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Desert Fury
Noir, Romance

1947 | 4:3 | COLOR | Quality: Excellent

Lizabeth Scott

Burt Lancaster

John Hodiak


After quitting school, the nineteen year-old quicksilver Paula Haller (Lizabeth Scott) returns to Chuckwalla, Nevada, where her mother Fritzi Haller (Mary Astor) is a powerful owner of the casino Purple Sage. Paula meets sleazeball racketeer Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak), who is suspected of murdering his wife and is also returning to the town with his "friend" Johnny Ryan (Wendell Corey). Paula resents her mother Fritzi and when she learns how much her mother hates bad-boy Eddie, she begins a relationship with the crook. Sheriff Tom Hanson (Burt Lancaster), who is an old friend of Fritzi and has a crush on Paula, advises her about the character of Eddie Bendix. Johnny, who is very close to Eddie, also tries to break up their relationship. The resolute Paula does not give up, but as she unravels the true past behind her beloved bad-boy things begin to turn grim.

Although the plot of Desert Fury may seem like fairly conventional fare, this film has become legendary for its bold overtones of homosexuality. Back in the golden age of Hollywood, certain topics were strictly taboo. As such, occasionally filmmakers resorted to codes which supposedly floated over the heads of most of the audience while alerting those in the know to just what was up. Probably no film of the decade was so loaded with code and innuendo as this one. 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." Film noir expert Eddie Muller added, "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."

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