The Furies (Criterion).

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(Also appeared on GreenCine Daily.)

The Furies "Criterion's surprising, all-stops-out release of [Anthony] Mann's early western The Furies (1950) offers a valuable view of this director nearing the height of his powers, before his gifts had calcified; in many ways, it's his most exciting movie because it's also his most unresolved, opening up a Pandora's box of psychological issues that cannot be contained in any conventional conclusion," writes Dan Callahan at the House Next Door.

"In truth, The Furies, frontier setting notwithstanding, barely counts as a western," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times. "There are elements of film noir in both the plot and the look; many key scenes unfold under cover of darkness (Victor Milner earned an Oscar nomination for his moody cinematography). Above all, though, it plays like a Freudian melodrama, dissecting the hysterical and ultra-competitive love-hate relationship between widowed patriarch TC Jeffords (Walter Huston) and his headstrong daughter, Vance (Barbara Stanwyck)."

"Stanwyck's inward performance, one of her most brilliant - even the back of her head is somehow stunningly expressive - contrasts with Huston's gleefully over-the-top histrionics, which actors playing crazed patriarchs have strained to match ever since," writes Richard Brody in the New Yorker. "Mann emphasizes the characters' ambiguous blend of outsized evil and noble virtue, eliciting grand, tragic overtones from Charles Schnee's adaptation of the orotund novel by Niven Busch (included in the box)."

"Mann gives the action a metaphysical dimension that overwhelms easy psychoanalytic readings," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "As in his films noirs (Raw Deal, Desperate), he systematically composes his shots to create a sense of instability, using lines of perspective or boldly massed foregrounds to pull the images off balance. The titanic struggle between father and daughter has knocked the world off its axis."

"Anthony Mann was a director who knew his Aeschylus well enough to keep the story front and center, goading it with efficiency and brio, confining the poetry to visual effects that make the story memorable and, in two instances of sudden violence, awful - but in a good, Greek way," writes Gary Giddins, whose review for the New York Sun segues into the Mann films in James Stewart: The Western Collection.

"Traditionally, women have very specific roles in westerns, and Stanwyck dismantles them all," writes Jamie S Rich in DVD Talk.

Earlier: DK Holm for the Vancouver Voice.

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