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The Furies (Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements


A strong willed heiress (Barbara Stanwyck) and her tyrannical father (Walter Huston) clash over control of their cattle ranch when he brings home a wealthy West Coast socialite as his fiancee and new heir apparent in this moody western noir from director Anthony Mann based on the novel of the same same by Niven Busch.

The Furies (Criterion Collection)Directed by Anthony Mann (Cimarron, The Man from Laramie), The Furies was one of Mann’s earliest transitions from his B-noir films to the western genre that would define much of his finer works.

The film, a title a double entente that refers to both the name of the ranch at the center of the story and an allusion to the creatures from Greek mythology that bring vengeance on those who committed crimes, is taken from the 1948 novel of the same name by Niven Busch. A western noir that pulls on the experience of Mann’s work in the film noir genre, it follows the battle between a charismatic yet imposing rancher in the Southwest, T.C. Jeffords (Walter Huston) and his strong-willed daughter Vance (Barbara Stanwyck) over the eventual control of the ranch, named The Furies.

When Vance is rebuffed in romance by gambler and banker Rip Darrow (Wendell Corey) in no small way due to her father T.C., then her father brings home the wealthy and overbearing West Coast socialite Flo Burnett (Judith Anderson) who begins to push her out not just of T.C.’s attentions but from the ranch business and ownership, Vance has a bad reaction to this.

The Furies begins to build to a more violent and tragic turn as Vance turns against her stepmother to be, runs to her friend and hinted love interest Juan Herrera (Gilbert Roland), one of the Mexican-American squatters living on The Furies who become a thorn in T.C.’s side when he needs a lone extension, and the bank wants him to get rid of all the squatters. After a shocking turn of events, Vance is left having to turn to her once love interest turned sworn enemy Rip Darrow, and the two concoct a scheme to gain control of the ranch from T.C.

The film is a hybrid of open prairie western and parlor melodrama, with Mann seamlessly shifting the scenes, tone, and visual style of The Furies from the intimate costume drama and near pseudo-incestuous confrontations between Vance and T.C. to the stark, almost bleak outdoor roundups, horseback and thorny cactus scenes, using the high contrast and shadows of noir.

Stanwyck gives a standout performance as the powerful female, or, as film historian Jim Kitses refers to her in his robust commentary, the ‘phallic female.’ She outshines all of the male performers in this cast, even the charismatic if hammy Walter Huston and makes for a more than believable ‘femme fatale.’

The Video

The high-definition digital transfer of The Furies was scanned on Spirit DataCine from a 35mm composite fine-grain master positive. The black and white film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in AVC 1080p on this Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. The film has been cleaned up using MTI’s DRS and flicker was reduced using Digital Vision’s Phoenix. While there is still a little visible source damage such as a faint translucent bar on the right side of the screen in the final scenes of the film or very minor tramlines and scratches, this looks quite good being from a composite fine-grain master positive. It doesn’t have the thin, crisp layer of grain one would expect from a transfer taken from the original camera negative, nor is detail quite as sharp, and the shadow details do collapse a bit and crush out in the numerous noir scenes, but overall, this is a strong transfer.

The Audio

The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from a 35mm optical track print using Avid’s Pro Tools and iZotope RX. The mix is provided on Blu-ray by Criterion Collection in LPCM 1.0. We obviously don’t get bombastic sound and wide dynamic range here, but for a vintage 1950 western it is more than adequate, offering clean dialogue and little clipping or crackle.

The Supplements

Criterion includes a wonderful selection of special features and extras with this release. The new discussion from film critic Imogen Sara Smith and the 2008 commentary by film historian Jim Kitses offer brilliant insights into the film and Anthony Mann.

  • Commentary recorded for the Criterion Collection in 2008 by film historian and western scholar Jim Kitses.
  • Anthony Mann (1080p; 00:17:13) – Segments from a 1967 interview with director Anthony Mann produced for the British Television series The Movies.
  • Radical Classicism (1080p; 00:29:23) – Made in 2020 by the Criterion Collection, this program features critic Imogen Sara Smith discussing The Furies.
  • Walter Huston (1080i; 00:08:57) – In this 1931 interview for the movie-theater-presented series Intimate Interviews, actor Walter Huston discusses his craft with interviewer Dorothy West.
  • Nina Mann (1080i; 00:17:29) – In this 2008 Criterion Collection interview, actor Nina Mann, daughter of director Anthony Mann, remembers her father’s work and discusses her special appreciation for The Furies.
  • Trailer (1080p)
  • Booklet: An essay on the film by critic Robin Wood, a 1957 Cahiers du cinema interview with Anthony Mann
  • NEW PRINTING of the 1948 novel The Furies by Niven Busch on which the film is based

The Final Assessment

A superb western noir is offered up in a premium package from Criterion Collection. This is one that has flown under my radar for far too long, but I’m glad I got a chance to view it with this release. Highly recommended.

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The Furies is out on Blu-ray April 20, 2021 from the Criterion Collection

  • Studios & Distributors: Wallis-Hazen | Paramount Pictures | The Criterion Collection
  • Director: Anthony Mann
  • Written By: Charles Schnee (screenplay) | Niven Busch (from a novel by)
  • Run Time: 109 Mins.
  • Street Date: 20 April 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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A strong willed heiress (Barbara Stanwyck) and her tyrannical father (Walter Huston) clash over control of their cattle ranch when he brings home a wealthy West Coast socialite as his fiancee and new heir apparent in this moody western noir from director Anthony Mann based on the novel of the same same by Niven Busch.The Furies (Blu-ray Review)