Saturday, December 26, 2015

THUNDERCRACK! (1975) Blu-ray Review

Thundercrack! (1975) d. Curt McDowell (USA)

“Seeking shelter from a torrential downpour, a parade of hedonistic drifters, sexual deviants, circus animals, and grieving widows co-mingle at a lonesome farmhouse, sharing stories and bodily fluids until sunrise.” At first glance, what makes Thundercrack! different from your everyday, run-of-the-mill “stranded strangers assembled in a mysterious, out-of-the-way abode on a dark and stormy night” yarn is the fact that there are extensive scenes of hardcore sex liberally sprinkled throughout the proceedings. However, that is only the first of McDowell’s singular offering’s distinctions in the annals of horror – its 2.5 hour running time will put off your average genre (and/or porno) fan, not to mention its unmitigated weirdness and stark, shadowy black-and-white cinematography. But for the adventurous student of outsider cinema, this is a challenge worth accepting – I guarantee you have never seen anything like this before.

The bizarre and memorable cast of characters is as follows:

The absolutely batty Mistress of the House, Mrs. Gert Hammond (Marion Eaton), given to mismatched eyebrows, midnight peep shows, and violating cucumbers;

Religious and chaste samaritan Willene (Maggie Pyle), married to a touring country/western radio star;

Vengeful and sexually confused Chandler (Mookie Blodgett), bent on destroying a factory that manufactures flammable girdles, one of which killed his socialite wife;

Hunky drifter Bond (Ken Scudder), happy to violate any willing hole as long as there are no strings attached;

Bruised bad-girl apple Sash (Melinda McDowell), looking for real emotional connections to break her of her painful pastime of molesting cactus rods;

Sash’s brash traveling companion Roo (Moira Benson), armed with a quick tongue (in all senses of the word) and ready to use it;

Senor Tostada (Bernie Boyle), an amoral hedonist without couth or culture

Bing (George Kuchar, who also scripted), a tortured circus truck driver with a dark secret.

Synapse Films' brilliantly restored home video presentation makes its Blu-ray debut this month, and for those who had previously only heard murmured praise from the select few, now is your chance to experience the insanity firsthand. For those of us who caught the full 160-minute version during its brief theatrical tour 2008, it’s an opportunity to revisit a “cinematic fever dream” that goes on so long as to actually live up to the metaphor. (If the onscreen visuals don't tip you over the cliff, Mark Ellinger's pounding, echoing piano will finish the job.) It’s not a comfortable ride, per se, but an unforgettable one nonetheless.

Again, reminder, this is an ADULT FILM, with legitimate scenes of penetration in every imaginable orifice, with said penetrators usually sporting a giant, 1970s-era mustache. This ain’t your gramma’s Old Dark House, unless that’s a euphemism and... I now wish I’d stopped this sentence before I started it.

Outside of all the onscreen boning, a large part of the film's oddball appeal lies in listening to Kuchar’s purple prose, filled with clichés, puns, and off-the-wall non-sequitars, dripping off the randy thespians’ tongues with spicy wordplay that calls to mind some of Russ Meyer’s bonkers 1970s efforts. For those seeking a deeper exploration of the mind that could conjure such verbal acrobatics, Jennifer M. Kroot’s superlative feature-length documentary, It Came From Kuchar, is included in its entirety. Kroot sits down with George and his equally prolific misfit brother Mike to pull back the veil on their work in the underground cinema scene of the late ’60s, inspiring everyone from John Waters to Wayne Wang to Guy Maddin to Atom Egoyan, all of whom take time out in front of the camera to celebrate these wizards of weird.

To further sweeten their 40th anniversary release, Synapse has included a separate DVD packed with supplemental material, including the film’s original theatrical trailer, a 2004 interview with Kuchar, two different interviews with star Eaton from 1976 (with McDowell) and 2004, a 10-minute hang-out with Ellinger, 30 minutes of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage (and an additional 20 minutes of outtakes from the sex scenes!), audition footage from the original cast (10 minutes), and five short films from McDowell: Confessions, Naughty Words, Loads, Boggy Depot, and Siamese Twin Pinheads.

If you’re looking to pick up a disc to be your go-to “You gotta see this” for fellow cinephile adventurers, this may be THE home video release of the year.

Thundercrack! is available now on Blu-ray from Synapse Films and can be ordered HERE:


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