Robert Mitchum spent somewhere in the range of fifty-five years of his life in front of the camera. During that time, he made what have since gone on to become some of the most beloved and iconic movies and roles over the curse of that time. In 1962, he starred in one of his most famous roles as Max Cady in the original take of Cape Fear. Seventeen years prior, he starred alongside fellow acting legend Burgess Meredith in 1945’s The Story of G.I. Joe. And in 1958, he starred in what would go on to be one of his most beloved films of all time in the form of Thunder Road. Now nearly six decades after that movie’s original debut, it has finally been unearthed for a whole new generation of movie buffs to experience thanks to the people at MGM and Timeless Media Group. It is a great movie that every classic movie buff should see at least once if not more. The main reason any classic movie lover should see this movie is its script. The movie’s original script was written by Mitchum before being adapted by the writing team of James Atlee Phillips and Walter Wise. It is a story that while simple is enjoyable because of its simplicity. Mitchum’s acting throughout the movie is just as key to its enjoyment. Maybe it is just this critic’s own view but one can’t help but compare Mitchum’s acting alongside his look in this story to that of James Dean. Had Dean lived, one can’t help but imagine Mitchum’s portrayal of Lucas Doolin would have been exactly what Dean would have looked and sounded like. But being Mitchum was so much older than Dean, his acting and look still helped make the story believable. Last and definitely not least of all worth noting in this movie is the fact that it was not only written by Mitchum but produced by him, too. Some of the movie’s music was even written and performed by him. Simply put, Mitchum had his hand in nearly every aspect of this work. Because he had so much creative control, the end product proved to be a story that while it may be more a cult favorite today, is still one of the best works of Mitchum’s extensive career. Now that it has been re-issued on a dual-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, it can also be said that it is one of the best new re-issues of 2015.
Thunder Road is one of the best works from Robert Mitchum’s extensive fifty-five year-long career in front of the camera. It may not be one of his most well-known. But there is still has so much going for it that it is still deserving of being considered one of his best whether among its cult following or among audiences and critics in general. Whether or not they are familiar with the movie, audiences and critics alike will agree with that sentiment when they pick up the classic film’s new re-issue. The main reason that audiences and critics alike will agree that this movie is one of Mitchum’s best is its script. Originally penned by Mitchum himself, it would go on to be adapted by the writing team of James Atlee Phillips and Walter Wise. It is a story that while simple is enjoyable because of its simplicity. It follows Mitchum’s character Lucas Doolin as he runs moonshine in the hills of Kentucky all the while trying to outrun government tax agents and keep his little brother Robin (interestingly enough played by his real life son James) from following in his footsteps. This movie is a guy movie, what with its mix of moonshine running, motors, and G-men. Of course Lucas’ relationship with Francie (Keely Smith—Casino, Raging Bull, We Own The Night) will interest its female audiences. The story runs at a pace that keeps audiences engaged with ease through its little more than hour and a half run time. Because of its ability to keep audiences engaged through its simplicity, it could actually be argued that set against today’s action flicks, the script behind Thunder Road makes it even better than those largely forgettable special effects-laden flicks. It’s just one reason that action flick fans and classic movie buffs should give this movie a chance. Mitchum’s work on camera is another reason audiences will enjoy this movie.
Robert Mitchum played a big part in the success of Thunder Road because of the fact that he actually wrote the original story on which it is based. It’s just one reason that audiences will appreciate it. His influence on the movie reached much farther than just its script. He was also the movie’s lead actor. Being that he wrote the movie’s original story and produced the movie, too (which will be discussed later), it would be easy to assume that having so much role in the movie, it would go to his head and affect his acting. Watching the movie though, the exact opposite is the case. At no one point does he ever try to overdo it with his character. Lucas’ reserved demeanor throughout the movie actually makes him a stronger character. That is especially clear when Lucas is originally busted by the tax agents and even later when Lucas explains to Cark Kogan (Jacques Aubuchon—McHale’s Navy, The Shaggy Dog, Perry Mason) that he would not let his brother end up on the same path as him. Watching Mitchum, moments such as those noted make clear why Mitchum played the lead role. Interestingly enough though, one can’t help but watch Mitchum and wonder what if James Dean had lived longer. Maybe it’s just this critic’s own view, but watching Mitchum, one can’t help but imagine James Dean playing Lucas. That might have actually worked just as well considering Dean’s body of work before his untimely death. That aside, Mitchum still impresses with his unassuming yet strong portrayal. It’s yet another reason that audiences will enjoy this recently re-issued classic action flick. It still is not the last reason that audiences will enjoy the movie, either. The fact that Mitchum also produced the movie is just as important to its success believe it or not.
Between the fact that he both wrote the original story for Thunder Road and that he carried the lead role, Robert Mitchum showed in this movie that he wasn’t just some actor throwing something out for the sake of it. He showed through both his acting and his writing that he meant business with this movie. Even more interesting to note is that he also produced the movie and even wrote some of the movie’s music. That means that he had quite the hand in the movie’s making. Yet it’s also obvious that despite having so much control, he never let that control go to his head at any one point in the movie’s little more than hour and a half run time. That is obvious in the work of his cast mates and those behind the cameras. Their work felt natural from beginning to end. It made that much easier the ability to remain engaged throughout the movie. Being able to so easily remain engaged means more enjoyment and ability to see the other noted reasons that Thunder Road is such an enjoyable classic. All noted elements taken fully into consideration, audiences will agree that they collectively make Thunder Road a must see for any action film fan and for any classic movie buff regardless of their familiarity with this classic story.
Thunder Road is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online. It can also be ordered direct online via Time Media Group’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-crime/thunder-road. Audiences that order the movie via TMG’s online store can get it at a reduced price of $16.97 versus the retail price of $19.97. More information on this and other titles from TMG is available online at:
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