1958 Classic ‘Thunder Road’ Was A Mitchum Movie All The Way

FRIDAY, NOV. 3, 1995

Fresh off a search for that cinematic classic “The Trial of Billy Jack,” I embarked on a new video venture this week. It was a far easier task and ultimately more successful.

Despite one reader’s contention that “The Trial of Billy Jack” could be found at the Hasting’s outlet in the Valley, I discovered the Tom Laughlin film in only one place: the private collection of an Idaho reader who’d taped it years ago off a television broadcast.

That is about the best we can do locally. The third installment of the “Billy Jack” series (which includes “Born Losers,” “Billy Jack” and “Billy Jack Goes to Washington”) is not now in print.

But “Thunder Road” is.

Another reader, curious about the 1958 Robert Mitchum vehicle, wanted to know where to find it locally. And after a few quick calls, I have that information.

First, though, let’s revisit the B-feature.

Although “Thunder Road” was directed by Arthur Ripley, whose other claim to fame is 1946’s “The Chase,” this black-and-white tale of a moonshine runner was virtually a Mitchum family affair. It was written and produced by Mitchum himself, and it starred Mitchum’s son, James, in his film debut.

(Favorite line: Remember the young Mitchum’s method of saying grace? “Good food, good meat, it’s gettin’ late, let’s eat.”)

The elder Mitchum, one of Hollywood’s more individual - if enduring - stars, even wrote the movie’s theme song, “Whippoorwill.” And he pulled off a convincing performance as a Korean vet who battles both the law and other moonshiners in an attempt to continue the family business.

If nothing else, director Ripley staged some great chase scenes, one bomb blast and a terrific smash-up with an electrical generator.

For those of you interested, “Thunder Road” can be found at two Hastings Video locations: in Lincoln Heights (535-4342) and on north Division (483-2865).

If any other stores out there have a copy, let me know at 459-5483. Because I want to make this clear: I have no interest in favoring Hastings.


Falling somewhere between the two Tim Burton efforts, this third in the “Batman” series boasts a new director (Joel Schumacher), a new leading actor (Val Kilmer), a new sidekick (Chris O’Donnell as Robin), a new love interest (Nicole Kidman), a pair of new archvillains (Jim Carrey as The Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face) not to mention a new rush of energy.

But while Burton is a visionary whose first film was a superb rendering - dark, funny and riveting to watch - Schumacher (“The Client”) is merely a better-than-average journeyman.

The look he comes up with isn’t as rich as Burton’s, his fight scenes are edited so abruptly that they play little better than those featured on the television show (Biff! Bam! Ka-Pow!) and Jones and Kidman add little that’s memorable to the proceedings.

But Kilmer is serviceable, and O’Donnell and Carrey provide, respectively, the hunk factor and the comedy. It’s pure pop, but these days asking for anything more would be a waste of time. Rated PG-13.

Short takes

“Swimming With the Sharks” - Kevin Spacey stars as an acerbic Hollywood producer whose longsuffering assistant (Frank Whaley) finally turns the tables.

, DataTimes

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