Sunday, February 1, 2009

Film Review: THUNDER ROAD (1958, Arthur Ripley)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 92 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Robert Mitchum, James Mitchum, Gene Berry (WAR OF THE WORLDS, FORTY GUNS), Peter Breck (MAVERICK), Jacques Aubuchon (THE LOVE GOD?, THE SHAGGY DOG), Sandra Knight (THE TERROR).
Tag-lines: " Raw And Rough As Today's Billion-Dollar Whiskey War!"
Best one-liner(s): "She's trying to make a living. If you want to bray, go find yourself a barnyard."

"Now let me tell the story/I can tell it all/ About the mountain boy who ran illegal alcohol/ His daddy made the whiskey, son, he drove the load/ When his engine roared/ They called the highway thunder road." It's MOONSHINE MOUNTAIN meets OUT OF THE PAST; a Hillbilly Noir, if you will. Mitchum wrote and stars in it, and it inspired the hit song "The Ballad of Thunder Road," sung by Mitchum, and quoted at the start of this review. "The Ballad of Thunder Road" with Mitchum singing unfortunately does not appear in the film, contrary to popular belief, just the instrumental version. But it's a damn fine song, and I encourage everyone to purchase the essential CD "Robert Mitchum, That Man, Sings!" which includes some of his greatest Rockabilly and even Calypso hits.

'Baby, I don't care if you buy my album or not; I'm still drinking this entire bottle of gin.'

Back to the matter at hand, however, 'Ole Rumple Eyes' is back to his bored badass routine, and let me tell you, it never gets old. Watch Mitchum crumple a mobster's hat cause he can. Watch Mitchum play older brother to his real life son, James, who really is the spittin' image of his old man.

Mitchum's kid: looks exactly like Mitchum.

Watch Mitchum drive cars real fast, cars filled to the brim with white lightnin' and screamin' down the highway at speeds no man was meant to travel. This movie was key for Mitchum because it launched the second half of his career; after a series of lackluster financial returns and getting fired from the set of BLOOD ALLEY because of his constant pranks (including throwing the transportation manager into San Francisco Bay), Mitchum's career was in jeopardy, and the runaway success of THUNDER ROAD cemented his star status for the many years to come.

Mitchum truly doesn't give a shit.

This is the man, who despite his jingoistic support of the Vietnam War and desire to nuke 'em, STILL was voted "coolest celebrity" in a teen poll of 1968. So I tip my hat to you, Bob Mitchum. I don't even care if you crumple it.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

Richard said...

Can anyone tell me if there are scenes where a mirror is put across the road so the 'shiners think a car is playing chicken with them and they crash, my copy of thunder road does not have this and i'm sure i saw it in the original...thanks.....Ron