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Thundercrack! – 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

ThundercrackIn 1975, Curt McDowell and writer/actor George Kuchar created the exceptionally perverse and utterly brilliant THUNDERCRACK!, a film not recommended for those with tender sensibilities. A true cult classic that has shocked, excited and amazed audiences worldwide for 40 years, this presentation is the first ever official North American video release!  A tour de force of underground filmmaking with a plot beyond description, this film fully exposes itself with amazing dialogue and trash-noir lighting through which to peer at the pickles, the puke and the polymorphs.  One of their most anticipated releases ever, THUNDERCRACK! comes to DVD and Blu-ray this December in one of Synapse Films’ most-packed special editions yet!  Without question, THUNDERCRACK! is one of the great underground sleaze epics, and a touchstone for all independent filmmakers to come!” (Shock Cinema Magazine).

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Film 

Witness if you dare… THUNDERCRACK!… the world’s only underground kinky art adult horror film, complete with four men, three women and rampaging circus animals. With the initial setup of an atmospheric gothic tale — a dark and stormy night breakdown featuring a creepy old house on the hill — it quickly turns into an eerie orgy of graphic humor, horror and sex.

When this got announced, I really, REALLY didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  It peaked my interest in being some super rare, hard to find cult classic kinda film.  It looked as if it would mish mash some different genres and maybe go a bit bonkers by being something abstract.  Well, bonkers or crazy was right.  I’m still not sure I get the “horror” or “comedy” aspects from this.  Just because its raining and there’s a house by its lonesome on hill doth not make it horror.  Basically those are just masking the fact that this is an uber kinky and erotic adult film.

Unbelievably, this film runs an insane two hours and forty minutes long.  I could not believe it.  Apparently there was once a ninety minute cut, but it was not done with the satisfaction of the creators.  Believe you me, I would have much rather have had to review that cut (saving me an hour and forty minutes).  This movie does nothing to earn the right to be that long.  As a matter of fact, they could have easily tightened up the films first act from forty five minutes to about ten (It really takes forever to get to this film’s “goods”).  Oddly here, I’m gonna side with the studio that cut this thing up into a shorter cut, as much of this movie doesn’t need to be here.

Basically, if you are into kinky and vintage sex scenes and stuff, Thundercrack! (Why wasn’t this named Thunder Asscrack!?) is for you.  If I had to reference any sort of movie to compare this too, I’d have to say its a hardcore Rocky Horror Picture Show minus the songs and minus the “horror”.  It carries that sort of flirty vibe, but moreso makes good on what that film is only really hinting at.  Ultimately though, I’m not sure it matters who you are, this movie is way too damn long.  This film could almost be somewhat of a “dare” movie with folks.  Not only to see who could make it through all the perverted acts depicted in the film, but also who could just tolerate this thing and sit through it for the almost three hour runtime.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Clarity/Detail:  Wow, this is yet another impressive restoration job by the folks over at Synapse Films.  This comes with an insert detailing the process.  Long story short, this was culminated from the only known existing 16mm print of the film.  The amount of crispness and detail should surprised and amaze anyone taking a gander at it.  

Depth:  Some solid depth work here.  Movements are smooth and clean.  Characters get a decent  amount of free feeling space in their environments.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich, helping to shadow and define.  Any instance of detail lost into blacks is source-related.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones maintain a consistent white throughout.  Stubble, wrinkles, blemishes and make-up are all pretty present from most distances.  Really impressive.

Noise/Artifacts:  Features some grain, dirt and specs.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Castilian Spanish, Parisian French, German

Dynamics:  Documented on an insert included is the difficulty with which is was to produce the audio.  There is a lot of analog sounds, hissing and some pops in here, but to me, that’s a charm that comes with the film’s age.  Effects and whatnot still sound quite good and well rounded.  There is also a good separation and balance of vocals, effects and music in this mix.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is pretty well captured, full sounding and appropriately set in volume throughout.  Some hissing and popping is present, but that’s source.

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Extras 

Thundercrack! comes with a DVD featuring additional bonus features, as well as an insert that gives a lengthy description of the restoration.

Disc 1 – Blu-ray

Vintage Audio Interview with Director Curt McDowell – Plays like a commentary track with the movie.

It Came From Kuchar (HD, 1:26:25) – Feature-length documentary on the underground filmmaking twin brothers, George and Mike Kuchar.  Features interviews with John Waters, Buck Henry and Atom Egoyan.  This is much better and more entertaining than the movie 🙂

Disc 2 – DVD

Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:28)

Interview with Thundercrack! Author, George Kuchar (SD, 10:24) – An energetic interview from 2004, where George goes on different locations and plays around with the camera functions.

Marion Eaton Recalls “Gert Hammond” 2004 (SD, 5:38) – From a previous release, the loony Gert Hammond tells a little bit for those who’d never seen the film before.

“Recalling Thundercrack!” with Mark Ellinger (SD, 8:24) – A nice brief little interview with the guy who not only starred in the film, but did the score and sound effects too.

Curt McDowell & Marion Eaton 1976 Interview: San Francisco Bay Area Filmmakers (SD, 23:04) – This looks to be an old local access television program episode.

Outtakes & Behind-the-Scenes Footage (SD, 29:46) – Footage that was found during the making of this particular release.

Sex Scene Outtakes (SD, 17:29) 

Original Cast Audition Footage (SD, 8:38) 

Short Films Directed By Curt McDowell

  • Confessions (SD, 11:00) 
  • Naughty Words (SD, 2:12) 
  • Loads (SD, 19:28) 
  • Boggy Depot (SD, 16:49) 
  • Siamese Twin Pinheads (SD, 3:57) 

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Summary 

Thundercrack! is really not my cup of tea at all.  Its excessively long, and is really just an adult film that on press materials and otherwise is trying to sell itself as other genres that it barely attempts to be.  I “get” the fascination with people finally being able to see the film and to own this extreme rarity.  For those people, they should be floored with Synapse Films’ release.  This presentation is pretty unbelievable, as they yet again make you wonder if other distributors are even trying with video transfers.  You also get load of extras, which is impressive given the nature of this film coupled with its age.  A dynamite release for a film I didn’t care for.  Recommended only for uber rarity and erotic film collectors.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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