Thunder Road (1958)
April 11, 2016 9:12 AM - Subscribe

A veteran comes home from the Korean War to the mountains and takes over the family moonshining business. He has to battle big-city gangsters who are trying to take over the business and the police who are trying to put him in prison.

Thunder Road is a black and white 1958 drama–crime film about running moonshine in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee in the late 1950s.

It was directed by Arthur Ripley and starred Robert Mitchum, who also produced the film, co-wrote the screenplay, and is rumored to have directed much of the film himself. He also co-wrote (with Don Raye) the theme song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road".

The film became a cult classic and continued to play at drive-in movie theaters in some Southeastern markets through the 1970s and 1980s. (wikipedia)

• The role of Robin Doolin, Lucas's younger brother, was originally written for Elvis Presley per Mitchum's request. Mitchum personally submitted the script to Elvis in Los Angeles. The singer was eager to play the role, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker demanded Elvis be paid an enormous sum of money, more than the entire budget for the movie, which ended negotiations. Mitchum's son James got the part, which worked well due to the close physical resemblance.

• In the film, Mitchum drove a souped-up black 1951 Ford 2-door sedan (which was later repainted grey)with a custom tank in the back for moonshine liquor and a Ford V8 with three two barrel carburators but after a run in with the law, it was sold and replaced with a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 two door sedan with the same alterations excluding the engine carburation. The 1951 Ford was modified with a 1949 hood and 1950 grill and front bumper as well as the rear 1951 taillight chrome trim removed and 1949/1950 taillights installed. The film's dialogue refers to the car as a 1950, but it is not, although at least one exterior shot, when the car spills oil on the road to ward off some "bad guys", the trunk shown is clearly a 1950 unit.

• Most of the scenes were filmed in Asheville, North Carolina Highway 19 and others at Lake Lure. Some scenes were filmed in Beech, east of Weaverville. Scenes include Reems Creek Road, Sugar Creek Road and the Beech Community Center. Some scenes were actual local moonshine drivers shot with a camera mounted on a pickup tailgate.

• All of the "moonrunner" cars in the film had actually been used by moonshiners in the Asheville, North Carolina, area, where the film was shot. The moonshiners sold the cars to the film company in order to buy newer and faster cars.

• The movie's theme song, which is titled "Whippoorwill" in the film's opening credits, was later recorded by Mitchum and became a popular single record, although Mitchum's rendition, re-titled "The Ballad of Thunder Road" is not the one in the film itself.

• According to the title song, "On the first of April 1954.....", yet the police cars are 1957 Chevys and 1957 Fords, which didn't exist in 1954.

• The locations heard in the song "Thunder Road" (sung by Mitchum) actually describe real places in East Tennessee and Kentucky. The "Thunder Road" route runs south from Harlan, KY thru The Cumberland Gap to Maynardville, TN just north of Knoxville. The moonshine runner then goes thru downtown Knoxville and onto Kingston Pike where he crashes on Bearden Hill (Bearden is a Knoxville suburb). The route is easily followed on a map.

• Bruce Springsteen said at a 1978 concert that the name of his song "Thunder Road" had been inspired by seeing a poster of the movie, though he didn't see the movie itself.

Trailer on YouTube

This movie is a selection of the Shut Up And Drive! club.
posted by valkane (2 comments total)
Shut Up And Drive! will be screening this feature tonight, April 11, @ 9:00 pm ET. Click here to watch.
posted by valkane at 9:13 AM on April 11, 2016

How was this? I missed the co-view and can't seem to find it anywhere.
posted by rhizome at 3:13 PM on April 16, 2016

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