Desert Fury is a 1947 American crime film noir directed by Lewis Allen starring Lizabeth Scott, John Hodiak and Burt Lancaster, with Mary Astor and Wendell Corey.
The story was adapted for the screen by A.I. Bezzerides and Robert Rossen, based on the racy novel Desert Town by Ramona Stewart. The picture was produced by Hal Wallis, with music by Miklós Rózsa and cinematography in Technicolor by Charles Lang.
The movie is now owned by Universal. It is unavailable on DVD or Blu-Ray in the U.S. film noir enthusiasts are campaigning to have the film restored, preserved, and released on Blu-Ray in the coming year.
Fritzi Haller (Mary Astor) is the tough owner of a saloon and casino in the small fictional mining town of Chuckawalla, Nevada. Her daughter, Paula Haller (Lizabeth Scott), has just quit school and returned home at the same time that gangster Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak) has returned. He was once involved with Fritzi, but left town under suspicion of murdering his wife.
Paula falls for Bendix and they become involved. Paula's old boyfriend, and local lawman, Tom Hanson (Burt Lancaster), along with Bendix's sidekick, Johnny Ryan (Wendell Corey), try to break up the relationship. When Fritzi finds out, she angrily tries to protect Paula and put a stop to her seeing Bendix.
Bendix's past catches up with him in an unexpected way when the car he is in, running from Hanson (who wants to rid the town of the likes of Bendix and Ryan), crashes through the railing as it is going onto the bridge and plunges down the embankment, killing him.Lizabeth Scott as Paula Haller
John Hodiak as Eddie Bendix
Burt Lancaster as Tom Hanson
Mary Astor as Fritzi Haller
Wendell Corey as Johnny Ryan
Kristine Miller as Claire Lindquist
William Harrigan as Judge Berle Lindquist
James Flavin as Sheriff Pat Johnson
Jane Novak as Mrs. Lindquist
Anna Camargo as Rosa
Scenes were shot on location in the small Ventura County, California, town of Piru, with the northwest side of Center Street, at Main, used as the exterior of Fritzi's saloon and casino; the Piru Mansion was used as the Haller home and the historic Piru bridge was used as the locale of the car crash. Some scenes were also shot in Clarkdale, Arizona.
Some outside shots were filmed on the Old Town section of Cottonwood, Arizona.
When the film was released, The New York Times roundly despised it. They wrote, "Desert Fury is a beaut - a beaut of a Technicolored mistake from beginning to end. If this costly Western in modern dress had been made by a lesser producer than Hal Wallis it could be dismissed in a sentence. But Mr. Wallis is a man with a considerable reputation, being a two-time winner of the Irving Thalberg Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Desert Fury is such an incredibly bad picture in all respects save one, and that is photographically."
In later years the film has been praised as a seminal and unique Hollywood melodrama due to its bold overtones of homosexuality:
Film scholar Foster Hirsch wrote, "In a truly subversive move the film jettisons the characters' criminal activities to concentrate on two homosexual couples: the mannish mother who treats her daughter like a lover, and the gangster and his devoted possessive sidekick. (...) Desert Fury is shot in the lurid, over-saturated colors that would come to define the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk."
Film noir expert Eddie Muller wrote, "Desert Fury is the gayest movie ever produced in Hollywood's golden era. The film is saturated - with incredibly lush color, fast and furious dialogue dripping with innuendo, double entendres, dark secrets, outraged face-slappings, overwrought Miklos Rosza violins. How has this film escaped revival or cult status? It's Hollywood at its most gloriously berserk."