Sidney J. Furie

Sidney J. Furie

Furie's flashy camera style bordered on overkill, his overabundance of lensing gimmicks calling attention to himself, but the directorial excess could not slow the witty script nor undermine the outstanding performance of Michael Caine as an anything-but-super-hero Everyman tossed into the maelstrom of espionage. "The Ipcress File" garnered the British Academy Award as Best Picture and earned Furie's first assignment in the United States, "The Appaloosa" (1966), starring Marlon Brando. The director's penchant for exasperating close-ups, among other stylistic foibles, was even more distracting here than in "The Ipcress File," and he continued to haul out trick shots from his arsenal of impossible angles for "The Naked Runner" (1967), mitigating the suspense of that spy thriller starring Frank Sinatra. Still, he impressed Paramount enough with his virtuosity to sign a four-picture deal, beginning with "The Lawyer" (1970), which would serve as the basis for the NBC series "Petrocelli" (1974-76). He did yeoman's duty for the studio on "Little Fauss and Big Halsy" (also 1970) and enjoyed commercial success with "Lady Sings the Blues" (1972), a pretty good film which played fast and loose with historical facts regarding its subject Billie Holiday. He closed out the Paramount deal with "Hit" (1973), an exciting, if overlong, story of a black secret agent seeking revenge on drug importers responsible for his daughter's death. After that, Furie delivered the first of his colossal bombs, "Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York" (1975), followed by the equally bad "Gable and Lombard" (1976), before righting himself with "The Boys in Company C" (1978), one of the first post-Vietnam pictures. The director wisely abandoned his self-indulgent signature camerawork and allowed good performances and a solid screenplay (by Furie and Rich Natkin) to carry the day. Likewise, his intelligent direction, coupled with Barbara Hershey's harrowing portrayal of a suburban single mother in the grip of an invisible presence, created an effectively frightening atmosphere and redeemed "The Entity" (1982) far above the level of the material. He initiated a franchise as co-writer and director of "Iron Eagle" (1986) and helmed two of the three equally idiotic sequels, all benefiting from the presence of Louis Gossett Jr in the starring role. Though "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987) was an improvement over its predecessor, it was still pretty ordinary, complete with second-rate special effects, and "The Taking of Beverly Hills" (1991) and "Ladybugs" (1992) were equally lackluster, closing the door temporarily on feature assignments. Amazingly, Furie has been busier than ever, directing for the made-for-TV and straight-to-video markets, getting his projects done on time and under budget with a good helping of surface style to make up for their lack of substance. Since directing the two-hour pilot episode of the syndicated "Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years" (1994), filmed on the sweeping plains of Alberta, Canada, in conjunction with CTV network in Canada, Furie has helmed no fewer than eight pictures (with more in the pipeline ready to go), not to mention directing episodes of the syndicated "V.I.P." (1998-2002) series. For TV, his projects have included the thriller "Hollow Point" (HBO, 1997), The Family Channel's "Married to a Stranger" and HBO's "Top of the World" (both 1998), whereas the straight-to-video "The Rage" (also 1998), featuring Lorenzo Lamas, Roy Scheider and the patentedly psycho Gary Busey, proved the director never met an explosion he didn't like. He has also demonstrated his mastery at shooting on a three-week schedule with "In Self Defense," "The Collectors" (both filmed 1998) and "Cord" (2000).