I remember when California Split was only available on bootleg VHS, and when the only copy in town of L'Age D'or was via a beat-up, homemade box cover that reflected the quality of the video inside, or, when after reading about Ali : Fear Eats The Soul in Ebert's The Great Movies I could only try to find the bittersweet joy he found in it after my VCR battled through some serious tracking issues. I still cherish VHS in its own way, but god bless Al Gore for inventing the DVD.
But then there were the movies that eluded film fans on any type of format...
I first knew I wanted to see The Furies when I saw a still of Barbara Stanwyck holding up a pair of scissors in strike-mode at a parental looking couple reflected in the mirror behind her. What a strong image (see above). Instantly I knew this film would be superior to Mystic River.
But it wasn't on DVD, it wasn't even on VHS. I'm lucky to live in a town where if the stores here don't have it, then it ain't available,... so I knew I was shut out. Fast forward to late winter 2008 when Criterion announces that they will be releasing The Furies on DVD. (I even put up a dorky and formless post about it here.)
But oh the disappointment I felt tonight when Stanwyck and Wendell Corey rode off into the sunset.
Rick over at Coosa Creek Mambo mentioned in his comment section a few weeks back how Criterion - b/c of their track record - has the ability to inflate our expectations of any film that is branded with their logo. He's right, but previous viewings of Ace In The Hole, If... , Vengeance Is Mine, La Haine, Sweetie, and Jigoku should have reminded me that the Criterion stamp is not assurance of 100% quality. (It's the packaging that's so seductive I tell ya!).
Not that The Furies is as poor as the previously mentioned films, but compared to Anthony Mann's other westerns - the great The Man From Laramie, The Naked Spur, The Tin Star, and the weirdo God's Little Acre (though this one's probably more depression-era drama) - it's tissue thin. I was hoping Stanwyck's Vance Jeffords would be the female equivalent of Jimmy Stewart's vulnerable macho man or Anthony Perkin's valiant meager man.
The old dude on the commentary track seems to be titillated by the incestuousness that Mann got away with in the 50's. Big deal. Working around the production code was only worthy if its cheekiness packed a punch, and Ernst Lubitsch had already been fu*king that sh*t up ninja style a decade prior.
Still... that image of Stanwyck and the scissors will forever be a gift from Mann to us. Shoot, just by itself its better than The Dark Knight.