Thunder Road

Movie Information

In Brief: Tying into the article in last week's Xpress on the making of the film, Thunder Road (1958) is back for one show at the Fine Arts Theatre. The drive-in perennial is locally famous for having been shot around Asheville (with the Asheville area playing the part of Tennessee). But its real claim to fame is that the film that gives you the most Robert Mitchum for your buck. Mitchum not only stars, but he wrote the story, produced, had a hand in the songs and brought in his son, James, to play his younger brother. (That last must be in deference to the idea of, “Gee, Bob, you don’t look old enough to have a grown son.”) It’s also not a bad little movie of its type, though one might reasonably question aspects of Jack Marshall's musical score. (Marshall, of course, redeemed himself scoring his next project, The Giant Gila Monster.) Apart from the Mitchum factor and the location aspect, Thunder Road is really nothing more than an old-style gangster film set in the South and with moonshine at its center. Mitchum’s Korean War veteran replaces what would have been a WWI vet in an early ‘30s gangster flick. Both the doting mother and the kid brother who must not fall prey to the moonshine-running lifestyle are also straight out of any number of ‘30s films, as is the torch-singer Mitchum is hot for. Factor in the Mr. Big character trying to muscle in on the racket, and the tough federal man (Gene Barry) who grudgingly respects Mitchum, and this film is pretty much gangster basic.
Genre: Southern-Fried Drive-in Drama
Director: Arthur Ripley
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Gene Barry, Jacques Aubuchon, James Mitchum, Keely Smith, Sandra Knight
Rated: NR

Xpress and the Fine Arts Theatre will show Thunder Road Wednesday, May 11, at 7 p.m.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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