Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thunder and Lightning (1977)

Yet another drive-in flick about rambunctious moonshiners, Thunder and Lightning would linger far below the pop-culture radar if not for the popularity of its leading actors, David Carradine and Kate Jackson. Working once again under the penny-pinching aegis of producer Roger Corman, Carradine pours on the rebellious charm to liven up the story’s aimless cacophony of chase scenes, explosions, and fist fights. In fact, Carradine is forced to contribute extra effort—if smirking can be described as effort, that is—because Charlie’s Angels spitfire Jackson is more or less a nonentity given the colorless nature of her co-starring role. Carradine plays Harley Thomas, a good ol’ boy whose graying uncles cook up moonshine that he delivers in his souped-up ’57 Chevy. Harley dates Nancy Sue Hunnicut (Jackson), a wealthy young woman who doesn’t realize her father, Ralph Junior Hunnicut (Roger C. Carmel), hides a massive moonshine operation behind the front of his legit soda-pop empire. Through the machinations of an unnecessarily convoluted story, Ralph Junior gets into trouble with the Northeast mafia, Harley gets into trouble with Ralph Junior, and everybody ends up chasing after a massive shipment of poisoned moonshine. The fast-moving picture also makes room for an alligator-wrestling preacher, a pair of incompetent Noo Yawk assassins, and Ralph Junior’s knuckle-dragging henchmen, two of whom are played by ’70s B-movie stalwarts George Murdock and Charles Napier. Although Thunder and Lightning is ostensibly a comedy, frenetic onscreen action is presented in lieu of actual jokes. Given the movie’s choppy editing, one suspects that director Corey Allen’s on-set camerawork was chopped apart during post-production to rev up the pacing, so if Thunder and Lightning ever had nuance (unlikely), it disappeared long before the movie hit screens. Still, the picture offers a few brainlessly diverting scenes, as well as some choice examples of redneck patois—like the moment when a motorcycle cop sees a pair of cars zoom by and exclaims, “Sweet kidneys of Christ, those boys were movin’!”

Thunder and Lightning: FUNKY

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