Fritz Lang’s first film in Hollywood from 1936, won him instant praise, with a number of award nominations. As Lang is one of the best film noir directors, he is also one of the most influential pre-film noir directors. This film is no exception. A dark story with some interesting cinematography make this film as close to a film noir as you get before 1940.
The film stars Sylvia Sidney,who Lang would not make the film without, and Spencer Tracy. It is based on a story by Norman Krasna. The story is loosely based on a real life incident in California from 1933, where two kidnapping suspects where pulled from a jail and lynched by vigilantes.
This film starts with Katherine Grant(Sidney) and Joe Wilson(Tracy) planning on getting married, but need more money first. Katherine leaves on a train for a better job. Joe works his way up and buys a gas station. After a year he raises enough money to by a car and go get Katherine, so they could be married. Along the way Joe is pulled over by a small town police officer and is questioned about a kidnapping. He of course has nothing to do with it, but evidence says he might be guilty. The small town is soon a buzz with news of the prisoner. A mob forms and soon burns down the jail house with Joe in it. Is the mob guilty of killing an innocent man? Will Katherine get justice?
This is an interesting morality tale of justice and society as only Lang can tell it. This parallels M in some degree with a mob of people seeking out their own justice. Where the suspect is guilty in M and saved, the suspect is innocent in Fury and not saved from the actions of the violent mob. Where M ends, Fury is just beginning. The story continues with what happens to the mob after their actions.
This film is worth watching for many reasons. This film foreshadows what is to come in the 1940’s classic film noir era. It is also shows Lang’s great storytelling talent is universal, no matter what country or language is used. A must see for all film historians, film buffs, film noir fans and of course Lang fans.
Favorite Tidbit: Rainbow, Joe’s dog, was played by Terry. Terry would go onto even greater fame a few years later when she played Toto in The Wizard of Oz. Not a bad couple films for a little pup.