The Furies – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Making its return to the Criterion Collection with a Blu-ray upgrade, Anthony Mann’s 1950 western, The Furies, has arrived in a new packed set, featuring the fierce film, a cleaned-up transfer, a collection of extras, and the full 1948 novel on which the film is based. That’s certainly one way to appreciate this “Freudian Western” that pits an all-in Barbara Stanwyck against veteran Oscar-winner Walter Huston in his final performance.


Stanwyck stars as Vance Jeffords, the beloved daughter of the tyrannical T.C. Jeffords (Huston). While the father serves as a cattle baron with a sprawling property in 1870s New Mexico Territory referred to as The Furies, Vance is plotting to take over the land herself. This means going after her choice of suitor while balancing a secret relationship she’s formed with Juan Herrera (Gilbert Roland), leader of the Mexican squatters laying claim to some of The Furies. As the story moves forward, both Vance and T.C. find themselves pitted against each other in dangerous ways as they battle for supremacy.

While an exciting plot description, The Furies is not a means for Anthony Mann to build towards dramatic shootouts and other superfluous action beats. Instead, to the chagrin of the studios (The Furies was a flop for Paramount at the time), The Furies is driven by emotional drama, vulnerable characters, and noir-ish sensibilities that play against archetypal western elements. That’s not to say the film is free of any white hat/black hat levels of entertainment, but there’s a lot to appreciate in a film that feels inspired by Greek tragedies (just look at the title) and the work of Shakespeare.

Through it all, despite some upward and downward momentum that takes a bit of a toll on the pacing of the film, the two commanding lead performances make for a terrific feature in its best moments. While not new to the western genre, Stanwyck shows her strengths as one of the most notable classic actresses. Without an iota of feeling for those she considers lesser, the film relies on her strength under even the most intense pressure, as she deals with a world of powerful men around her. She gives just as good (if not more) than she gets in this fiery performance that doesn’t leave any room for questioning her quest for power.

Meanwhile, Huston does well to spar against his ultimate match in this film. There’s plenty of intensity on his part as well, which allows for an appropriate amount of scene-chewing, as T.C. is very much a megalomaniac who is not one to be messed with. As we see the various schemes play out against both sides, Huston brings that sense of glee to layer within his evil nature, keeping the character enjoyable to watch and never pushed too far.

Mann came prepared as well, letting his black-and-white film get swept up in the dust and ruggedness of the settings while accounting for plenty of shadow and silhouettes work as well. Combining his considerable efforts with the complex themes and even taboo subject matter for the time (interracial relationships, and with an actual Mexican actor playing a Mexican, no less), Mann was fully on board to deliver an ahead-of-its-time take on the most popular genre of the day.

In terms of ambition and being one of the great female-fronted westerns, The Furies has plenty in its favor worthy of support. Those two key performances are dynamite and taking into account the way domestic drama plays into a film of such scope, there’s a lot to appreciate when looking back at what was being offered to further evolve the genre. It may have a few lulls at times, but the excellent filmmaking is present throughout.



Encoding: MPEG -4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Details: This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from a 35mm composite fine-grain master positive.

Clarity/Detail: Despite its rugged exteriors, this is an incredibly well-balanced transfer that does well to capture the look of the west Mann was going for. Shots of these characters riding on their horses across various terrain look wonderful, with the interior scenes doing plenty to show off the level of production design and detailed costuming.

Depth: The staging of this film makes for a good understanding of character placement. No real sense of flatness, particularly in a tense shootout scene focusing on characters on multiple levels.

Black Levels: Black levels are quite stable, rich, and feature no sign of crushing. The contrast that comes with the use of shadows and day-for-night scenes does well to show off just how strong the imagery is when considering the darker elements and the b&w cinematography.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: The detail level seen in the characters is impressive enough.

Noise/Artifacts: The film is spotless.



Audio Format(s): English LPCM Mono

Subtitles: English

Details: The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from a 35mm optical track print using Avid’s Pro Tools and iZotope RX.

Dynamics: This Blu-ray’s mono track does a solid job finding all the ways to deliver on the various elements brought to the film through its score, dialogue, and other elements. It’s a great mix.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.



The Furies arrives with all of the same extra features from the previous DVD release, along with a new featurette analyzing the film with a historian. It’s a nice set of extras, given what was available to work with, with some short interviews certainly make it all worthwhile.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jim Kitses – Originally recorded in 2008.
  • Anthony Mann (SD, 17:13) – A 1967 interview with the director, filmed for the BBC series The Movies. More focused on Mann’s career and influences than anything.
  • Radical Classicism (HD, 29:23) – A newly-recorded feature with critic Imogen Sara Smith exploring many of the different themes, overtones, and filmmaking techniques brought to this movie by Mann.
  • Walter Huston (SD, 8:57) – A 1931 interview from the Intimate Interviews series, where Huston discusses his craft with Dorothy West.
  • Nina Mann (SD, 17:29) – Mann’s daughter Nina discusses her father’s work and what he brought to cinema. She particularly speaks of The Furies and Mann’s California upbringing.
  • Trailer (HD, 1:24)
  • PLUS – An essay by critic Robin Wood and a 1957 Cahiers du cinema interview with Anthony Mann and a new printing of the 1948 novel by Niven Busch on which the film is based.



The Furies works as a strong western and a terrific drama capitalizing on its performances and ways to push the genre in ambitious directions. This Blu-ray upgrade comes equipped with a solid technical presentation and a nice collection of extras to round it all out. For those looking to see more out of their classic westerns beyond the normal sort of plots, there’s plenty here to enjoy.

Order Your Copy Here:

Paid Advertising Link


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

  1. No Comments