Color, 1975, 91 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Brian Damude
Starring Dominic Hogan, Gay Rowan, Dan Hennessey, Hollis McLaren, David Yorston Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A Canadian thriller that arrived just on the cusp of the tax shelter explosion in the 1970s, Sudden Fury is a taut, effective little slice of cinematic manipulation that would probably be better known had it been easier to see for the past four-plus decades. (The generic title probably hasn't helped things either.) The only feature written and directed by Brian Damude, it's essentially focused around five characters out in the middle of nowhere with a tragic twist of fate igniting a chain of violence where it becomes impossible to know who to believe.
While out for an afternoon drive, Fred (Hogan) decides to take his much richer wife, Janet (Rowan), on a scenic route through the woods, much to her irritation. As if his terrible taste in clothing weren't enough of a problem, he has a tendency of starting harebrained schemes that never pan out-- and this turns out to be another ploy, this time to get her to bankroll a scenic inn he wants to build in the exact spot they happen to stop to admire the view. She naturally refuses, and as their drive continues with Fred in a foul mood, he nearly runs into Al (Hennessy) in the middle of the road. A nasty verbal fight ensues with Janet attempting to apologize afterwards, but back on the road, the couple continues fighting until she admits she's having an affair. Fred's fury sends them flying off the road with Janet getting severely wounded and hanging bleeding upside down in the wrecked vehicle... and Fred decides to leave her to die. Still in the area, Al pulls her from the wreckage and into his car, but Fred will stop at nothing to stop either of them from revealing the truth about his behavior. The two men separately become entangled with the closest residents, Dan (Yorston) and Laura (McLaren), who live at a farmhouse and must soon decide which of them is telling the truth about an afternoon that has gone horribly wrong.
Though it features a plot that wouldn't have been out of place as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the execution of this film is most definitely ahead of its time and, as noted in its audio commentary, anticipates a handful of elements that would be found in Blood Simple a decade later. The indie nature of the film works to its advantage here with a tiny handful of major characters (plus some cops thrown in at the end) giving it a strange, otherworldly feeling where only the accents really give away where this is all taking place. It also gets quite a bit nastier and more nihilistic in spots than you might expect; the actual violence isn't that rough (mostly some stage blood here and there), but the way it's meted out and the people who receive it can still pack a punch. Then there's the ending, a bold choice guaranteed to divide viewers who will find it either provocative and a breath of fresh air or a maddening subversion of expectations. Either way, it certainly lingers in your memory though on a haunting ambiguous note that leaves you feeling in a bit of limbo as the credits roll.
Though it appeared on a tiny handful of international VHS releases, Sudden Fury has kept a very low profile until its 2018 Blu-ray/DVD combo by Vinegar Syndrome as a limited (1,500-unit) Black Friday release. The new restoration looks as immaculate as you'd expect given the label's track record to date, featuring a 2K scan from the 16mm original camera negative. You'd actually be hard pressed to guess the 16mm origins for the most part as, apart from a handful of darker scenes inside a barn that tend to go flat, it looks remarkably detailed throughout. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided, and the film can be played with a new audio commentary featuring Damude and Laserblast Film Society's Peter Kupowsky, who was instrumental in bringing this film back to light. It's a very interesting and dense track as they cover the issues with having two mustachioed leading men (who refused to shave them off but did so anyway just before the premiere), the reason Damude didn't direct anything after this, the sprinkling of Hitchcock and Polanski references in the character names, and plenty more. An option is also featured to hear the isolated score by Matthew McCauley, always a welcome feature. The release is then rounded out with a teaser, a somewhat spoiler-y theatrical trailer, and a gallery of crew photos and bios, production photos (apparently nobody on the set was big on wearing shirts), press material, and a cool action geography map under the more Hitchcockian original shooting title, The Fury Plot.