Desert Fury (1947)
By: Paul Ryan on September 30, 2009  | 
DV1 (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. 91 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Lewis Allen
Starring: John Hodiak, Lizabeth Scott, Burt Lancaster, Mary Astor
Screenplay: Robert Rossen
Country: USA
External Links
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The small desert town of Chuckwalla is a bustling den of gambling, sin, and general iniquity. Home to the Purple Sage casino, run by the non-nonsense Fritzie Haller (Mary Astor), the town attracts all manner of souls eager to make a quick buck. Attempting to keep things in some kind of order is Deputy Sheriff Tom Hanson (Burt Lancaster), though it's a consistently thankless task, especially as racketeer Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak) and his offsider Johnny (Wendell Corey) ride into town seeking a piece of the action. Into all of this comes Fritzie's rebellious teenage daughter, Paula (Lizabeth Scott), who has run away from school. So begins a battle of wills between mother and daughter, as the latter commences an affair with Bendix, who just may have murdered his wife…

Not very well-regarded, but really quite entertaining, Desert Fury is a vintage forties studio potboiler. With as much violence and sexuality as Production Code-era Hollywood would allow at the time, this features some excellent work from Astor (of The Maltese Falcon) and a young Lancaster. Especially impressive is Wendell Corey (later of Rear Window, and uh, Astro Zombies), who exudes a simmering menace as the quietly intimidating - and very obviously gay - Johnny, while Lizabeth Scott makes for a compelling femme fatale. The cinematography by Edward Cronjager and Charles Lang makes great use of the Arizona locations, and Lewis Allen's direction creates a real sense of time and place.

While it's nothing particularly memorable, it is enjoyable, and given the sexual themes in the film, an interesting example of how Hollywood films had to use subtext in an era of heavy censorship.
While it is taken from an unrestored print, this generally looks quite good for a 63-year-old film. There are a number of scratches and nicks around each reel change, but these tend to let up fairly quickly. Unlike a number of older films from DV1, this comes from a native PAL video source, which is a big plus, and the forties-era Technicolor looks excellent.
The 2.0 Mono track is nothing special, but fairly clear, with both the dialogue and Miklos Rosa's score preserved very nicely.
Extra Features
Nothing on the disc itself, but the sleeve contains a neat little critical profile on Lewis Allen by Vigen Galstyan, which examines Allen's relatively unheralded place in film (and later, television) history, whilst acknowledging some career missteps along the way.
The Verdict
A good example of Hollywood attempting to work around the strictures of industry-mandated censorship, Desert Fury will likely surprise contemporary viewers. There's a fine cast and some excellent cinematography as well. DV1's disc is bare-bones, but the film itself looks and sounds pretty good.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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