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  Furies, The Daddy's Girl's A Devil
Year: 1950
Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Walter Huston, Judith Anderson, Gilbert Roland, Thomas Gomez, Beulah Bondi, Albert Dekker, John Bromfield, Wallace Ford, Blanche Yurka, Louis Jean Heydt, Frank Ferguson, Charles Evans, Movita, Craig Kelly, Myrna Dell
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Texas in the 1870s, and in the region known as the Furies, the land is in contention, having been ever since cattle baron T.C. Jeffords (Walter Huston) took it by force some years ago. The trouble is only starting, however, with a gathering sense of aggrievement among the Hispanic community on the land, and Jeffords' pool of resources beginning to dwindle. He has printed his own banknotes, essentially IOUs for those in the area, but even these are being regarded with growing disdain, and although he does not wish to acknowledge it, his business could be under threat. But his loving daughter Vance (Barbara Stanwyck) will stand by her father, through thick and thin - won't she?

Anthony Mann, having spent the nineteen-forties making film noirs, proceeded to apply the lessons he had learned to the Western genre for the rest of the fifties, creating what would be known as psychological Westerns that were well-received critically, and went down well with the public too. He had already made his classic Winchester '73 by the stage he made this, but The Furies was perhaps more a statement of intent given how deep into the murky minds of his characters he delved here. So much so that to modern eyes the Freudian applications to the drama can come across as somewhat absurd, but of course that can be part of the amusement of going back.

Although they didn't go as far as a movie made over twenty years later would have, it's clear there's a bond between T.C. and Vance that goes beyond simple familial affection, even if they don't admit it themselves, preferring to let it simmer. There are more than a few hugs and kisses between the rancher and his Daddy's girl which mixed with a weird charge between the two stars has you thinking from the off, hmm, these two are a lot closer than is healthy, and it's not being played for camp or laughs, either. Camp as we know it had not been defined in 1950, when this was released, but the way in which these desires that dare not speak their name were depicted were bizarre.

Naturally, looking back from the perspective of decades of psychology in the movies there's a danger of seeing too much that was never intended, yet with Mann's work here he is not shy about the attraction between the parent and his adult daughter, and that offers a perversity to its concept and execution that even the later soap opera movies and television that owe a significant debt to this would not be comfortable about making so explicit. Even when Vance gets a boyfriend, the cold-eyed Wendell Corey as business rival Rip Darrow (there's a name), it is apparent that she has chosen him because he can fill the role of the father figure in her life, and after a conflict in the Jeffords clan, there's no mistaking the real reason Vance finds him attractive, and it ain't his looks.

Also there as possible love interest was Gilbert Roland, the Mexican leading man turning character actor at this point in his career, but still virile enough to indicate he would be a better proposition for actual romance if he had not been one of the settlers her father detests so much. Bear in mind that this was a Stanwyck movie, and though she loved Westerns her legions of female fans expected a certain quality of plot that would not be present in the examples of the genre aimed at the kids or menfolk, so there was a degree of women's suffering for Vance to endure as demanded by that loyal audience. Still, if ever there was a leading actress ideal for riding up on horseback it was she, and once the wheels have been set in motion and her character's jealousy corrupts her, this became quite engrossing. Basically, stick around until Babs throws a pair of scissors at Judith Anderson's head, pointy end first, and you'd get to the good stuff, including actual boulders thrown in a gunfight. Music by Franz Waxman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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