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Major Charles Rane comes back from the war and is given a number of gifts from his hometown because he is a war hero. Some greedy thugs decide that they want to steal a number of silver dollars from him. In the process they also manage to kill his wife and son and destroy his hand. The Major wants revenge so he enlists the help of his war buddy Johnny to meet the thugs in a final showdown.
For more about Rolling Thunder and the Rolling Thunder Blu-ray release, see Rolling Thunder Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, Lisa Blake Richards, Anthony Castillo, James Best
Director: John Flynn
» See full cast & crew
Rolling Thunder Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 20, 2012
John Flynn's "Rolling Thunder" (1977) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; TV spot; interview with actress Linda Haynes; audio commentary with co- screenwriter Heywood Gould, moderated by Roy Frumkes; and more. In English, without optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
After spending a couple of years in a prison camp somewhere in Vietnam, Major Charlie Rane (William Devane, Marathon Man, Payback) returns home to Texas with his best friend Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones, Stormy Monday, Blown Away). At the airport, the two are greeted as heroes and soon after Charlie is rewarded with a large box full of silver dollars (one for each day he spent in Vietnam). His wife (Lisa Richards, Heaven Can Wait) is happy to see him back but admits that she has been seeing another man, Cliff (Lawrason Driscoll, Special Delivery), a policeman, whom she intends to marry.
In the following days Charlie attempts to rebuild his relationship with his son (Jordan Gerler), but gradually begins to realize that the life he always dreamed about before heading to Vietnam will never become a reality. Eventually he meets Cliff, who thinks that he has a pretty good idea what Charlie is going through. But when he demonstrates a torture technique that was used on him, it suddenly dawns on him that Charlie's mind and soul never left the prison camp in Vietnam.
Charlie also meets Linda (Linda Haynes, Coffy, Brubaker), a nice girl who serves drinks in a local bar. She makes it clear that she has a crush on him, but he politely rejects her because he does not remember how to love. Linda assumes that this is only a temporary rejection and decides to approach him again when the time is right.
Things get complicated after a couple of Mexican thugs break into Charlie's home to steal his silver dollars. When he refuses to give them the box, they begin to torture him. Eventually, Charlie's wife and son return home and the kid tells the thugs where the box is. They kill both and leave Charlie in a puddle of blood, with his right hand seriously damaged, assuming that he is also dead.
Charlie recovers but loses a hand, which he replaces with a large metal hook. After he leaves the hospital, he vows to go to Mexico and kill the thugs. Before he leaves town, he invites Linda to join him and she enthusiastically accepts, assuming that Charlie has a romantic trip in mind. Very soon, however, she begins to realize that this would be a different kind of journey. When eventually she attempts to confront Charlie, he dumps her in a motel and invites his old pal Johnny to assist him with his mission.
John Flynn's Rolling Thunder reminds a lot about Adrian Lyne's Jacob's Ladder. Both films are about war veterans who discover that the hell they have endured in Vietnam has followed them back home. In both films the veterans try to come to terms with it but fail.
In Lyne's film the veteran gets stuck in a maddening hell created by his own mind. Its intense nightmares routinely replace reality and force him to contemplate suicide. In Flynn's film the hell is real – Charlie returns home but quickly discovers that he has become a shadow. His family and friends welcome him with open arms but quickly push him away because they have moved on and because the place Charlie used to occupy in their lives has been given to other people.
Contrary to what has been claimed, Rolling Thunder is neither a revenge nor an exploitation film. The Mexican trip is mostly a distraction and the final act is nothing more than the final note in a very sad song about an unneeded hero.
Devane looks great here. He does not talk much but it is always easy to tell what is on his mind. Haynes is also very convincing as the naïve waitress. The young, skinny and still unknown Jones has a limited amount of time in front of the camera but delivers big.
Rolling Thunder Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, John Flynn'a Rolling Thunder arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal.
Even though there are various limitations, I like the high-definition transfer a lot. Here's why:
The presentation is raw and the film looks like film. I would speculate that the high-definition transfer was struck from the best current master, which was most likely prepared some time ago, which is why there are limitations, but the basic film qualities we expect to see when a catalog title transitions to Blu-ray have been retained - there is a healthy dose of light grain throughout the entire film, colors look natural, and detail is pleasing. The best news, however, is that there are no traces of post-production tinkering meant to have the film look 'better' than it could (considering the available master). This means that there is no overzealous sharpening and contrast boosting (the types that many of the early and some recent catalog titles from Universal Studios have) or traces of severe denoising. This being said, the high-definition transfer has retained a low dose of noise that is often mixed with the grain and there are tiny specks that pop up here and there. Some softness is also present during the nighttime sequences. Again, though, this is the best way to present a catalog title for which a 4K high-definition transfer is unrealistic - offer a raw, unmanipulated high-definition transfer from the most recent master and let the film look like film, as it is the case with Rolling Thunder. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Rolling Thunder Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray: English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. For the record, Studio Canal have not provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track lacks great depth and intensity, but this should not be surprising. There are selected scenes, however, where Barry De Vorzon's score comes alive, though admittedly it never really enhances the atmosphere in the film; it has a secondary role. The dialog is crisp, clear, stable, and easy to follow. Also, there is no heavy hiss, pops, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Rolling Thunder Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rolling Thunder Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
John Flynn's Rolling Thunder tells a familiar story - sometimes it is easier to die in battle than return as a hero and realize that the hell you left behind has come home with you. But the film seems to be liked for all the wrong reasons, and most likely because it was endorsed by Quentin Tarantino. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of Studio Canal, looks and sounds good. However, it is Region-B "locked". RECOMMENDED.
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Rolling Thunder Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Rolling Thunder Gets U.S. Release Date - January 4, 2013
Shout Factory has revealed that it is planning to bring to Blu-ray John Flynn's cult film Rolling Thunder (1977), starring William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Haynes. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the United States ...
• Rolling Thunder Blu-ray - August 22, 2012
German distributors Koch Media have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray John Flynn's Rolling Thunder (1977), starring William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, and Linda Haynes. The release will be available for purchase on September 28th.
• Rolling Thunder Blu-ray - November 14, 2011
The UK branch of Studio Canal (formerly Optimum Home Entertainment) has officially announced that it will release a Double Play edition of John Flynn's Rolling Thunder (1977), starring William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, and Linda Haynes. The release will hit retail ...
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