Blue Thunder (1983)

R | 108 mins | Drama | 1983

Director:

John Badham

Producer:

Gordon Carroll

Cinematographer:

John Alonzo

Production Designer:

Sydney Z. Litwack

Production Company:

Rastar
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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 Desiree Gorham, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.

The film begins with the following written prologue: "The hardware, weaponry and surveillance systems depicted in this film are real and in use in the United States today." End credits contain the following acknowledgement: “The producers wish to thank Mayor Tom Bradley, the Motion Picture Office, the Board of Public Works, and the people of Los Angeles for their cooperation and help in the making of Blue Thunder .” A dedication appears on the final title card of the film, reading, “For Warren Oates, with love for all the joy you gave us.” Oates, who played “Braddock,” died 3 Apr 1982 after suffering a heart attack, according to an announcement in the 5 Apr 1982 LAT .
       In a 13 May 1983 LAHExam article, screenwriter Dan O’Bannon stated that the original script focused more heavily on the threat of advanced technology and armament used by police forces, and the character “Murphy,” played by Roy Scheider, was “truly mad.” A 23 Mar 1982 LAT article reported that Roy Scheider was initially opposed to starring in a helicopter movie, but he was convinced after reading the “fascinating” script. Scheider predicted that the film would “do for choppers what 'Jaws' did for sharks.”
       A 7 Oct 1981 Var article announced that filming would begin late Oct 1981 in Los Angeles, CA. The budget for the film was $30 million, with $22 million allocated toward production and ... 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 Desiree Gorham, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.

The film begins with the following written prologue: "The hardware, weaponry and surveillance systems depicted in this film are real and in use in the United States today." End credits contain the following acknowledgement: “The producers wish to thank Mayor Tom Bradley, the Motion Picture Office, the Board of Public Works, and the people of Los Angeles for their cooperation and help in the making of Blue Thunder .” A dedication appears on the final title card of the film, reading, “For Warren Oates, with love for all the joy you gave us.” Oates, who played “Braddock,” died 3 Apr 1982 after suffering a heart attack, according to an announcement in the 5 Apr 1982 LAT .
       In a 13 May 1983 LAHExam article, screenwriter Dan O’Bannon stated that the original script focused more heavily on the threat of advanced technology and armament used by police forces, and the character “Murphy,” played by Roy Scheider, was “truly mad.” A 23 Mar 1982 LAT article reported that Roy Scheider was initially opposed to starring in a helicopter movie, but he was convinced after reading the “fascinating” script. Scheider predicted that the film would “do for choppers what 'Jaws' did for sharks.”
       A 7 Oct 1981 Var article announced that filming would begin late Oct 1981 in Los Angeles, CA. The budget for the film was $30 million, with $22 million allocated toward production and the remaining $8 million to be spent on marketing, as stated in a 14 Apr 1983 LAHExam article.
       According to the 13 May 1983 LAHExam article, set decorator Mickey Michaels worked with Peter Albiez, a special effects electronics person, and Philip Harrison, a visual consultant, to design the helicopter, “Blue Thunder.” Michaels and his team read aerospace magazines, “visit[ed] aircraft and electronics manufacturers, including Boeing, Collins and Hughes,” and Michaels flew in a Los Angeles Police Department air support helicopter. Michaels avoided modeling the film’s aircraft after something that already existed, although the AH-64A Apache Advanced Attack Helicopter, a $7.8 million aircraft produced by Hughes Helicopters for the United States Army, resembled Blue Thunder in capabilities. Two models for Blue Thunder were built, one for primary use and one as a backup, using the bodies of French Gazelle helicopters purchased by the production for $190,000 each. Modifications included the addition of “mock armor plating,” “a beetle-eye cockpit dome and…[a] protruding chin cannon,” deemed by experts to be physically impractical given such a cannon would make the helicopter “nose-heavy.” After the helicopters were assembled, they were cleared to fly by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). An unnamed aircraft industry spokesman was quoted in the article, criticizing Blue Thunder’s “whisper mode” as impossible, and also its ability to record audio surveillance, as “the sound of a helicopter would interfere with any sensitive recording devices.” LAPD Air Support Division chief, Captain Bob Woods, expressed concern that the film would incite paranoia amongst civilians that the LAPD’s surveillance capacities were overreaching, and Woods clarified that LAPD helicopters were not armed and had no ability to listen through walls.
       According to the 14 Apr 1983 LAHExam, Blue Thunder needed to take in $60-70 million at the box office in order to break even. Planning to release both 35mm and 70mm prints, Columbia Pictures organized several sneak previews which “saw enthusiastic audience reaction,” helping the film secure “many of the best theaters in the country.” The film was apparently widely pirated on video, according to rumors reported in an 11 May 1983 Var article.
       To promote Blue Thunder, a theatrical trailer began running Christmas 1982, and an eight and a half minute documentary on the making of the film was offered to over 1,000 media outlets, according to an 11 Apr 1983 HR news item. Columbia also intended to advertise the film in “technical magazines” and release a video game.
       The world premiere occurred in mid-Feb 1983 in Germany, amassing the “largest box-office gross for any Columbia film in that territory since Close Encounters of the Third Kind ,” with $1,695,875 in ticket sales in the first two weeks. On 13 Apr 1983, Los Angeles’ Filmex screened Blue Thunder as its opening night attraction, one month before its domestic release in 1,500 theaters.
       Critical reception was mixed. While some reviewers praised the film’s action sequences for having a relatively low death toll, the 13 May 1983 LAT review referred to Blue Thunder as “technotrash” that “treats human beings as disposable objects.”
       A 26 Aug 1983 LAHExam news item announced that American Broadcasting Company (ABC) planned to produce a television show based on the film; the show, also titled Blue Thunder , starred James Farentino, Dana Carvey, and Bubba Smith, and first aired on ABC 6 Jan 1984, with the final telecast on 7 Sep 1984.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1983
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1983.
---
LAHExam
14 Apr 1983.
---
LAHExam
13 May 1983
Section D, p. 1, 6.
LAHExam
26 Aug 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Mar 1982
Section G, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
5 Apr 1982
Section A, p. 3, 20.
Los Angeles Times
13 Apr 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 May 1983
p. 1.
New York Times
13 May 1983
p. 17.
People
1 Aug 1983.
---
Variety
7 Oct 1981
p. 43.
Variety
2 Feb 1983
p. 18.
Variety
2 Mar 1983.
---
Variety
11 May 1983
p. 1, 103.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Rastar-Gordon Carroll Production
A John Badham Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir-Aerial
2d unit dir-Stunt
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d unit 1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Miniature photog
Aerial cam
Asst aerial cam
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Set lighting best boy
Best boy
Lamp op
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
Illustrator
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Lead person
Lead person
Const coord
Const foreman
Propmaker foreman
Painter foreman
Standby painter
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Fixtures
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men`s cost
Asst cost
MUSIC
Electronic mus prod
Synclavier II performer
Synclavier II performer
Asst mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Prod sd mixer
Cable
Supv sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff electronics
Spec eff electronics
Spec eff electronics
Spec eff electronics
Spec eff electronics
Motion control photog by
Motion control supv, Dream Quest, Inc.
Motion control supv, Dream Quest, Inc.
Motion control supv, Dream Quest, Inc.
Motion control tech, Dream Quest, Inc.
Motion control tech, Dream Quest, Inc.
Motion control tech, Dream Quest, Inc.
Motion control prod asst, Dream Quest, Inc.
Motion control prod asst, Dream Quest, Inc.
Titles by
Motion control compositing by
Addl opticals by
Prop shop electronics
Prop shop electronics
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting asst
Extra casting
Visual consultant
Scr supv
Video coord
Video displays by
Video supv
Chief eng
Process projectionist
Process projectionist
Process projectionist
Dial coach
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation cocapt const
Driver/Tech
Mechanic
Helicopter mechanic
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Prod assoc
Asst to the prod
Asst to Mr. Badham
Asst to Gordon Carroll
Secy to Andy Fogelson
Secy to Phil Feldman
Secy to Phil Feldman
Prod office coord
Asst coord
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Const auditor
Craft service
Caterer
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Helper
STAND INS
Utility stuntman
DETAILS
Release Date:
1983
Premiere Information:
Filmex screening: 13 April 1983
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 May 1983
Production Date:
began late October 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 March 1983
Copyright Number:
PA167095
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Lenses/Prints
Technicolor® prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
108
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26761
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, Frank Murphy, a helicopter pilot for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and his new partner, Richard Lymangood, provide air support to street police as they catch a robber outside a liquor store. Afterward, Murphy and Lymangood hover outside a house, spying on a naked woman as she does her nightly yoga routine. Meanwhile, a man named Grundelius helps two thieves break onto the property of Commissioner Diana McNeely. Murphy and Lymangood are called to the scene as the thieves attack McNeely and steal her briefcase. Flying over the house, Lymangood points a spotlight at the thieves, and police shoot them down. Later, at the air support station, Captain Jack Braddock reprimands Murphy and Lymangood for their late arrival to crime scene. He informs the men that McNeely was shot and the crime is being reported as an attempted rape. Murphy believes that the house was being staked out and argues that the crime was not rape, but Braddock refuses to listen and instead grounds the men for the next two weeks. Murphy also learns that he must undergo a psychiatric evaluation due to strange behavior he exhibited the previous month. That night, Murphy’s sometime girlfriend, Kate, arrives at his house, carrying her sleeping son, Timmy. Kate returns Murphy’s house keys and retrieves her blender. On her way out, she kisses Murphy and expresses concern for him. After McNeely dies from her gunshot wound, Murphy sneaks onto McNeely’s property at night to search for evidence. He finds a note written in Spanish and later delivers it to Montoya, his former partner, for translation. Braddock calls Murphy back to the station, where he meets Fletcher and ... +


In Los Angeles, California, Frank Murphy, a helicopter pilot for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and his new partner, Richard Lymangood, provide air support to street police as they catch a robber outside a liquor store. Afterward, Murphy and Lymangood hover outside a house, spying on a naked woman as she does her nightly yoga routine. Meanwhile, a man named Grundelius helps two thieves break onto the property of Commissioner Diana McNeely. Murphy and Lymangood are called to the scene as the thieves attack McNeely and steal her briefcase. Flying over the house, Lymangood points a spotlight at the thieves, and police shoot them down. Later, at the air support station, Captain Jack Braddock reprimands Murphy and Lymangood for their late arrival to crime scene. He informs the men that McNeely was shot and the crime is being reported as an attempted rape. Murphy believes that the house was being staked out and argues that the crime was not rape, but Braddock refuses to listen and instead grounds the men for the next two weeks. Murphy also learns that he must undergo a psychiatric evaluation due to strange behavior he exhibited the previous month. That night, Murphy’s sometime girlfriend, Kate, arrives at his house, carrying her sleeping son, Timmy. Kate returns Murphy’s house keys and retrieves her blender. On her way out, she kisses Murphy and expresses concern for him. After McNeely dies from her gunshot wound, Murphy sneaks onto McNeely’s property at night to search for evidence. He finds a note written in Spanish and later delivers it to Montoya, his former partner, for translation. Braddock calls Murphy back to the station, where he meets Fletcher and Icelan, two government officials from Washington, D.C., in town to introduce a new helicopter prototype, “Blue Thunder.” Murphy and Braddock join the men as they view a demonstration of Blue Thunder at a weapons evaluation center. Murphy learns that the helicopter is equipped with heat sensors and surveillance capabilities, has the power to fire 4,000 rounds of ammunition per minute, and is intended for use by the LAPD during the 1984 Summer Olympics. Grundelius, the man who aided McNeely’s attackers, is also in the audience. After the demonstration, Murphy meets the test pilot, Colonel Cochrane, and recognizes him from the Vietnam War. Cochrane expresses his dislike for Murphy and tells Fletcher and Icelan that he tried to have Murphy court-martialed in Vietnam. At the air support station, Cochrane tampers with Murphy’s helicopter before a flight test, causing it to malfunction mid-air and prompting Murphy to make an emergency landing at a construction site. Murphy meets with Montoya at a park and learns that the note from McNeely’s house mentioned “strangers in the barrio making trouble” and contained one word in English, “Thor.” Back at Kate’s house, Murphy falls asleep in Timmy’s room and has a nightmare about Vietnam, in which a Vietnamese captive is pushed out of Murphy’s helicopter to his death. The following day, Murphy and Lymangood receive a training course on Blue Thunder, and Lymangood finds a hatch in the back of the helicopter where the surveillance tapes are housed. On a test flight, Murphy and Lymangood toy with the surveillance features, eavesdropping on random conversations and searching the helicopter’s computer for personal files. When they look up Cochrane’s file, they learn that he is involved in a project called “THOR,” which stands for “tactical helicopter offensive response.” Ignoring radio commands from the air support station, Murphy and Lymangood follow Cochrane’s car to a skyscraper downtown. Using Blue Thunder’s heat sensors, Lymangood finds Cochrane inside the building and aims surveillance devices toward the office where he meets with Holmes, a government official, and Grundelius. Lymangood and Murphy overhear the men admitting that McNeely was assassinated because she knew about the THOR program and opposed it. Cochrane suggests that he kill Murphy as soon as possible, and Holmes agrees. Murphy and Lymangood rush back to the station, where Lymangood steals the tape recording of Cochrane’s conversation from the helicopter. Braddock suspends Murphy from the police force for ignoring commands; meanwhile, Cochrane’s thugs ambush Lymangood at his home, demanding the tape. Lymangood breaks free and runs out of the house, but Grundelius follows and runs over Lymangood with his car. Murphy arrives at the scene to find paramedics zipping Lymangood’s corpse into a body bag, and soon hears over the radio that Murphy is being named a suspect in Lymangood’s death. At a payphone, he checks his phone messages and hears one from Lymangood, saying he left a message for Murphy inside Blue Thunder. The next day, Murphy steals the helicopter and hears Lymangood’s message, stating that he hid the tape in a dumpster at a drive-in movie theater. Murphy contacts KBLA, a television station, to tell them that an important tape recording will arrive later that day. He then contacts Kate, who agrees to retrieve the tape. Flying above her car, Murphy helps Kate evade street police and successfully deliver the tape to KBLA. Murphy fights off another helicopter, flown by Montoya, sending it to the ground. Murphy leads a second helicopter on a chase through a flood channel, eventually causing it to crash. At the air support station, the mayor authorizes an order from Colonel Coe of the United States Air Force to send two F-16 jets after Murphy, despite Braddock’s concern that the F-16’s rockets may cause major damage and harm civilians. Murphy stealthily evades the F-16’s, causing the jets to fire missiles at a restaurant and a skyscraper. Cochrane ignores orders to stay grounded and takes a helicopter out in pursuit of Murphy, who gives chase around downtown Los Angeles. Cochrane manages to shoot Murphy in the arm, and Murphy recalls Cochrane pushing the captive he saw in his nightmare out of Murphy’s helicopter during the Vietnam War. Murphy finally blows up Cochrane’s helicopter by executing a 360° turn, something Cochrane argued was impossible, and shooting from below. Murphy lands Blue Thunder on train tracks, escaping moments before a train crashes into the helicopter and destroys it. That evening, KBLA News reports that police and government officials have been detained for questioning after the Blue Thunder surveillance tape provided evidence that McNeely was assassinated and also suggested a conspiracy behind Lymangood’s death. +

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

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