The Sound of Fury (Cy Endfield, 1950)

What's it about? Down-on-his-luck family man Howard (Frank Lovejoy) is lured into a downward spiral of criminal activity by the flashy Jerry (Lloyd Bridges). Things don't end well.

Is it any good? There's a bit near the start of this where Lloyd Bridges takes a swig from a liquor bottle and I half expected him to say "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking". There, all similarities to Airplane! end, though, as this is a film which develops into quite a tough examination of guilt, trial by media and mob justice. The early scenes are rather perfunctory, depicting Howard's reluctant descent into a life of crime. However, it picks up when the story turns to the role of the media in reporting the crimes. More interested in selling papers than journalistic integrity, the media irresponsibly whips Joe Public into a state of hysterical outrage, with disastrous consequences. Everything comes to a head in the well-realised climactic crowd scenes, the soundscape of which is fantastic and really does justify the film title. Overall, it's not perfect. I wasn't mad about the performances, which were a bit forced and lacked a bit of star power. Plus there's a very odd Italian character who turns up occasionally to preach morality, who is lucky not to get his lights punched out for being a sanctimonious prick. This tendency to wag a finger at American society, as well as the depiction of the dark heart of post-war America, meant it flopped badly on release. But despite its flaws, this lesser known noir packs a lot into 87 mins or so and is worth a look.

Anything else I should know? It was based on the events surrounding the real-life kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart in the 1930s, a notorious incident in which the media effectively advertised and promoted a public lynching. The same incident also inspired Fritz Lang's 1936 film Fury, meaning The Sound of Fury was changed in the US to the insipid-sounding Try and Get Me to avoid confusing poor, dumb cinema-goers. Director Endfield had his Hollywood career effectively ended a year later when he was blacklisted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities as a suspected Communist. Exiled to England, he went on to make his best-known film Zulu, but The Sound of Fury remains his best-regarded and should probably be required viewing for every hack journalist in the media.

What does the Fonz think? Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit lynching people.

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