Thursday, November 03, 2005

THUNDER ROAD (1958) - Arthur Ripley

For those of you who’ve ever had occasion to wonder what the day-to-day life of North Carolina moonshine runner is like, then Thunder Road is the movie for you. It will answer all your burning questions: What does a moonshine distillery look like? How do I equip the hidden tank in my old Ford to carry that Devil’s Juice? How do I outrun Johnny Law, the Revenuers, and rival Shine Men on a back country road at 3 o’clock in the morn?
   
This is sturdy little slice-of-life movie, if the life you lead takes place in the backwoods of the rural South. There’s not much else going on other than moonshine makin’, car-fixin’, talk of organizing a moonshiner’s union, and outrunning slow-on-the-chase ATF agents. But it goes down smooth and easy at a brisk 92 minutes, a stomach-warming mix of corn whiskey, diesel fuel, and Mama’s hand squeezed lemonade.
 
And how about that Robert Mitchum. He’s just doing classic Mitchum here (and that’s fine by me) playing Lucas Doolin, a second generation moonshine runner who lives with his distiller Pa and has one of those sexless “you-gotta-get-out-of-the-business” relationships with a pretty girl who works at the local store. And then there’s Lucas’ honest little brother Robin he’s gotta keep from falling into the family line, here played by Mitchum’s own son James.
 
Obviously, this was a personal project for Mitchum. I guess he’s got a taste for the shine considering he appears all over the credits as a writer, producer, and even one voices of the theme song. Strange…and I always thought he was more “man of the plant," if you know what I mean.

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