Desert Fury

Tagline : Two men wanted her love ... The third wanted her life !

Runtime : 96 mins

Genre : Crime Drama Romance Thriller

Vote Rating : 6/10

Reviews for this movie are available below.

Plot : The daughter of a Nevada casino owner gets involved with a racketeer, despite everyone's efforts to separate them.

Cast Members

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Tempting Trifle Triangles! Desert Fury is directed by Lewis Allen and adapted to screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides and Robert Rossen from the novel Desert Town written by Ramona Stewart. It stars Lizabeth Scott, John Hodiak, Mary Astor, Burt Lancaster and Wendell Corey. Music is by Miklós Rózsa and cinematography by Edward Cronjager and Charles Lang. My my, what do we have here then? Desert Fury is a sort of collage of film noir and melodramatic shenanigans played out in splendid Technicolor saturation and set in amongst spanking vistas. Plot in short form finds Scott as Paula Haller, a late teenager who has quit school and returned to Chuckawalla in Nevada. There her mother, Fritzi (Astor), runs the town casino and has powerful friends. Coinciding with Paula’s arrival is that of Eddie Bendix (Hodiak), a one time Chuckawalla racketeer who left town under a cloud when his wife was killed in an accident. Town copper Tom Hanson (Lancaster) has the hots for Paula, so when Paula gets the hots for Bendix he is not best pleased – and neither is the mighty Fritzi nor Bendix’s “live in chum” Johnny Ryan (Corey). Pic is absolutely pungent with psychosexual tension, where lead character’s sexual orientation is purposely murky for devilish story strand dangles. Dialogue is often noirishly brisk, ripe with innuendo, all as dark secrets and past revelations boil over into glorious character histrionics. Though the powder keg of frustrated human beings is simple in plot structure here, these characters are rather fascinating, there’s quite a bit going on beneath the catty and machismo veneers. Past mistakes and missed opportunities hang heavy, the search for more in life also. The reoccurring theme of the bridge that book ends the story is a structure that is either impossible to cross to freedom, or conversely a route back to the safe haven of Chuckawalla. Road to nowhere? It’s not a great movie exactly, it has evident flaws for sure. Hodiak is a touch unconvincing as a heavy mob like dude, a bit too by the numbers, which is a shame because he was often great in noir styled pics (see Somewhere in the Night for example). Now I don’t have a problem with Scott, a poor woman’s Lauren Bacall she may well be, but some of the scorn she receives is unfair. She’s hard to accept as a late teenager here though, especially with her husky voice and delivery of ripe lines belying her supposed youthfulness. Lancaster was only into his 3rd film of his career and is utterly wasted, which when it follows his work in The Killers and Brute Force is even more unforgivable. But to offset the acting missteps there’s Mary and Wendell… Astor is on fire, playing a battle axe domineering mother with obvious sexual kinks and life hang-ups, she is both moving and edgily scary. Yet she is trumped by Corey, in what is his film debut he brings Johnny Ryan to vivid life. Ryan is a ball of man love fire, with a clinical jealousy simmering away, you just know he has it in him to kill should the need arise. Lewis Allen rightly has a mixed reputation, and his bad trait of sinking into melodrama when not required is evident here, but he brings out frothy turns from his principal players. Two excellent cinematographers on show here, both Cronjager (I Wake Up Screaming) and Lang (The Big Heat) delight in using the Technicolor for snazzy sheen value, while the locales in their hands are a sight for sore eyes. Rózsa has done better compositions in his sleep, but his searing strings fit the tone of plotting superbly. I loved this, in the way I love Johnny Guitar and Slightly Scarlet. Hardly a genius piece of work or a pic that everyone simply must see, but for those who like noir, Westerns or mellers with bends and kinks, this you should enjoy. 7.5/10

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