Rolling Thunder (1977 – Blu-Ray)

“Why do I always get stuck with crazy men?… ‘Cause that’s the only kind that’s left”

I’ve read many times (Including on this Blu-Ray’s cover art) that 1977’s ‘Rolling Thunder’ is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite movies.  So I was excited to watch the new UK HD transfer of this largely forgotten yet quietly infamous Noir thriller.  It’s a film that seems to have got lost between writer Paul Schrader’s two big Scorsese films; 1976’s ‘Taxi Driver’ and 1980’s ‘Raging Bull’.  Perhaps this is because it shares so much DNA with ‘Taxi Driver’ leading to unfair comparisons.  But judged on its own merits ‘Rolling Thunder’ is a darkly compulsive exploitation revenge film.  The doom laden aftermath of Vietnam hangs heavy all over this nihilistic shattering of the American dream.  William Devane plays returning Vet Major Charles Rane who can’t reconnect with his small-town Texas life after seven years of torture in a Hanoi prison camp.  But when hoodlums maim him and attack his family it all becomes clear as he packs up an arsenal of weapons and sets out for vengeance.

Sadly for film purists like myself this release seems to be a sanitized version of the original cut that was apparently so violent that Fox actually sold the rights to another studio.  This was after a disastrous test screening in which the audience apparently “Got up and tried to physically abuse the studio personnel present among them”.  From what I understand this was mainly due to the scene where Rane and his family are attacked.  In the cut I’ve seen it’s left to your imagination what happens when a man’s hand is forced into a grinder!  God knows what was in the original to illicit such a response from the audience.  But what makes it extra disturbing is that Rane seems to get an almost sexual pleasure from this torture bringing back memories of his last seven years of hell where it was all so simple… just to withstand the pain and survive.

I can’t comment on whether this cut of ‘Rolling Thunder’ is better or worse than the original full length version but I can still highly recommend it!

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