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Thunder Road

Thunder Road

4.0 2
Director: Arthur Ripley, Robert Mitchum, Gene Barry, Keely Smith

Cast: Arthur Ripley, Robert Mitchum, Gene Barry, Keely Smith


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Robert Mitchum (who also wrote the story and served as executive producer) stars in Thunder Road as Lucas Doolin, a Korean War veteran who returns home and promptly rejoins the family's bootlegging business. His father, Vernon (Trevor Bardette), runs the still and heads the family, while Lucas handles the driving and


Robert Mitchum (who also wrote the story and served as executive producer) stars in Thunder Road as Lucas Doolin, a Korean War veteran who returns home and promptly rejoins the family's bootlegging business. His father, Vernon (Trevor Bardette), runs the still and heads the family, while Lucas handles the driving and transporting of the moonshine (mostly to Memphis), and his younger brother, Robin (James Mitchum), takes care of the car he uses to outrun the competition and the Treasury agents; and their mother, Sarah (Frances Koon), keeps the home. Lucas is a better driver than anyone around, and he and Robin have rigged a few tricks on the car that surprise the Treasury men -- but Robin is nearly 17 and tired of just working under the hood; he wants to drive like Lucas. Lucas doesn't want his brother to become a transporter, though, preferring that the teenager stay in school and stay straight with the law. But Lucas is pretty easy to idolize, looked up to by most of their neighbors for his driving skills, among other attributes, and the object of affections of lots of women between Harlan and Memphis, most especially teenaged neighbor Rozanna Ledbetter (Sandra Knight). He appreciates her admiring and lustful gaze, though he has all the woman he can handle and wishes that she were that interested in Robin, who's her own age and just as attracted to her in his own awkward way. Lucas and his family have always been able to outrun the revenue agents, even with a new man, Troy Barrett (Gene Barry), assigned to the territory and out to get him -- they're dedicated and tough, but they're not killers. However, now they're hearing of a new threat in the guise of a Memphis-based gangster named Carl Kogan (Jacques Aubuchon), who wants to take over the Doolins' operation and all the other moonshining activity in Harlan County. He's already offered a lot of money, but the Doolins and most of their neighbors running stills are too independent for that, and now he's sending in muscle, and that gets a young neighbor of theirs (Jerry Hardin) killed. But Lucas was pretty tough before the war, and he learned a thing or two about combat in Korea, and is not about to let either revenue agents or a bunch of strong-arm men from the city get in his way, and he has the car and the firepower to back up those sentiments. When Kogan goes too far and kills a Treasury man, Lucas also picks up an unintended ally in agent Barrett, whose highest priority becomes indicting Kogan. The problem is that indictments and prosecutions aren't what Lucas is about -- he means to meet shot-for-shot and take more personal action, especially when his family becomes involved in Kogan's machinations. One thing he always swore to any and all within hearing range was that he'd keep Robin from becoming a transporter, and kill anyone who tried to make him one. And when Kogan manipulates a situation where Robin is lured into driving, Lucas means to make good on that vow. Director Arthur Ripley (1895-1961), a music and dance student-turned-editor-turned-gagman and short-subject specialist and academic (whose preceding feature film, 12 years earlier, had been the eerie Cornell Woolrich-based thriller The Chase), working in tandem with second unit directors James Casey and Jack Lannan and second unit photographer Karl Malkames, keeps the action moving at a brisk pace. Robert Mitchum is the center of gravity to the movie, though, which contains the quintessential Mitchum performance, the actor making his work look so easy that he could almost seem lazy if he weren't so magnetic in the role. He helped make Thunder Road into a national success, but the movie always had an extra-special resonance in the South, where it was shot and set. Thunder Road continued to generate annual five- and six-figure ticket sales from drive-ins in the border and Southern states for 25 years after its original release, a factor that caused United Artists and its successor organizations to purposefully delay its release on home video until the end of the 1980s.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
In an age when even billionaires can be described as "cool," it's hard to know if that half-century-old word still has any meaning. But if it doesn't apply to this cult classic with Robert Mitchum as the baddest moonshiner who ever popped a 180, it's dead. While Arthur Ripley is credited as director, with story and executive producer credits, this is clearly Mitchum's show from start to finish, reflecting his terminally cool persona and dedication to the celebration of kamikaze lifestyles. As a returning Korean vet, he tries to keep his brother out of the family bootlegging business only to be pulled in himself. A film made up of car chases, violence, music, and more car chases, its deeper significance will be evident only to the most skilled of semioticians. Others can just sit back and enjoy the narcoleptic presence of the star as he screeches around the mountains of Tennessee hills, birthplace NASCAR in a 1950 Ford Coupe with the revenuers on his tail. Fans of James Bond should appreciate the primitive but effective oil-spurting jets on this car, not to mention the quick-release whiskey tank in the trunk. To add to its cult status, the songs "The Ballad of Thunder Road" and "Whiporwil," both sung by Mitchum, spent time on Top 40 charts, and, along with the movie, are clearly alluded to by Bruce Springsteen in his own "Thunder Road."

Product Details

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Original Release:
Timeless Media
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Mitchum Lucas "Luke" Doolin
Gene Barry Troy Barrett
Keely Smith Francie Wymore
Jacques Aubuchon Carl Kogan
James Mitchum Robin Doolin
Trevor Bardette Vernon Doolin
Sandra Knight Rozanna Ledbetter
Betsy Holt Mary Barrett
Frances Koon Sarah Doolin
Randy Sparks Singer/Guitarist
Peter Breck Stacey Gouge
Jerry Hardin Niles Penland
Robert Porterfield Preacher
Mitchell Ryan Jed Moultrie

Technical Credits
Arthur Ripley Director
Harry Marker Editor
Jack Marshall Score Composer
Robert Mitchum Songwriter,Original Story,Producer
James Atlee Phillips Screenwriter
Don Raye Songwriter
Alan Stensvold Cinematographer
Carlie Taylor Makeup
Frank Webster Sound/Sound Designer
Walter Wise Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Thunder Road
1. Chapter 1 [4:10]
2. Chapter 2 [13:02]
3. Chapter 3 [14:54]
4. Chapter 4 [14:28]
5. Chapter 5 [14:57]
6. Chapter 6 [15:39]
7. Chapter 7 [13:39]
8. Chapter 8 [1:44]


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Thunder Road 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have seen this movie six times. It is a classic and Mitchum is seen in one of his coolest portrayals. Filmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina and the surrounding Buncombe County area, a perfect backdrop for this backwoods 50's classic. The opening scene was filmed at the intersection of Clayton Road in South Asheville near Biltmore Baptist Church and NC 191 which is Brevard Road. The final crash scene was filmed only 1 mile away on NC 191 also. Both scenes were filmed in my community when I was 9 years old. Before James Bond we had Robert Mitchum and ''Thunder Road''
Anonymous More than 1 year ago