anyone connected with the federal government was suspect, especially if it was the FBI or the CIA.  Exactly when government agencies were allowed to be populated by patriotic men and women of good moral character in the movies again, I cannot say with certainty.  However, the FBI was definitely rehabilitated by the time Manhunter was made in 1986, and the CIA was allowed to find its way back into the good graces of the audience in The Hunt for Red October in 1990.  But in the 1970s, government agents were mostly evil.  In The Fury, however, the government agency in question must really be bad, because it is so secret that no one has ever heard it.

Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas), who works for the agency when the movie opens, appears to be the exception.  I guess there is a good apple in every barrel.  But the agency, through his immediate superior, Ben Childress (John Cassavetes), tries to have him assassinated, their version of early retirement.  They do so in order to kidnap his psychic son, Robin (Andrew Stevens), presumably to weaponize his telekinetic powers.  In an effort to find Robin, Peter locates Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving), who has psychic powers of her own (capable of making people bleed through physical contact) hoping that she can lead him to Robin.  Amy is at the Paragon Institute, headed by Dr. McKeever (Charles Durning), whose purpose it is to study people with special psychic ability, but ultimately, McKeever works for Childress.

Because this is the 1970s, a time when alpha waves were all the rage, these brain waves are naturally worked into the movie.  More generally, there are continual references to some electromagnetic this or that associated with whatever parapsychological phenomena are taking place.  Figuratively, however, Robin’s powers are compared to an atomic reactor or an atomic bomb.  In other words, the government agents are fooling around with forces that may ultimately destroy them.

At a house where Robin is being tested, Dr. Susan Charles (Fiona Lewis), who has been acting as his lover to maintain control over him, suggests that he is becoming unstable and needs a break.  She takes him to a shopping mall where he becomes furious just because he finds her talking to a couple of other men.  Then we see some amusement rides, and immediately we know what is going to happen.  In his fury, he is going to use his telekinetic powers to cause one of the amusement rides to go wild.

But wait, we say to ourselves, that cannot be.  Robin is basically a good kid.  How can he cause the amusement ride to become destructive when we know that there are typically parents and their children on such rides?  Once again, it’s the zeitgeist of the 1970s to the rescue.  Just as we are wondering how he can do his thing with the amusement ride without harming mothers and their children, here come a bunch of Arab sheiks.  Americans hated Arabs at that time, thanks to the oil embargo of the early 1970s, which caused people to have to wait in long lines for gasoline.  Conveniently, then, innocent Americans get off the ride while the Arabs take their place.  As a result, when Robin unleashes his powers, we get the pleasure of watching Arab sheiks go flying everywhere.

Meanwhile, Peter arranges for Gillian to escape from Paragon.  It is early in the morning, and Gillian is still wearing her nightgown when she makes a break for it.  We see her running down the street in her bare feet, and we cannot help but notice that the bottoms of her feet are absolutely black.  “When was the last time she took a bath?” we ask ourselves.  But then we remember that this is the 1970s.  A lot of women had filthy feet back in those days.  Most did not, thank God!  But there was a sizable minority, usually young women or girls, who apparently thought having dirty feet was a sign of authenticity.  Maybe they even thought it was sexy.  Examples of other 1970s movies in which dirty feet are either displayed or referred to are Joe (1970) and Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977).  A friend of mine had a theory back then that girls kept a charcoal box under their bed, and before they went out on a date, they would rub their feet back and forth in the box and then lie on the bed holding their feet up to a mirror so they could see the bottoms in order to make sure they got the look they were hoping for.

The ending, at least, is what we would expect in any decade.  The evil government agents are destroyed by the two psychics, culminating in a final scene in which Gillian causes Childress’s body to explode, sending blood and guts everywhere, while his head flies into the air still wearing an astonished expression on its face.

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