The first American movie from German director Fritz Lang after he fled from Paris escaping the Nazi regime in Germany. The story told by Lang himself was that he was offered the position of the head of the German Cinema Institute – UFA (later accepted by Leni Riefenstahl) by Josef Goebbels in 1933. He recalls that the day after the proposal he escape to France because he was an Anti-Nazi because of his Catholic past. However, records tell that there were many meetings with Goebbels and that the two man disagreed on some aspects of the deal. Lang was already a wise storyteller. With the ban of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse in 1933 by the same Goebbels, Lang knew the menace of the rise of Nazism in his home country. With Fury, it is interesting to see how Lang perceives his new homeland.
A young couple, Kathy (Sylvia Sidney) and Joe (Spencer Tracy), of Chicago must stay apart for more than a year to raise the money they need to get married. Joe lives with his two brothers Charlie (Frank Albertson) and Tom (George Walcott). His brother, Charlie has been intertwined with the mob and the brothers Wilson are trying to get clean and live a decent life preached by Joe. While rejoining his future wife, Joe gets intercepted as a suspect of a kidnapping of a woman by three men. The evidences makes us hesitate of the fact that maybe Joe has fallen into Charlie’s ex-life bad habits. But no, it is a case of the wrong man that the mob wants to lynch. The people of the village where he is arrested riot against the jail house and put the fire to get rid of him. Kathy who couldn’t wait for Joe anymore at their meeting point arrives at the moment when Joe is seen through the prisons bars behind flames.
Then the second half of the movie is the trial of the mob who lynched Joe. In the constitution there’s a law that anyone who gets revenge or lynch someone should be punished by a death sentence. Lang’s film works on many levels, first the romance of the two lead characters, then the injustice of the mob and the solidarity of the village where Joe has been lynch to cover up and blame it on the stranger from out of town. There is also the sense of revenge and justice and the hope that the American society is better than the appeal of the mass movements of Nazi Germany. This is a reminder that built on human rights and justice, the American society must unite in the right way instead of covering up. It looks like Lang’s playdoyer for civilization.
Even with a very Capraesque ending, this Fritz Lang film is a near-masterpiece of beautiful camera movements and social involvement. With every watching of a Fritz Lang film one discovers how deep and important his filmography truly is. Expect more reviews of Lang movies in the upcoming weeks. Highly recommended.