Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

R | 114-115 mins | Drama | 1974

Director:

Michael Cimino

Writer:

Michael Cimino

Producer:

Robert Daley

Cinematographer:

Frank Stanley

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designer:

Tambi Larsen

Production Company:

The Malpaso Company
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HISTORY

Writer-director Michael Cimino made his debut as a feature film director with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot . As reported in DV on 11 Jan 1973, Cimino, who had been credited with only one other screenplay, Silent Running (1972, see entry), was able to sell both his script for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and the idea of directing the film to Clint Eastwood after writing the screenplay for Magnum Force (1973, see entry), the sequel to Dirty Harry (1971, see entry). A 20 Dec 1972 HR news item reported that a deal between Eastwood’s The Malpaso Company and United Artists was set for the production and distribution of the film. According to DV , Cimino was trained as an architect, but he gained experience in filmmaking by directing “teleblurbs” and “industrial documentaries” in New York. Cimino reportedly wrote Thunderbolt and Lightfoot with Eastwood in mind as the star, but he always intended to direct the picture himself.
       A 7 May 1973 HR news item announced that production was set to begin immediately following the conclusion of Magnum Force . Continuing his collaboration with Eastwood and Cimino, the executive producer of Dirty Harry and Magnum Force , Robert Daley, also produced Thunderbolt and Lightfoot . According to a 4 May 1973 DV news item, production was scheduled to begin 30 Jul 1973 in Idaho and Montana. Studio production notes from AMPAS library files stated that Great Falls, Montana, was the primary location of the film, but other locations included Ulm, Hobson, ... More Less

Writer-director Michael Cimino made his debut as a feature film director with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot . As reported in DV on 11 Jan 1973, Cimino, who had been credited with only one other screenplay, Silent Running (1972, see entry), was able to sell both his script for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and the idea of directing the film to Clint Eastwood after writing the screenplay for Magnum Force (1973, see entry), the sequel to Dirty Harry (1971, see entry). A 20 Dec 1972 HR news item reported that a deal between Eastwood’s The Malpaso Company and United Artists was set for the production and distribution of the film. According to DV , Cimino was trained as an architect, but he gained experience in filmmaking by directing “teleblurbs” and “industrial documentaries” in New York. Cimino reportedly wrote Thunderbolt and Lightfoot with Eastwood in mind as the star, but he always intended to direct the picture himself.
       A 7 May 1973 HR news item announced that production was set to begin immediately following the conclusion of Magnum Force . Continuing his collaboration with Eastwood and Cimino, the executive producer of Dirty Harry and Magnum Force , Robert Daley, also produced Thunderbolt and Lightfoot . According to a 4 May 1973 DV news item, production was scheduled to begin 30 Jul 1973 in Idaho and Montana. Studio production notes from AMPAS library files stated that Great Falls, Montana, was the primary location of the film, but other locations included Ulm, Hobson, Fort Benton, Augusta, and Chateau, Montana.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 May 1974
p. 4689.
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1973.
---
Daily Variety
4 May 1973.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 1973.
---
Daily Variety
21 May 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1973
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 1973
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1974.
---
LAHExam
24 May 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 May 1974
Section IV, p. 16.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 May 1974
p. 101.
New York Times
24 May 1974
p. 23.
Time
10 Jun 1974
p. 83.
Variety
29 May 1974
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Co-Starring
Co-Starring
Also Co-Starring
Also Co-Starring
Also Co-Starring
Also Co-Starring
Also Co-Starring
Also Co-Starring
+

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Key grip
Gaffer
Stillman
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Ward man
MUSIC
Mus ed
Source mus rec at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Spec action seqs
Casting dir
Addl loc casting
Scr supv
Secy to the prod
Driver capt
Vehicles provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
ANIMATION
Woody Woodpecker anim seqs prod by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Where Do I Go from Here," composed and sung by Paul Williams.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
1974
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 22 May 1974
New York opening: 23 May 1974
Production Date:
30 July--mid October 1973 in Great Falls, MT
Copyright Claimant:
The Malpaso Company
Copyright Date:
22 April 1974
Copyright Number:
LP43632
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Deluxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
114-115
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

At a country church in Idaho, the preacher reminds his congregation that they are imperfect beings but they can improve through faith in Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, a young man named Lightfoot elicits sympathy from a local car dealer by claiming to have a wooden leg and steals a muscle car. Back at the church, a man fires his gun at the preacher, who escapes through the back door. As the man chases the preacher through a wheat field, Lightfoot speeds toward them and hits the assailant, but as he drives away, the preacher clutches the side of the car and pulls himself through the passenger door window. Gripping his shoulder in pain, the preacher announces that he is joining Lightfoot in his journey south. Later, when the preacher resets his dislocated shoulder, Lightfoot deduces that he is not who he appears to be. The preacher evades Lightfoot’s speculation by inquiring why his car does not have license plates. After the men steal another car to avoid detection from the police, the preacher asks to be dropped off at a bus station. As they part, the preacher offers Lightfoot his watch as a token of appreciation, but Lightfoot refuses and says he wants friendship instead. Walking into the station, the preacher sees a man putting a long object, wrapped in a blanket, into a locker and turns back to hitch another ride with Lightfoot. Later that evening, Lightfoot steals license plates and picks up a young lady named Melody, who he brings back to the motel with a girl friend for the preacher. As the preacher and girl make ... +


At a country church in Idaho, the preacher reminds his congregation that they are imperfect beings but they can improve through faith in Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, a young man named Lightfoot elicits sympathy from a local car dealer by claiming to have a wooden leg and steals a muscle car. Back at the church, a man fires his gun at the preacher, who escapes through the back door. As the man chases the preacher through a wheat field, Lightfoot speeds toward them and hits the assailant, but as he drives away, the preacher clutches the side of the car and pulls himself through the passenger door window. Gripping his shoulder in pain, the preacher announces that he is joining Lightfoot in his journey south. Later, when the preacher resets his dislocated shoulder, Lightfoot deduces that he is not who he appears to be. The preacher evades Lightfoot’s speculation by inquiring why his car does not have license plates. After the men steal another car to avoid detection from the police, the preacher asks to be dropped off at a bus station. As they part, the preacher offers Lightfoot his watch as a token of appreciation, but Lightfoot refuses and says he wants friendship instead. Walking into the station, the preacher sees a man putting a long object, wrapped in a blanket, into a locker and turns back to hitch another ride with Lightfoot. Later that evening, Lightfoot steals license plates and picks up a young lady named Melody, who he brings back to the motel with a girl friend for the preacher. As the preacher and girl make love, he tells her his scars are from his service in the Korean War. The next morning, the man from the bus station unwraps a rifle from a blanket while he and his partner keep watch on Lightfoot’s stolen car, but his aim is obstructed by a passing truck. The preacher and Lightfoot lead their assailants on a chase through the countryside and get away. After their car breaks down, Lightfoot tells the preacher that a delivery boat will soon pass and take them up river, but the preacher warns Lightfoot to stay away. Lightfoot admits that he is estranged from his family, and as the men cruise up river together, Lightfoot asks the preacher to teach him to rob banks because he dreams of owning a white Cadillac convertible. Back on land, Lightfoot and the preacher hitch a ride with a crazy driver. When the car rolls off the side of the road, the preacher restrains him and they steal his wallet and vehicle. After buying groceries in a nearby town, Lightfoot claims that anyone can rob a bank, but the preacher disagrees and explains the complicated engineering of vault security systems. As Lightfoot listens with admiration, the preacher warns about the challenges they would face and confesses that while living as a preacher, he almost forgot about the money he stole from Montana Armored. Lightfoot recalls hearing news reports about the heist and deduces that the preacher’s true identity is Thunderbolt, the notorious bank robber. Thunderbolt tells Lightfoot they are being pursued by Red Leary, a fellow Marine who saved Thunderbolt’s life in Korea. Leary, Thunderbolt and their team including safe-cracker Billy Lamb, their dim witted driver, Goody, and an electronics expert, Dunlop, pulled off a heist of $500,000. Lamb and Thunderbolt hid the money behind a blackboard in a one-room schoolhouse in Warsaw, Montana, but Lamb passed away before telling the others of its location. In an attempt to frame Leary for another robbery, the police and media collaborated to falsely report that the money was recovered, and Leary was convinced that Thunderbolt set him up. Fearing retribution, Thunderbolt concealed his identity by becoming a preacher. When Thunderbolt and Lightfoot arrive at the Warsaw schoolhouse, they discover it has been remodeled. Returning to the car, they are held up by Leary and Goody, who are hiding in the backseat. After driving into the countryside, Leary knocks Lightfoot out and fights Thunderbolt, but he becomes exhausted by hay fever. Although Leary orders Goody to kill Thunderbolt, Goody is hesitant and Thunderbolt takes control. Unafraid of Leary, Thunderbolt drops the weapons and explains that the reports of the loot’s recovery were fabricated. Thunderbolt convinces Leary that he did not set him up, telling him that the money remained in the schoolhouse, at least until it was rebuilt. As the men drive away together, Lightfoot suggests that they replicate the Montana Armored heist, since it was successful the first time around and a repeat performance would be unexpected. Although Leary is hesitant to approve the idea of a novice and work without the expertise of Lamb and Dunlop, Thunderbolt and Goody agree with Lightfoot. The men settle down in a small town and find jobs to finance the equipment needed for the robbery. When Lightfoot uses his landscape company’s truck to pick up the weapons, Leary tells him that Thunderbolt was a war hero who saved his life in Korea. At a meeting shortly before the heist, Lightfoot expresses uncertainty that he can pull it off, but Thunderbolt tells him there is no backing out and gives him his watch so he can follow the precise timing of the operation. On the night of the robbery, Thunderbolt and Leary break into the bank manager’s house and demand the combination to the vault while Lightfoot disguises himself as a blonde female. Lightfoot gains entry into the town’s telegraph office by seducing the operator, then knocks him out and disarms the bank alarm. At that exact moment, Thunderbolt and Leary open the vault doors. Although Lightfoot narrowly misses his connection with Goody, the men rendezvous with Thunderbolt and Leary, who have blasted through the interior walls of the vault and stolen its contents. Thunderbolt secures Leary and Goody in the trunk with the cash before driving away, but the edge of Leary’s shirt remains exposed under the hatch. When Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, who is still disguised as a woman, pull into the drive-in theater next to the bank as planned, the lady in the ticket booth notices Leary’s shirt and becomes suspicious they are trying to sneak someone in. Thunderbolt thinks the approaching police cars are headed for the bank, but when they surround the theater he speeds away. The police fire at the car and a bullet pierces the trunk, hitting Goody. Although Goody is not dead, Leary pushes him onto the road and holds up Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. After beating the men unconscious, Leary drives away, but he runs into a police barricade. Leary is chased until he crashes into a storefront and is killed by a guard dog. As Thunderbolt helps Lightfoot to his feet, Lightfoot reveals his knowledge that Thunderbolt was the Silver Star war hero, not Leary, but Thunderbolt contends there is no difference between them. After the men hitchhike to the outskirts of Warsaw, Thunderbolt discovers a one-room schoolhouse. A plaque in front of the building indicates it is a historical landmark that was moved from its original location. While Lightfoot guards the door, still dizzy from his beating the previous evening, Thunderbolt uses his belt to unscrew the blackboard and uncovers the lost money. Later, as Lightfoot falls in and out of consciousness, Thunderbolt buys a white, Cadillac convertible and they drive away together. Barely able to hold himself up and slurring his words, Lightfoot offers Thunderbolt a cigar to celebrate their victory. Reflecting that he feels more like a hero than a criminal, Lightfoot leans toward Thunderbolt and dies. When Thunderbolt is unable to revive his friend, he breaks his cigar in half and proceeds down the open highway. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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