Thunder Road Film Details
Overview: A veteran comes home from the Korean War to the mountains and takes over the family moonshining business. He has to battle big-city gangsters who are trying to take over the business and the police who are trying to put him in prison
Tagline: More Savage Than The Tommy-Gun Massacre of the Roaring Twenties…TODAY’S BILLION-DOLLAR WHISKEY WAR!
Review: Robert Mitchum’s most personal film (he produced, wrote the screenplay and even co-penned the films two songs) is a strange little bird. A lurid, freewheeling thriller about the illicit moonshine business that is bursting with what audiences nowadays regard as all the essential ingredients of a cult classic and one that would, over the ten years following its release, garner the unofficial crown of “the Gone With The Wind of the drive-in”. Mitchum plays Lucas Doolin; a hard-nosed war-veteran and moonshine runner who sees his fearless ferrying between the illegal still communities of the mountains and their buyers in Memphis as an individual right earned through the ways of his pioneering ancestors. However, his daring forays and reputation for avoiding the law have attracted the attention of FBI Treasury Agent Troy Barrett (Gene Barry) whilst violence is thrust into his path by a ruthless mob connected smuggler, Kogan (Jacques Aubuchon), who is determined to muscle into his business. Soon Doolin is trapped between the two as he endeavours to take on one more run. Not that trouble only lies on the road itself. Doolin is equally determined to see that his devoted younger brother Robin (a role originally intended for Elvis Presley but eventually played by his own son, James) does not follow him into the whisky running business whilst he is emotionally torn between his life in the mountains, personified by the love of his parents and an adoring girl-next-door (Sandra Knight), and his desire to live in the wider World with his jazz chanteuse lover (Keely Smith). Mitchum is superb in the lead role. Whether tearing up the back roads in his souped up Ford 57 or casually flicking a cigarette into a hoodlums face, he remains achingly cool throughout… Pre-empting the likes of Steve McQueen by a good ten years. Yet there’s plenty going on underneath too. A listlessness and loneliness that informs his every action. An underlying worldliness too. Although never clearly revealed, Doolins war-time experiences are referenced throughout. Experiences that have wrought a nihilistic streak not dissimilar to that found in much of Mitchums own late 40’s/early 50’s noir works. With Mitchum dominating, the rest of the cast are a little less convincing; Jazz singer Keely Smith is particularly vacant (Mitchum hiring her on the wayward premise that “anyone who could sing a lyric like her must be able to act”) whilst bull-necked Aubuchon plays it large as the surly hood. Knight is sweet as the lovelorn local gal but is all but consumed when faced with Mitchum’s effortless underplaying. Young James fares a little better though. Although clearly inheriting more of his fathers’ looks than his acting talent, there is nonetheless a palpable chemistry between them that translates to the screen. Barry is suitably earnest as the Government cop doggedly chasing Doolins tail. “Catch me If you can” Mitchum goads in one low key skirmish; immediately bringing to mind the Spielberg film of the same name some forty something years later. Yet, under the eye of maverick director Arthur Ripley, this ragged, distinctively unvarnished assortment of b-players compliments Thunder Road’s offbeat, earthy style rather well. Whilst it may not be a “great” film, its reputation as a sub-culture classic is thoroughly deserved. Devoid of any pretence yet capturing the very essence of the Easy Rider generation a full decade before the cultural revolution of the late 60’s. Not that Mitchum would have cared one jot. For him this film was a labour of love. A homage to fast cars, rocket fuel whiskey and the independent spirit of the deep South. As such, Thunder Road is a roaring success.
Country: United States
Duration: 92 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Also known as: Kilometerstein 375,Il contrabbandiere,Thunder Road,Дорога грома,O dromos ton keravnon,Camino del odio,El contrabandista,Rattens djävlar,Mániákus motorosok,Jack O’Diamonds,Camino de odio,Tehlikeli yol,Beco Sem Saída,Die letzte Fahrt nach Memphis,A Lei da Montanha,Kampen om smuglervejen,The Whippoorwill,Johnny Diamond