Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning (1977) seems like a half-hearted Hollywood effort to jump on the 1970s-decade films-about-the-South band wagon. Produced by Roger Corman, directed by Corey Allen (mainly a director of television episodes), it tries to make David Carradine into a Southern ring-tailed roarer in the vein of Burt Reynolds' Gator McCluskey. The action is intense but without much excitement, the hijinks are forced and unsurprising, the story-line is shallow and punctuated with seemingly endless dune buggy races and car chases. There's a fight in what appears to be a hog trough. There's a protracted scene where Carradine and his girlfriend throw cartons of soft drinks from the back of a delivery truck. There's plenty of moonshine and a range of bucolic good-ol'-boy types along with a few Mafioso enforcers trying to conduct a hit on a golf course thrown in for good measure.

The basic plot concerns moonshiners in the Florida swamps. There are the "good" moonshiners who make high-quality shine and sell it to the locals, and there are "bad" moonshiners who use radiators and car batteries to make tainted shine which they force local vendors to buy. The bad moonshiners spend a lot of time colluding with the mob up North and with the local senator, and with breaking down the stills of the good moonshiners whom they try to put out of business.

Carradine plays Harley Thomas, the hero, who delivers whiskey made by the good moonshiners. His girlfriend is the smoothly coiffed Nancy Sue Hunnicutt (Kate Jackson), whose father heads up the local bad moonshine operation. Harley is the fool killer in this film. He drives fast and furiously, always outwits the bad guys, speaks with the same accent he used in the Kung Fu television series. Kate Jackson at least manages a mild accent. We see a possum in one scene and an alligator in another. In one faintly amusing scene Harley meets Nancy at a church service where the reverend delivers his sermon while wrestling an alligator. Other than them critters, there's nothing authentic or mildly stimulating in this dull and bland production.

The South in Thunder and Lightning is dirt roads, hicks, illegal whiskey, trucks, cars, dune buggies, grizzled old men, dimwits, fistfights, corrupt politicos and businessmen, swamps, and rusty radiators.

No comments: