Fury, The (1978): De Palma’s Sci-Fi Horror Thriller, Starring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, and Amy Irving

Brian De Palma directed The Fury, a stylish, fast-paced but ultimately senseless sci-fi horror-thriller, starring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, and Amy Irving.

Our Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

In Israel, ex-CIA agent Peter Sandza and his psychic son Robin meet Ben Childress, Peter’s agency colleague. Sandza plans to leave his old life and move back to the U.S. with his son despite Childress’ protestations.  Childress stages a terrorist attack as a pretext to kidnap Robin for his “protection.” Peter narrowly while heavily injured.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, high school student Gillian Bellaver discovers in a class her psychic powers, including telekinesis and extra-sensory perception. She volunteers to attend the Paragon Institute, a research facility studying psychic powers.

After evading Childress’ agents, Peter meets with his girlfriend Hester, a Paragon nurse.  The Paragon’s director is in cahoots with PSI, a covert agency led by Childress which kidnaps psychic children and uses their powers as weapons by brainwashing and elimination of their families.

Gillian begins experiencing visions of Robin’s abuse, and eventually forms telepathic with him. Childress orders Gillian be transported to PSI quarters where Robin is kept. Hester overhears Childress’ conversation and informs Peter, who plans a rescue.

The rescue is successful, but Hester is killed in the process. Using Gillian’s powers, she and Peter track Robin down to a remote mansion, where he is being experimented on by Childress. Robin has gradually becomes unstable from the strain of his superiors’ machinations, culminating in a mass murder inside Old Chicago, an indoor amusement park. Robin believes that PSI intends to kill him and replace him with another psychic.

Robin, dying from a fall, transfers his powers to Gillian, hoping she will avenge his death.  Embracing her psychic abilities, she avenges the deaths of Robin and Peter by willing Childress’ body to explode.

John Farris’ weak scenario was based on his 1976 novel of the same name.  Lacking coherence, the narrative neglects to elaborate or make clear the specific roles or identities of the government agencies; it sort of expects the audience to take these premises as given.

As a follow-up to Carrie, The Fury benefited from a bigger budget, but overall it’s not as effective as a horror or a thriller.  The Fury suffers from what would become a recurrent problem in De Palma’s work, obsession with spectacular set-pieces at the expense of logic or sense (even by movie terms).

Technically a stylist, he indulges in ludicrous and gratuitous violent acts, which are so visually and audially compelling, that you don’t feel much the thematic weakness of the movie while watching it.

The film features the acting debuts of Dennis Franz (as a cop driving a car hijacked by Douglas’ character), Daryl Hannah and Laura Innes (as students at a school attended by Irving’s character).

John Williams’ varied and complex score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, elevates the movie above the its dramatic trappings.

Produced by Frank Yablans and released by Fox on March 10, 1978, the picture was a commercial success, grossing $24 million against its $7.5 million budget.


F/X showed the movie on March 31, 2020.

Kirk Douglas as Peter Sandza
John Cassavetes as Ben Childress
Amy Irving as Gillian Bellaver
Carrie Snodgress as Hester
Charles Durning as Dr. Jim McKeever
Andrew Stevens as Robin Sandza
Fiona Lewis as Dr. Susan Charles
Carol Rossen as Dr. Ellen Lindstrom
Rutanya Alda as Kristen
Joyce Easton as Katharine Bellaver
William Finley as Raymond Dunwoodie
Dennis Franz as Bob Eggleston
Jane Lambert as Vivian Nuckells
Sam Laws as Blackfish
J. Patrick McNamara as Robertson
Alice Nunn as Mrs. Callahan
Melody Thomas Scott as La Rue
Hilary Thompson as Cheryl (dubbed by Betty Buckley)
Patrick Billingsley as Lander
Gordon Jump as Nuckells
J. P. Bumstead as Greene
Daryl Hannah as Pam
Laura Innes as Jody