The career of Canadian filmmaker Sidney J Furie perfectly demonstrates how a reputation for workmanlike efficiency can keep a director regularly employed, despite a dearth of critical acclaim. Furie decided he wanted to be a filmmaker when he was six years old, after seeing his first film, "Captains Courageous" (1937), and showed early promise in his native Canada with his directing debut, the autobiographical "A Dangerous Age" (1957), and as creator of the series "Hudson's Bay" (CBC, 1959). After moving to Great Britain in 1960, he dabbled in the horror genre ("Doctor Blood's Coffin" and "The Snake Woman," both 1961) and helmed "Three on a Spree" (also 1961), yet another remake of "Brewster's Millions," before experiencing his first big success with the teen musical "Wonderful to Be Young/The Young Ones" (1962), which boasted the choreography of Herbert Ross and enjoyed a box office in England that year second only to "Dr. Who." It was, however, the mean-street melodrama "The Leather Boys" which demonstrated his sharp eye for sleazy detail and brought Furie to the attention of producer Harry Saltzman, who hired him to direct "The Ipcress File" (1965), the first and best of Len Deighton's Harry Palmer spy series.
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).
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Director (TV Mini-Series)
Raised $19,000 to make first independent feature, "A Dangerous Age", based largely on his youthful experiences; produced and scripted, as well as helmed
Created "Hudson's Bay" series for the Canadian Broadcasting Company
Immigrated to England
Directed "Wonderful to Be Young/The Young Ones", a musical boasting Herbert Ross as choreographer; opened to business in England second only to the James Bond adventure "Dr. No"
"The Leather Boys", a film mixing homosexuality and motorcycles, garnerd critical acclaim and brought him to the attention of producer (and fellow Canadian) Harry Saltzman
For Saltzman, directed "The Ipcress File", a spy story starring Michael Caine; its box office success in England and the United States led to his first US directing opportunity; earned British Academy Award as Best Picture
Helmed another musical, "Swinger's Paradise/Wonderful Life"
US directing debut, "The Appaloosa", starring Marlon Brando
Directed Frank Sinatra in "The Naked Runner"
Asked by studio to take over "Little Fauss and Big Halsy", originally scheduled to be directed by its screenwriter Charles Eastman
Helmed and scripted (with Harold Buchman) "The Lawyer", creating the character of Tony Petrocelli played by Barry Newman; Newman would reprise the character in the NBC series "Petrocelli" (1974-1976), with Furie credited as co-creator
Enjoyed commercial success with Billie Holiday biopic, "Lady Sings the Blues"; Diana Ross earned Best Actress Oscar nomination
Fourth pic of Paramount deal, "Hit", reteamed him with Richard Pryor and Billy Dee Williams from "Lady Sings the Blues"
Co-wrote (with Richard Natkin) and helmed "The Boys in Company C", which featured a standout performance by Stan Shaw, whipping green Marine recruits in shape for Vietnam
Helmed sensational and exploitive "The Entity", based on a true case history of the paranormal
Reteamed with Natkin to write "Purple Hearts", a Vietnam love story; also produced and directed; first screen collaboration with Ken Wahl
Initiated the "Iron Eagle" franchise, a pale imitation of "Top Gun"; co-wrote original and "Iron Eagle II" (1988) with Kevin Elders
Effectively killed the Superman franchise with atrocious "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace"
Authored the story for and helmed "The Taking of Beverly Hills"; reteamed with Ken Wahl
Last feature to date to receive a theatrical release, "Ladybugs", starring Rodney Dangerfield
Helmed the pilot for syndicated Canadian-produced series, "Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years"
Took to the air one last time with "Iron Eagle IV", downgraded from feature film to cable movie; aired on HBO
Helmed episodes of the syndicated series "V.I.P."