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Rolling Thunder (1977) - Blu-ray Review

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Rolling Thunder (1977) - Blu-ray Review

4 stars

The steely-eyed no-nonsense action thrillers of writer/director John Flynn (Lock Up, Out for Justice) gets their start with cult favorite Rolling Thunder.  Suggesting this film is a classic of the genre is indeed an understatement.  Everything about this fierce gem boils with ferocity.  Gritty to the last second, Rolling Thunder makes its debut this month on Blu-Ray courtesy of the fine folks over at Shout! Factory.

Long heralded as one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films, Rolling Thunder tells the story of Major Charles Rane (William Devane) as he returns home to a small Texas town with his friend, Sergeant First Class Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones), after spending seven years as a POW in Hanoi.  Everything has changed.  His wife has moved on.  His son barely knows him. And he is showered with gifts from a grateful community.

Of course, some greedy thugs - "The Texan" (James Best), "Automatic Slim" (Luke Askew) and a couple of Mexican thugs, "T Bird" (Charles Escamilla) and "Melio" (Pete Ortega) - decide that they want to steal a number of silver dollars he has been awarded.  They enter his home and – while robbing and torturing him - they also kill his wife and son (Jordan Gerler) and introduce his hand to a mean and quite powerful garbage disposal.  The Major wants revenge so he enlists the help of his war buddy Johnny to meet the thugs in a final showdown inside a brothel on the outskirts of Mexico.

Written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), Rolling Thunder crackles with real-life intensity.   It fires like a sawn-off barrel of a shotgun: loud and pulverizing.  The level of violence in this sucker – especially in the last ten minutes – makes it quite effective and unshakable.  To be sure, this is a pressure cooker.  Major Rane is damaged from the torture.  He explains how he learned to deal with to the 'Texas belle' Linda Forchet (Linda Haynes), who has worn his ID bracelet since he left, and says quite simply that he learned to enjoy it.

Rolling Thunder (1977) - Blu-ray Review

Mentally, the Major may not be all there.  At least, he does not appear to be reacting to things as one would expect.  PTSD has set in.  When his wife – played by Lisa Blake Richards – informs him that she has had an affair and has no plans to end it now that he is back, the Major, in a very unsettling tone of voice, simply tells her that "I'm just gonna sit here."  It’s a chilling moment, one of several in Schrader’s pressure cooker.  But definitely, after the attack when he feigns memory loss to the cops and convinces his friend to help him out, the Major is gone, daddy, gone … along with his arm.

Flynn assembles the film unlike most revenge flicks.  He doesn’t take them out one at a time.  The pacing is – for lack of a better word – schizophrenic at times but rewards viewers with a balls-to-the-wall finale that’s hard (even today) to watch.  Jones – who only smiles once here (after he’s blown away a numbskull) – kills it in his role as the sidekick and Devane has more than one classic line to make the grindhouse-like film memorable.

Revenge gets a new name.  It’s called Rolling Thunder.

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Rolling Thunder (1977) - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 95 mins.
Director
: John Flynn
Writer
: Paul Schrader, Heywood Gould
Cast: William Devane; Tommy Lee Jones; Linda Haynes; Dabney Coleman
Genre: Action | Crime | Drama
Tagline:
Another Shattering Experience From The Author Of "Taxi Driver."
Memorable Movie Quote: "I had everything worked out but nothing's gone the way I planned."
Distributor:
Shout! Factory
Official Site:
Release Date:
1977
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 28, 2013
Synopsis
: Major Charles Rane comes back from the war and is given a number of gifts from his hometown because he is a war hero. Some greedy thugs decide that they want to steal a number of silver dollars from him. In the process they also manage to kill his wife and son and destroy his hand. The Major wants revenge so he enlists the help of his war buddy Johnny to meet the thugs in a final showdown.

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Rolling Thunder (1977) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 28, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Rolling Thunder is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Due to its age, this transfer is not going to blow any minds out there.  The elements seem slightly faded at times, which is not a huge deal, but this transfer has noticeable “noise” in several of the darker sequences, something that proves to be the most distracting anomaly of this high definition presentation. This Shout! Factory release has a very filmic appearance, and when brightly lit daytime scenes are on hand, fine detail pops quite admirably.  Colors are bright but never bold and the level of detail is crisp.  The sound is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix which is to be expected from a film of this quality and age.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

The only interesting piece features new interviews with Devane, Jones, and Schrader. All three of them, interestingly enough, ignore the political commentary of the film (if there arguably is one) and explain that they view the film as nothing other than a basic revenge drama.  The rest of the supplemental material is made up of TV Spots and other forms of advertising.

  • The Making of Rolling Thunder (22 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer (3 min)
  • TV Spots (1 min)
  • Radio Spots (3 min)
  • Photo Gallery (2 min)

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