Rolling Thunder (1977)

R | 99 mins | Drama | 7 October 1977

Director:

John Flynn

Producer:

Norman T. Herman

Cinematographer:

Jordan Cronenweth

Editor:

Frank P. Keller

Production Designer:

Steve Berger

Production Company:

TBC Film
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Ray Ghaul.

According to a 27 Apr 1977 DV article, writer Paul Schrader’s original screenplay was first purchased by American International Pictures (AIP) in 1973, and Schrader was set to make his feature film directorial debut. However, executive producer Lawrence Gordon left AIP in the same year to start his own company and took the project with him, as noted in a 6 Sep 1978 Var article.        A 6 Aug 1975 HR news item announced that Columbia Pictures purchased the screenplay and Buzz Feitshans was hired as executive producer. Neither Columbia nor Feitshans were credited in the film.
       On 10 Jun 1976, DV reported that director John Flynn was attached to the project and principal photography was scheduled to begin 28 Jun 1976 in San Antonio, TX. On 6 Sep 1976, a Box news item announced that the picture completed production in late Aug 1976 and its worldwide distribution rights were purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. Gordon, who was “based” at the studio, insisted that the film was financed entirely by his independent company in a 23 Aug 1976 DV brief. However, an 11 Oct 1977 LAHExam article stated that the picture was “developed, financed and made for under $2 million” at Twentieth Century-Fox.
       As noted in various contemporary sources, including LAHExam and the 27 Apr 1977 DV article, Twentieth Century-Fox demanded significant edits in the ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Ray Ghaul.

According to a 27 Apr 1977 DV article, writer Paul Schrader’s original screenplay was first purchased by American International Pictures (AIP) in 1973, and Schrader was set to make his feature film directorial debut. However, executive producer Lawrence Gordon left AIP in the same year to start his own company and took the project with him, as noted in a 6 Sep 1978 Var article.        A 6 Aug 1975 HR news item announced that Columbia Pictures purchased the screenplay and Buzz Feitshans was hired as executive producer. Neither Columbia nor Feitshans were credited in the film.
       On 10 Jun 1976, DV reported that director John Flynn was attached to the project and principal photography was scheduled to begin 28 Jun 1976 in San Antonio, TX. On 6 Sep 1976, a Box news item announced that the picture completed production in late Aug 1976 and its worldwide distribution rights were purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. Gordon, who was “based” at the studio, insisted that the film was financed entirely by his independent company in a 23 Aug 1976 DV brief. However, an 11 Oct 1977 LAHExam article stated that the picture was “developed, financed and made for under $2 million” at Twentieth Century-Fox.
       As noted in various contemporary sources, including LAHExam and the 27 Apr 1977 DV article, Twentieth Century-Fox demanded significant edits in the picture after an unsuccessful screening in San José, CA. LAHExam reported that the audience “rioted” over the film’s graphic violence, but, according to Gordon, the studio was aware of the controversial scenes before the screening and did not raise objections until the audience responded negatively. Gordon explained that the cuts proposed by Twentieth Century-Fox were “too excessive,” and since he was on good terms with the studio, they allowed him to look for an alternate distributor.
       As announced in DV on 27 Apr 1977, AIP regained their rights to the film’s worldwide distribution; however, the studio required several cuts before releasing the picture. LAHExam stated that the following scenes were removed from the film: Close-up shots of character “Major Charles ‘Charlie’ Rane’s” hand after it was mangled in a garbage disposal, sound effects of Charlie screaming during the murder of his wife “Candy” and son “Mark,” as well as the sound of Candy’s screams, and images of Candy and Mark’s dead bodies, riddled with bullet wounds. Gordon told LAHExam that he was “irresponsible” for not reviewing the final cut and sound mix of the film before the San José preview, and confessed that he would have made changes earlier. After a screening of the newly edited picture, Gordon observed “the intensity from the sound mixing made a noticeable difference.”
       A 12 Dec 1977 HR news item reported that the film was awarded the Gold Venus Medallion by a “Special Jury” at The Virgin Islands Film Festival.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Sep 1976.
---
Box Office
9 May 1977.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jun 1976.
---
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1976.
---
Daily Variety
27 Apr 1977
p. 28.
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1977
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1977
p. 3, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 1977.
---
LAHExam
28 Aug 1975
Section B, p. 4.
LAHExam
11 Oct 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Oct 1977
p. 7.
New York Times
15 Oct 1977.
---
Variety
13 Aug 1975.
---
Variety
16 Jun 1976.
---
Variety
27 Apr 1977
p. 28.
Variety
5 Oct 1977
p. 28.
Variety
6 Sep 1978
p. 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Lawrence Gordon Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mariachi mus performed by
SOUND
Sd eff
Rec mixer
Rerec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Asst to the prod
SOURCES
SONGS
"San Antone," by Barry De Vorzon, sung by Denny Brooks.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 October 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 7 October 1977
New York opening: 14 October 1977
Production Date:
28 June--late August 1976 in San Antonio, TX
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
5 August 1977
Copyright Number:
LP48747
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by De Luxe®
Lenses/Prints
Prints by Movielab
Duration(in mins):
99
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24604
SYNOPSIS

In 1973, at a San Antonio, Texas, airport, a crowd celebrates the homecoming of Vietnam prisoners of war, Major Charles “Charlie” Rane, Sergeant Johnny Vohden, and their two colleagues. After Charlie reunites with his wife, Candy, and his son, Mark, he is escorted home by a police officer named Cliff. That evening, Charlie inspects a shotgun given him by Mark and realizes his son does not remember him. Candy confesses that she had an affair with Cliff and has accepted his proposal of marriage. Finding makeshift quarters in a garden shed, Charlie is disturbed by flashbacks of his imprisonment, and when he complains of insomnia to Air Force psychiatrist Dr. Maxwell, he vows to retain custody of Mark. At another celebration of his return, Charlie is given a Cadillac convertible and “Texas Belle” Linda Forchet presents Charlie with a box of $2,555 in silver dollars from a local department store, each coin representing a day of his imprisonment. That evening, Cliff visits Charlie in the shed with a bottle of whiskey, hoping to resolve their predicament, and Charlie demonstrates a method of torture used by his captors, explaining that he learned to love their abuse. One day, Linda Forchet spots Charlie at a gas station and invites him for a drink at the bar where she works. Although he accepts, he quickly leaves to attend Mark’s baseball game, but the boy is indifferent to his presence. Arriving home, Charlie is held at gunpoint by a band of outlaws, headed by a Texan, who demand his silver dollars. Remaining silent, Charlie has flashbacks of prison and is unresponsive when the ... +


In 1973, at a San Antonio, Texas, airport, a crowd celebrates the homecoming of Vietnam prisoners of war, Major Charles “Charlie” Rane, Sergeant Johnny Vohden, and their two colleagues. After Charlie reunites with his wife, Candy, and his son, Mark, he is escorted home by a police officer named Cliff. That evening, Charlie inspects a shotgun given him by Mark and realizes his son does not remember him. Candy confesses that she had an affair with Cliff and has accepted his proposal of marriage. Finding makeshift quarters in a garden shed, Charlie is disturbed by flashbacks of his imprisonment, and when he complains of insomnia to Air Force psychiatrist Dr. Maxwell, he vows to retain custody of Mark. At another celebration of his return, Charlie is given a Cadillac convertible and “Texas Belle” Linda Forchet presents Charlie with a box of $2,555 in silver dollars from a local department store, each coin representing a day of his imprisonment. That evening, Cliff visits Charlie in the shed with a bottle of whiskey, hoping to resolve their predicament, and Charlie demonstrates a method of torture used by his captors, explaining that he learned to love their abuse. One day, Linda Forchet spots Charlie at a gas station and invites him for a drink at the bar where she works. Although he accepts, he quickly leaves to attend Mark’s baseball game, but the boy is indifferent to his presence. Arriving home, Charlie is held at gunpoint by a band of outlaws, headed by a Texan, who demand his silver dollars. Remaining silent, Charlie has flashbacks of prison and is unresponsive when the Texan’s henchman, Automatic Slim, mangles his hand in the kitchen sink garbage disposal. When Candy and Mark return home, the boy discloses the location of the box to save his father. However, as the outlaws leave with the money, revealing that they are on their way to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, they shoot Candy and Mark dead. Convalescing in a hospital, Charlie is visited by Linda and Johnny and is outfitted with a prosthetic arm. Intent on revenge, Cliff begs Charlie for information about the assailants, but Charlie claims he is unable to remember. Returning home, Charlie sharpens the hook on his prosthetic arm, saws off the barrel of the shotgun Mark gave him, and packs a suitcase with ammunition. He heads to Mexico but stops on the way to pick up Linda. Across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Charlie goes to a bar and instructs Linda to ask for Fat Ed. A bar patron named Lopez leads Linda into the kitchen, claiming to know the man, but when he attempts to assault her, Charlie comes to her rescue and pins Lopez’s hand to a table with his hook. Holding Lopez at gunpoint with his good hand, Charlie learns that Lopez lied about knowing Fat Ed. When Charlie inquires about the Texan and his henchmen, Lopez advises him to look for Billy Sanchez in Acuña, Mexico. As Linda and Charlie drive away, Linda is enraged to learn that her companion is going after Candy and Mark’s murderers and scolds him for lying to the San Antonio police. Back in Texas, Cliff discovers the sawed off shotgun barrel in Charlie’s shed and asks his colleague to locate him without informing the police department. Charlie’s Cadillac is soon spotted and Cliff rushes to Mexico. Meanwhile, at an Acuña bar, Linda finds Billy Sanchez, who reports that Fat Ed is in El Paso. When Charlie joins Linda, he is confronted by Automatic Slim and a fight ensues. After stabbing Slim in the crotch with his hook, Charlie escapes with Linda. Although the couple fights, they spend an intimate evening together in the back seat of the Cadillac. In the morning, Linda demonstrates her shooting skills, explaining that her father is in the Army, and Charlie shows her his stockpile of weapons in the trunk. At an El Paso hotel, Linda suggests that Charlie forget his vendetta and they run away together, but he is unresponsive. Meanwhile, Cliff arrives at the bar where Charlie confronted Slim, and a boy who witnessed the fight leads him to Lopez. After demanding money, Lopez runs away. Giving chase, Cliff is guided to an abandoned building where a gunfight ensues with Slim and his henchmen. Cliff is shot dead. Back at the El Paso hotel, Charlie dresses in his Major’s uniform and places a stack of cash next to the bed before he leaves. After staking out the Texan and his gang at a brothel in Juarez, Mexico, Charlie visits Johnny at his El Paso home and asks for help. Dressed in uniform, Johnny excuses himself from a family dinner and returns to Juarez with Charlie. Inside the brothel, Johnny picks up an American prostitute and follows her to a room while Charlie climbs up the fire escape with his shotgun. After hearing a signal from Charlie, Johnny grabs his gun and Charlie shoots the Texan dead in an adjoining room, unleashing a gun battle in the brothel. From behind the bar, Slim beckons the men downstairs, and they are barraged with bullets as they descend. Although Charlie is hit in the stomach, he shoots a gun out of Slim’s hand and kills the murderer with his last two bullets. Helping Johnny to his feet, Charlie tells his friend that the battle is over. +

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

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