User Reviews (66)

  • 10/10
    Spectacular cult classic of the Moonshine Wars of the 40s, 50s
    It's hard to describe the visceral jolt this film gives to anyone brought up in the South or to anyone who appreciates hot rods.

    Unfortunately, my dad died shortly before this film came out or it would have been his favorite film. Raised in a poor sharecropper's family in Clay County, Kentucky, during the Depression, he and his brothers drove souped-up "tankers" running moon throughout Ky, Tenn and Virginia before and after they served in combat in WW2 and Korea. From their description of those rowdy days, THUNDER ROAD is as brutally accurate as can be. Not only were the dreaded T-Men a major hazard, with their brutal tactics, but the various families that cooked the "moon" and distributed it often had blood feuds that were resurrected or exacerbated by their competition for the illegal whisky business. The longest running feud in US history, the century-long White-Baker Feud (also called the Clay County Wars) was resurrected due to the two clans' competition in tanking the moon throughout Appalachia.

    Inherently a sad but realistic work, Mitchum's excellent performance and an honest, understated script give us a snapshot of an American way of life that few outside of the rural South could ever comprehend. The culture of individualism and freedom from Federal oppression is much less today, but still exists. I believe the reason this film is such a huge cult film in the South is that it reminds us that not too long ago many of our ancestors were still willing to take on the tyrant face to face. We are, alas, just a pale copy of those who went before.

    Truly one of the most under-appreciated films of the 50s, due in no small part to the overwhelmingly Yankee composition of the critics' circles. They couldn't possibly understand the film. It's a Southern thing.
  • Glenn Andreiev14 February 2001
    Has a strange charm I can't put a finger to....
    THUNDER ROAD opens with a bang! A bumper snatcher (Government car that rips back bumpers off the cars they chase) grabs the plate off the hot rod belonging to the most sought after moonshiner in the business, Lucas Doolin. Doolin is probably the coolest Robert Mitchum performance. With his sleepy eyes, he slaps around the rival moonshiners, basically tells the ATF boys they'll never get him, tries to keep his younger brother (Played by Mitchum's 17 year old son, Jim.) away from the moon business. The film has a real charm to it, basically because the film never sneers at the hillbilly culture it depicts. Reportingly, the drive in classic of the 1960's, and I can see why. Recommended viewing.
  • kongrragnar25 June 2004
    The film I love
    Filmed in 1957, and sent to theaters in 1958, it had the 'Rods' of the day. This was a film of youth, and wild rebels. In some ways, you had to be born then to understand it. I saw it for the first time at the Flying Cloud Drive-In. Siting in a 1951 Ford Custom with a full race flat head engine, and my best girl at my side. Three duces, Lakers, and overdrive trans. The car, not her. To this day I can close my eyes and hear the the high pitch voice singing the theme song. "Let me tell the story, I can tell it well, 'bout the whipperwill that drove...", well you know the song if you have seen the movie.

    Imagine a drive-in filled with 'Rods'. On the screen you see a 50 Ford, with its lights out, driving down a dark country road. A 57 Chev pulls out from a hiding spot and gives chase. All heck lets loose, not on the screen, but in the drive-in. Fifty 'Rods' rev their 'Mills' with the Lakers open. Flames shoot from the pipes, and the noise pounds in your guts. Outside the drive-in 20 cops are waiting for the movie to end, and play time to start. Have this picture in your mind? That's the way it was back then. The movie showed a 50 Ford front clip on a 51 Ford. The inside view of the car shows a 51 dash. I spotted that when I first viewed the movie. The 57 Ford, that Bob drove later in the movie, had a 312 supercharged engine. I know that engine well. I had to get one after I saw the movie. Oh, and the car to go with it. Bootleging is not a southern exclusive. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota, and we had 'shiners, and 'runners here. Minnesota 13 was the 'shine of the Volstead Days. Sorry, I forgot what this is all about, and no, I will not say if I did any of that. All my friends knew the song by heart, and we would sing it all the time. Bad guys drove Chev (Feds) and the good guys (Runners) drove Fords.

    Simple, plain, and all 1950's. Lots of bad acting. Lots of continuity errors. Lots of hot cars. Lots of great action shots. A great title song. Look, if you were not born then, you have to see what Grandpa and Grandma made out to when they were young. No Drive-ins are around today. My 2002 Thunderbird has computers that limit my speed. I still know all the words to the song. I can still close my eyes and hear the roar of the 'mills', and see the flames from the Lakers, today. I still wish it was 'way back then', and 20 cops were waiting to play. "And when his engine roared, they called the highway Thunder Road"
  • k-ralph7 December 1998
    Hotrodding/Moonshining/Romancing/It's Got It All
    If ever there was a film that combined all the drama of hotrod cars, moonshine runners, romance and the family ties and traditions of Appalachia, this one's it. Robert Mitchum virtually owned this entire film. He wrote the story based on an actual incident that occurred just outside Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee state police confirm that in about 1953, a moonshine runner crashed his "moonrunner" car at a place called Reardon, which is now part of the city, and died. How Mitcum found the story, we may never know. Mitchum also helped write the lead song "Thunder Road" and the second song in the movie, "Whipporwill." He also recorded the title song and it was high on the pop charts for months. And, he cast his own son as his brother in the movie. Though technically far from perfect (the cars seem to change styles during the chase scenes), and the acting in places leaves a LOT to be desired, old movie theater operators will tell you they can still fill all their seats with a double bill of "Thunder Road" and "Rebel Without A Cause." I'll certainly be there every chance I get.
  • DrHypersonic17 June 2005
    An Overlooked Gem
    Thunder Road is an outstanding film and occupies an interesting place in Mitchum's evolution as an actor. It is a compelling and believable look at the moonshine-running culture of the Appalachian Mountains, pitting moonshiners not only against Alcohol, Tax, and Firearms (ATF) agents and state authorities but, as well, against organized crime seeking to control the trade for their own ends. Mitchum is thoroughly believable in the kind of role--a rural, Scots-Irish mountaineer--that many others have tried and failed at. The film never descends into parody or sneering elitism. The moonshiners and the authorities are both shown as individuals of good will, seeking to do their duty as they see it, and devoted to values that are basically decent and trustworthy. The mobsters are not cardboard cutouts or over-the-top villains, and this, somehow, adds to their menace. At the time he did this film, Mitchum was already well-established, with Night of the Hunter behind him, and, as well, his most recent film The Enemy Below, in which he played a Navy Captain confronting shrewd U-boat skipper in a battle of wits. After these kind of films, one might wonder why he would take this role--but I think it is because he saw that it offered some real-challenge, a role that forced him to play a gritty character in an unusual setting. Mitchum is shown as a man of great complexity--trying to encourage his younger brother to get involved with something other than fast cars and moonshine, recommending that he join the service and get involved with advanced aviation technology. His girlfriend, a roadhouse singer, is one of the most sympathetic heroines of the 50's late-film noir genre. The chase sequences are riveting--VERY well done by the standards of the time, and in many ways Thunder Road offers a rural companion piece to Bill Hickman and Steve McQueen's great chase sequence in Bullitt. This is a film to be savored, particularly by anyone who has driven through twisting Appalachian mountain roads at night, reflecting on the tough, decent, and hard-scrabble folk in that part of America.
  • wblalock23 May 2005
    Thunder Road 50th Anniversary
    I was 14 when I first viewed "Thunder Road" at a local drive In in North Georgia. It was in June 1958 after the movie was released in May of that year. The movie was an immediate smash hit with viewers that night, many of whom were in the "whiskey" business and who had taken the night off to see the film. After the show the exit from the drive in was blackened by the burning rubber left by many of the patrons leaving the premises, several of whom owned "whiskey cars" of equal or greater horsepower than those in the film. Since that night I have seen the movie many times and it always brings back great memories of the era. 2007 will be the 50th anniversary of the filming of the movie and 2008 will be the anniversary of its release date. Wouldn't it be interesting if someone or some company put together a 50th Anniversary Thunder Road event like the recreation of the cars in the movie along with special appearances at regional car shows, complete with car magazine articles and perhaps even a road test of the vintage autos. The re-release of the DVD to include the out takes would also be popular. Who knows what MGM and NASCAR could do with a team effort? WHB
  • hannah-twin26 May 2005
    Realistic, touching, movie about delivering moonshine.
    This movie has believable action. You can visualize yourself racing high-powered cars down country back roads. It has love--love of a young girl for an older man, and love of a man for a woman unlike anyone he ever knew as a young man. It has hate--hate for people who pretend to care, but don't, and hate for people bereft of any kindness. It has jealousy of someone who is losing the girl he wants to another man. It shows family love of backwoods people, people who are looked down upon by most others but actually have more decency than most people. It has sadness of life when things don't turn out the way they should. Though a relatively short movie, you come away with the feeling that you knew all of these people. Don't miss it. In the movie, Robert Mitchum plays a Korean war vet who has come back home to find he must fight for his way of life. He is a backwoodsman who delivers moonshine in tankers--fast modified automobiles. His people, backwoods people, eke out a living selling it. But the U.S. government wants him stopped because no federal taxes are paid on moonshine. At the same time, organized crime, selling unlicensed liquor themselves, wants his deliveries stopped and will kill to stop him. Mitchum's character sees little difference between the government and organized crime. He must also fight his brother who also wants to become a tanker driver, a profession Mitchum sees as increasingly dangerous, and fight an envious fellow tanker driver. Mitchum had asked Elvis Presley to play his brother in the movie. Presley was interested but followed Col. Parker's advice and Presley turned the role down. Had Presley accepted, he would have been perfect for the role.
  • penseur31 May 2004
    Good movie for classic car fans
    From the opening scene of a 1950 Ford coupe racing along a mountain road to the closing crash of a 1957 Ford - yes that must have been the product placement company, along with the tobacco industry, but the cops get around in great 1957 Chevy Bel Airs - this movie has plenty of involving drama centred around a guy who acts as a transporter for moonshiners. The female characters and the acting are weak but handsome Robert Mitchum keeps it all together in between the action sequences. Technically it ain't too bad, but there are obvious continuity problems. One scene between the younger brother and a law enforcer starts out and ends on location but there are a couple of minutes of dialog that are obviously filmed in the studio - even in 1957 this surely could have been done a little better.
  • bullet_nose_stude22 April 2004
    hot cars, dark winding mountain roads, ambushes in waiting - WAYYY coooolll
    I was 5 when this was made, but the first time i saw it I must have been 9 or 10 - I will never forget the electric-feeling charge that went through me that first time. When viewing the movie today, one has to keep in mind the period in which this movie was made. It looks and feels dated.

    Being a car nut even at that young age, I started paying close attention when i saw Lucas Doolin's 50 Ford flying around a curve with a 57 Ford carrying two G-men on its tail. Just when it looks like he's about to get caught by a bumper clamping device on the front of the 57, he activates a lever that releases the rear bumper of the 50 Ford and leaves the G-men sitting there holding nothing but a bumper.

    With a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, Robert Mitchum as sleepy-eyed Lucas Doolin seems utterly cool and totally unafraid of anything that stands in the way of his way of making a living, which happens to be transporting illegal liquor. Everyone in his small community of Harlan seems to either look up to him or be envious of him. The scene where Gene Barry walks up to him after a chase and boxes Doolin and the 50 Ford in is classic. Realizing he is caught, Mitchum sits in the car, shuts off the engine, lights a cigarette and leans back in the seat. Barry walks up, leans over to the window and says "I believe I have a bumper that belongs to you." Mitchum nonchalantly replies "Well, why don't you give it back? That's like stealing, ain't it?"

    I last saw this about 5 years ago. I would have been 46 then. It still excited me then. I guess it always will.
  • ccthemovieman-128 August 2006
    Loved Those Cars And Chase Scenes
    Someone one here labeled this film "hillybilly film noir." I think that's a great description of this movie. This is about the good 'ole boys racing their souped- up '50s Fords around country roads, running moonshine and trying to evade both cops and gangsters. In fact, I wish they had more of those chase scenes because, even with primitive special-effects, they were fun to watch. The ending chase would have been longer, if I had my way.

    Mitchum is fun to watch in here, too. He just looked like a rugged guy, a "man's man," as they say. His kid brother Jim made his film debut in here and wasn't bad for a beginner. He and another beginner, singer Keely Smith, are a bit wooden but passable as actors. Keely also had an interesting face.

    I think this is one of those films that gets better with each viewing. Highly recommended.
  • Michael O'Keefe15 December 2002
    Mountain man moves moonshine to Memphis.
    Arthur Ripley directs this cult classic crime/Noir. War vet Robert Mitchum returns home to ramrod the family moonshine business. This hard headed bootlegger takes on the Feds and the Mob while burning the roads in his whiskey laden hot rods. If that is not enough, he must keep his young brother(James Mitchum)from moving up from mechanic to driver in the family business and then there is the romancing of a Memphis chanteuse(Keely Smith). Also in the cast are Gene Barry, Sandra Knight and Jacques Aubuchon. Bob Mitchum produces, and takes partial writing credit plus writes songs for this evocative glimpse of southern culture. Mitchum also oversees his younger brother's film debut.

    NOTE: It is said that Elvis Presley enjoyed this movie so much he memorized bad Bob's lines of the script.
  • jjnxn-17 December 2012
    A study in contrasts
    Decent if unremarkable drama of a moonshiner and the feds who are trying to shut him down. A real study in star power with Robert Mitchum commanding the screen with seemingly little effort. An interesting contrast can be made between him and his son James, making his screen debut here, their appearance is so similar that you would think their performances would have a hint of the same similarity. The senior Mitchum owns the screen with an easy charm and magnetism while the young Mitchum is stiff with a vacant stare. Keely Smith contributes a couple of terrific numbers sung in her unique style but she also comes across as uncomfortable and mechanical in any scene which doesn't require her to sing. A huge drive-in hit in its day, it's easy to see why since it has a very laid back, low budget feel.
  • A_Different_Drummer21 August 2015
    A star is born ... literally
    More than a half-century before Yost The Younger decided to bring Harlan County back to the small screen in Justified (see my many reviews on the IMDb) you have this little gem.

    As one of the characters laments on screen, "We've been making shine here for more than 250 years" and that is all the reason anyone really needs for this film.

    Enjoy the chase scenes. Get a rare opportunity to catch Keely Smith (one of the greatest and most under-rated singers of the era) in a dramatic role. See a young Gene Barry puff and strut. And of course watch Mitchum give a breakout star performance.

    At the risk of generalizing, in his later films Mitchum was cast as the Alpha Male and he merely had to maintain the image. Here the audience gets to see him earn that image. It is a treat.

    Holds up well over the years but suffers from the same issues as many other 50's films. Too many wide-screen static shots. Black and white but never any greys. And every ostensibly "authentic" Kentucky boy in the film is wearing freshly creased coveralls with not a mark of dirt.

    See it anyway. It is a one of a kind.
  • austex239 May 2001
    Forget Gone With the Wind; Thunder Road is THE Southern Classic
    Thunder Road has a kind of raw vitality that overcomes its indifferent direction and uneven performances. Mitchum is wonderful as always, and this film must have meant a lot to him -- he wrote the story and starred, as well as co-writing and singing the radio hit that came out of it. A major drive-in film -- it was more or less in continuous release from 1958 to the early 70s -- Thunder Road embodied an attitude that prevailed in the little Texas towns I grew up in, and that is still a part of America's strange outlaw subcultures. Lucas Doolin and his kin are folks being oppressed on all sides by the forces of conformity that characterize so much of America's culture in the Eisenhower era. On one side, the emotionless forces of the government, on the other, the institutionalized criminals of "the big city," two poles remarkably alike in their indifference to the traditional regional values of the Harlan County shine runners. Despite Pa Doolin's talk of changing ways to meet changing times, the independent diversity of these folks cannot exist among the increasingly limited world of modern America. Ironically, the trappings of outlaw culture most visible in this film, fast cars, jukeboxes, even the drive-in screens the film was projected onto, are a part of the forces of conformity that transformed regional lifestyles into today's homogenous pop culture. Like Doolin says in one of the film's best scenes, the ghosts of the old backwoods are out on the highways now.
  • jc-osms27 July 2010
    Road runners
    Robert Mitchum - renaissance man? You better believe it as Bob besides. naturally doing the lead acting honours, is credited with the original story-line, cops a production credit and even co-writes the winsome "Whipoorwill" ballad which frequents the movie.

    The movie itself comes off like a contemporary "beat" novel set to film, an unglamorous story of moonshine whisky transporters living just outside the law with Mitchum's Luke Doolan's character as talismanic main driver, not part of any team, but somehow the lightning rod around whom the whole story sparks.

    While obviously low-budget, there's a good cast here who give the film an ensemble feel and if you can ignore the obvious process "driving in my car" shots, there are also some exciting car chases, particularly the concluding one which sees Doolan meet his demise.

    Mitchum even introduces us to his son James in a prominent acting role and while he, not unnaturally, seems too young to be his old man's kid brother, he certainly seems like a chip off the old block. I also like the actresses who respectively play Doolan's mother, not above dispensing some peremptory corporal punishment when Mitchum Junior steps out of line and also the girl singer who gets as close as anyone to getting under Mitchum's tough skin as love interest. No beauty and obviously contrasted with the prettier more youthful girl with a major crush on Mitchum, their "love" scenes (I'm stretching the term) come across with engaging naturalism and realism.

    Perhaps the film has a little too many sub-plots and characters for its own good and it takes some while to find its rhythm, but once it settles, it finds a kinetic energy which keeps you watching and draws you into its small world, inspiring genuine interest in the characters. I also just wonder if it inspired Bruce Springsteen's famous song of the same name, several years later...
  • jotix1007 November 2005
    "Thunder Road" was a movie that was discarded by the studio after it made its commercial debut. In fact, this was a project that was made because of the interest of its star, Robert Mitchum, who was instrumental in bringing his story to the screen. The movie deserves better only because of the great performance by Robert Mitchum, one of the coolest actors of all times.

    The story, directed by Arthur Ripley, presents us with a situation that was deemed a problem back at the time when the movie was made, but wouldn't raise an eyelash now. The illegal production of "moonshine" by the poor farmers of rural Tennessee was persecuted vigorously because obviously it was a money making enterprise and the government wasn't getting a cut, in the way of taxes.

    Lucas Doolin is a Korean War veteran who comes home to find no job awaiting him. The only thing he and his family know about, as well as the other people in that area, was to make the prohibited liquor. The transportation presented a headache once the feds were involved. Luke is in love with a singer from town, Francine, while a young neighbor, a girl-next-door type, Roxanne, secretly loves him with no response from him. Into this mixture comes Carl Kogan, the man who wants to apprehend Luke as well as whoever is behind the production of the illegal liquor.

    Robert Mitchum makes a wonderful Luke. In fact, our sympathy is with him instead as with the lawmen trying to get him. Gene Barry is seen as Carl Kogan. Keely Smith, the singer, makes a great contribution with her Francine, and even though she only has a few scenes in the movie, she makes a mark in it. Sandran Knight is Roxanne and James Mitchum, the star's own son does a good job with Robin.

    The film is a must see for Mr. Mitchum in a film that is seldom shown.
  • barhound7819 April 2007
    A loving homage to fast cars and rocket fuel whiskey.
    Warning: Spoilers
    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.
  • Edgar Soberon Torchia10 November 2015
    No Room to Run
    Fine low-budget action drama that pits the moralistic urban view of "hillbillies" against the philosophy of people from the mountain (in this case of Irish ancestry) who live by simple rules. Robert Mitchum plays Luke Doolin, a stubborn man who is a war defector and also in charge of the illegal moon-shining business run by his family for 250 years. On top of this he has against him a ruthless intermediary who wants to control the business in the area, including the county where the Doolins live and operate. I found most interesting the way innocent lives were taken up to a point: in our times, both Luke's singer girlfriend and his brother would have been killed in the middle of act 2. Sandra Knight, James Mitchum and Keely Smith are convincing in first big roles.
  • Scott LeBrun18 May 2015
    Awesome title song.
    Robert Mitchum is terrific as always in this drive-in classic, one of the all time great movies made about moonshiners. Bob plays Lucas Doolin, a Korean War veteran who comes home to help out with the family business of illegal whiskey. He does his damnedest to keep his younger brother Robin (played by Bobs' son James, who makes his film debut here) from entering the business as a driver, while romancing a chanteuse named Francie (Keely Smith). Lucas has his hands full dealing with a ruthless rival, Carl Kogan (Jacques Aubuchon), while a dedicated Treasury agent, Troy Barrett (Gene Barry) tries to make a deal with him.

    "Thunder Road" might not appeal to B movie enthusiasts across the board, because, in the end, it's got more drama in it than action. But the dialogue is cool, the cars are slick, the photography (credited to both David Ettenson and Alan Stensvold) is very atmospheric, and the performances are all quite engaging. Mitchum is fun to watch, exuding his own natural charisma as a character with his own moral code and own way of doing things. The younger Mitchum holds his own opposite his dad, and lovely Sandra Knight is appealing as Roxanna, the girl in love with Lucas. Aubuchon is an entertaining heavy, and Trevor Bardette is likewise solid as Lucas's father Vernon. While watching, keep an eye out for a few prominent character actors, making their own film debuts in uncredited roles: Peter Breck, Jerry Hardin, Mitchell Ryan.

    Bob also co-wrote that plaintive song "The Whipoorwill", crooned in the movie by Ms. Smith, and got a hit record out of the title tune.

    Seven out of 10.
  • dougdoepke26 October 2013
    Best Drive-In Movie of the 50's
    Whatever the film lacks, which is a lot, focus on the imagery -- duelling hotrods, a dangling cigarette, country two-lanes, and a precious load of illegal booze, family honor, and a good woman. This is movie myth-making at its near purest, so what else could a ducktailed Elvis- clone of the 50's have wanted. Girls may have swooned over treacle like "A Summer Place", but hot-rodders packed this drive-in classic bumper to bumper. Sure, it's badly produced ($50 budget, tops), badly acted (even Mitchum struggles with the hopeless Keely Smith), and features one of the worst canvas backdrops on record (the water-wheel scene). Still it has the King of Cool gunning down the asphalt (don't let the sleepy eyes fool you), pits rugged individualism against angry collectivism (organized crime and big govn't), and opens with a throbbing title tune (composed and sung by Mitchum) -- topped by a look and feel unlike the usual Hollywood contrivance. And who can forget those forlorn headbeams searching their way through an existential void. The imagery was compelling and caught the edgy mood of a drive-in crowd feeling their own way through a world of teenage angst. Few would grow into the mythic shoes of road-warrior, Luke Doolin, but a lot sure wanted to try. Which is why this primitive slice of small-screen black-and-white continues to resonate, even into the big-screen myth-making of souped-up starships, evil empires, and computerized magic.
  • bluesman-2018 May 2013
    Robert Mitchum blasts down the hottest road on earth THUNDER ROAD
    Thunder road. just the name brings back memories of being young. My dad's favourite movie is thunder road and he used to sing the song when I was young. He had the 45 of the ballad of Thunder road sung by Robert Mitchum. When the film was released on VHS My mom paid a $110. for it. the whole family sat down and was hooked and my dad was transported back to 1958. The film has a honest and touching quality about it. The people in it react as real people would.

    The story is simple and that's part of the charm.

    Lucas Doolin is home from the Korean War. Filled with a death wish. Luke drives his father's moonshine to the buyers. It's a dangerous job. the Mob is out to shut them down by any means needed. and the Tresury department is out to shut down the mob and the moonshiners. When drivers start getting killed and some drivers are arrested the pressure is on. only one driver is brave enough or reckless enough to keep running and that's Luke. Despite pressure from his mother and his father and his lover to quit. Luke just can't bring himself to quit. The recklessness of it gives him a thrill. Plus he doesn't like to be told what to do. When the mob boss contacts Luke and asks him to work for him Luke declines even though he knows it means a death sentence. When the Boss tells him if he can't get him then he'll get his brother Robin to drive. Luke beats the man and warns him. That No one will ever make a whisky runner out of his brother he'll kill the first man that tries. When one of Luke's cars is tagged as a whisky transport Luke sells it to a friend and buys a new car. When his friend dies in the old car the victim of a bomb meant for Luke he knows his time has run out. Trapped between the Mob and the G-Men Luke makes his last run and his last stand on Thunder Road. The Movie's influence is pretty far reaching Bruce Springsteen named one of his songs after it even tho he never saw the film. Steve Earle rewrote it as Copperhead Road his biggest hit song to date. And Burt Reynolds made a career out of his whisky runners in the 70's. And to this date it's been well remembered as the king of the drive in pictures. Tough gritty with some romance and a lot of action. The acting is decent. And Robert Mitchum can forever lay claim to the title of the king of cool after making this movie. This is the Movie that Steve Mcqueen could only dream of making !
  • Edgar L. Davis2 June 2004
    Cool Flick/Overdue for a Remake
    I just took a job at a small movie theater in Hendersonville, NC

    which has just got its license to show DVDs in its small screening

    room. The first DVD to be shown was Thunder Road(1958). What

    an awesome old movie. Movies of that era are wonderfully creative

    because of the restrictions that were placed on them. There's no

    profanity, so the actors have show their rage in other ways. There

    is no graphic sex, so the passion and lust must be implied. The

    violence is still there of course. The two Mitchums do a great job

    as does Sandra Knight and Keely Smith. Gene Barry seemed a

    little stiff. Hats off to Jacques Aubuchon as the chubby, blonde

    gangster who., despite his "insurance salesman" look, still

    manages to give off a tough, slimey and dangerous vibe. His

    henchman, played by Peter hornsby, is also priceless. I wish a

    remake could be done with scenes that explore some of the racial

    tensions that were present during this time in the history of the

  • bkoganbing24 June 2006
    Quenching the Devil's Thirst
    Thunder Road is the film that Robert Mitchum got to use all his many talents. Not only did he star in it, but he produced it and wrote the original story on which the film is based. And if that wasn't enough he wrote the songs for the film and made a hit record singing the title song. The other song, Whipporwill, he left to the considerable talents of Keely Smith who appeared in this film with him.

    The story is about moonshiners, those mountain people in the Appalachians and the Ozarks who distill their own spirits and sell it at a cut rate price. Of course that doesn't sit well the government which wants it share of the sin tax. You can do just about anything else, but NEVER try to evade taxes, the most heinous of crimes as the government sees it.

    Gene Barry is their man on the scene, but Barry is after bigger fish. He's after racketeer Jacques Aubuchon who wants to eliminate the independent moonshiners like Robert Mitchum and his family. Barry would like Mitchum's help, but Mitchum says a plague on both your houses.

    Mitchum with his hobohemian life in his formative years which included jail time among such people learned their ways very well, knowledge put to great use in creating this story. His character is something of a rebel hero, the kind Marlon Brando or Paul Newman would normally be playing, but Mitchum aces the part. It's usually in the top 10 of anybody's list in the films of Robert Mitchum.

    Making his screen debut is Bob's oldest son James Mitchum whose resemblance is so uncanny he looks more like a clone than an offspring. Of course the one that the part was offered to first was Elvis Presley. Unfortunately Mitchum made the mistake of seeing Elvis directly instead of dealing with Colonel Tom Parker. Parker would probably have nixed it in any event because he was making Elvis a star who never was less than first billed in any of his films. Still Elvis would have been perfectly cast in the role Jim Mitchum played, that was his background as well. Imagine what a different direction the King's career would have taken had he done Thunder Road.

    Even without Elvis, Thunder Road is a classic film from the Fifties. Shot on a low budget on location, it reaped much profit for the Mitchum coffers. Kept old rumple eyes in some of his favorite diversions for a long time, I'm sure.
  • super marauder12 December 2002
    A V-8 Ford, a tank full of hooch......good stuff!
    Coming from the midwest, I've heard stories about the southern moonshiners out-smarting the law driving V-8 Fords on dark country roads. They were the outlaws, or anti-heros of the day. Me, being a car fanatic, I admired these guys, like my father's generation admired the outlaws of the old west.

    I was six years old when I first saw it, and the part where Robert Mitchum's '50 Ford drops oil on the road, sending the bad guys over a cliff was the neatest thing I saw. From the on, when the movie was on, I had to watch it. My father would even let me stay up late on a school night to see it. Though some of the acting, and the script is kind of corny, I still get that warm fuzzy feeling when I watch it today.

    The plot is simple, Robert Mitchum is a whiskey runner, the government wants to catch him, while a mob guy wants to kill him. Robert Mitchum was as his best when he played an outlaw, and this movie is no exception. After I first saw this movie, I was a fan of his.

    The plot has been used before, and since. The Last American Hero, for example, but since this was made when it happened, not a period piece, you can get a glimps of what life must have been like back then.
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