• Thunderbolt And Lightfoot

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: February 21st, 2014.
    Director: Michael Cimino
    Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy, Geoffrey Lewis
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Screen Archives Entertainment

    The Movie:

    The directorial debut of screenwriter Michael Cimino, who would go on to huge success with The Deer Hunter and then obliterate his career with Heaven’s Gate, 1974’s Thunderbolt And Lightfoot begins in a small church in rural Montana. Here an unnamed preacher (Clint Eastwood) delivers his sermon to his congregation when a gunman shows up at the door and opens fire. The preacher runs through a field and into a road just as a young man in a stolen car (Jeff Bridges) arrives to run the gunman down and run off down the road with the Preacher. We learn that the young man is Lightfoot and that the preacher is a former bank robber known as Thunderbolt. The two strike up a friendship and head to a hotel where they bed a few loose women (one of whom is a young Catharine Bach) and swig some beers.

    From there, they wind up begrudgingly making up with Thunderbolt’s former teammate, Red Leary (George Kennedy) and his Eddie Goody (Geoffrey Lewis). It seems that the money from the bank job Thunderbolt and Red got away with years back was stashed behind the blackboard of an old schoolhouse but that schoolhouse has been bulldozed and rebuilt. Lightfoot suggests they try again, and soon enough the four men are planning on hitting the same place the same way that it was successfully knocked over the first time around, and they just might pull it off, so long as they can all trust one another…

    All of Cimino’s trademarks are on display here, even this early in his career - tough men working together in big open spaces, violence, quirky characters and hard living. He paces the film well and, working off of a script he wrote (that he originally wanted Eastwood to direct), the movie works quite well. There are a few characters that pop up in the movie without any obvious reason, the best example being a driver who offers our hitchhiking heroes a ride in a car inhabited by a raccoon and a trunk full of rabbits, but even those odd ducks fit well in the world our central characters inhabit.

    Performances are very strong across the board, with Eastwood more or less playing the strong, silent type he’s known for but not at the cost of character development. His Thunderbolt is an older and wiser character than Lightfoot and becomes almost a father figure to the younger man. Eastwood suits these types of roles well and his work in this picture is rock solid. Bridges got an Oscar nomination for his work here and in retrospect it’s easy to see why. His Lightfoot comes across as a freewheeling guy just out to have a good time but under the randy and rowdy surface is a young man who is obviously pretty lonely and in serious want of some friendship. The relationship that develops and much of the imagery used to relay this has led some to see gay subtext in the picture, and it isn’t hard to see it if you’re looking for it but much of this would seem to stem from Lightfoot’s longing for acceptance from the older man he encounters randomly out there by the church in the opening scene. Viewers will make up their own minds on this as the movie never really spells out it (and is all the better for it). Throw in great supporting work from a genuinely funny Geoffrey Lewis, a cameo from a young Gary Busey and some scene stealing acting from George Kennedy as the hot head with a gun and the movie is cast pretty much perfectly and sees all involved at the top of their respective game.

    The movie is well paced and beautifully photographed making great use of the ‘big sky country’ where it all plays out. It builds to an appropriately enough conclusion, one that carries with it the impact brought on by strong character development, good scriptwriting and solid acting and most importantly it entertains throughout.


    Thunderbolt And Lightfoot looks very nice on Blu-ray framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a dual layer disc with a nice, healthy bit rate working in its favor. The outdoor scenes show excellent and very natural looking colors while skin tones stay appropriately warm without ever looking off. There’s a natural amount of film grain but not much at all in the way of actual print damage to note. Detail is quite strong, during both interior and exterior shots, while texture and depth are well advanced past what standard definition could provide. There’s no obvious digital trickery here to complain about, the picture is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and there aren’t any compression issues to complain about. This is a well authored disc of some nice looking source material.

    The DTS-HD Mono track, in the film’s native English language, is also quite good. Though range is understandably limited by the source, there’s a good amount of depth particularly during the last half hour where the action really picks up. Dialogue is natural and easy to follow and there are no issues with hiss or distortion. Optional closed captioning is provided in English only.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track by Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Lem Dobbs in which the three participants offer up a mix of scene specific information and trivia and insightful critical analysis. This is quite a thorough talk that covers the origins of the movie, how Cimino went about directing his first feature and Eastwood’s involvement in that decision and some of the themes that run throughout the film, including those of a homoerotic nature. The commentary also elaborates on why some of the characters that would seem to be completely random and unnecessary to the plot appear in the movie when and how they do, some information about the score and locations and some insight into what they think works so well about the different aspects of the picture. It’s a thorough and engaging talk and well worth listening to.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer, an MGM 90th Anniversary trailer and, in lossless DTS-HD, and Dee Barton’s isolated score track. Menus and chapter selection are also provided an inside the keepcase is a full color insert booklet with some great vintage promotional art and an essay from Kirgo that offer up a nice and compact history of the film, how Cimino came onboard to direct, some of the reasons behind why some see gay subtext in the movie and the importance of the locations in the film.

    The Final Word:

    Thunderbolt And Lightfoot remains a genuinely entertaining crime film anchored by great work from Eastwood and especially Bridges and a scene stealing supporting effort from the criminally underrated George Kennedy. The Blu-ray from Twilight Time offers up the movie in excellent shape and with some nice supplements too.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!