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USA 1936
Directed by
Fritz Lang
94 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Fury (1936)

Fritz Lang’s first film in Hollywood produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz for MGM  is a trenchantly jaundiced view of Smalltown, USA in general and lynch mob mentality in particular.  Co-scripted by Lang and Bartlett Cormack from a Norman Krasna story, clearly the idea of a ordinary citizen who escapes an angry mob after being falsely accused and then seeks his revenge, had great resonance for the director who had fled the rise of Nazi Germany.

Based on the 1933 kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart, the son of the owner of Hart's Department Store in San Jose, California by two kidnappers who were lynched by a group of vigilantes in this version Spencer Tracy plays Joe Wilson a working stiff in Depression-era Illinois who is dreaming a white picket future with his girlfriend Catherine Grant (Sylvia Sydney). is wrongly arrested for kidnapping a young girlmall minds set to work and soon a mob is baying for blood, The mob storms the jail and sets the building afire. Wilson escapes though the townspeople don’t realize this as they collude to bury the incident, But twenty-two citizens of Strand go on trial and a revenge-bent Wilson observes in secrecy as the cant and deceit underlying small-town respectability is exposed.

Much as with his follow-up film, You Only Live Once, Lang is sets up a stark opposition between the decent individual and the judgemental collective but the emphasis here is more on the depiction and deconstruction of mob psychology. Lang’s direction is impressive, drawing on his German experience notably with M (1931), Tracey gives his best performance to date and Walter Brennan is excellent as a slack-jawed yokel.




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