In his debut as a feature film director, writer Michael Cimino fashioned a film that was part road movie, part heist film, and all character study with the affecting Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Like many movies of the 1970s, the America being shown is not always a welcoming place despite the country’s natural beauty being all around, but despite ugliness and cruelty, an overriding feeling of mutual respect and affection that develops between two drifters manages to blot out some of the baser aspects of mankind which are also on display.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 55 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/11/2014
On the run from fellow thieves who think he stole the proceeds of a bank job from them, Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood) meets up with a fellow drifter named Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) at the very moment that some of his former cronies-now-enemies catch up with him. Despite their best efforts, they’re finally apprehended by Red Leary (George Kennedy) and Eddie Goody (Geoffrey Lewis) who are both exceedingly angry when they learn the place where the bank job cash had been stored, a one-room schoolhouse, has been replaced by a modern structure. But Lightfoot has a bright idea: why not rob the same bank again? The plan is at once both crazy and smart, and despite intra-gang hostilities, the team begins to plan the job with each one of the four being given a to-the-second itinerary of what has to happen in order for them to be successful.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Though new director Michael Cimino doesn’t quite milk the heist part of the plot and its aftermath for all of its built-in suspense elements, there are plenty of other compensations in this memorable buddy picture from the 1970s. The characters are truly unforgettable with the title characters especially unique among the buddy pairs of the period. Though affable and agreeable, there’s such an undercurrent of sadness and a hunger for companionship present that their ultimate fates become truly haunting images one carries with him long after the end credits begin to roll (as with so many films of this era, endings for characters are usually not jolly and in some cases are downright horrific). Cimino goes out of his way to film things interestingly, whether using a plethora of camera angles or starting a focus on a character in a car side mirror before picking him up for real as he passes by. All kinds of quirky characters have been built into the story: most get only a scene to establish their eccentricities, and yet it’s part of the film’s uniqueness that they don’t seem tacked on or added just for the sake of oddities but form a part of the one-of-a-kind fabric of the film: we’re surrounded by a star cast of unusual people so it makes sense that those in their orbits should also be a little off. (The characters who aren’t offbeat certainly seem to be weirdoes when surrounded by these unique characters.)
Jeff Bridges earned the film’s sole Oscar nomination as Lightfoot, and his character definitely is one of his most unique creations. Fun-loving and eager-to-please and yet ignorant of boundaries around those who are less welcoming of his bouncy personality, Lightfoot is a true original of the period. Clint Eastwood’s Thunderbolt isn’t the taciturn loner he had often played either making this one of the actor’s more startling characters. George Kennedy returns to the gruff, no-nonsense sadist from his early movie days, and Geoffrey Lewis once again plays the goofy sidekick who often is only barely cognizant of things as they are. In a large cast of character actors who get only a scene or two to show their stuff, look for effective cameos from Garey (as he spelled it then) Busey, Jack Dodson, Burton Gilliam, Bill McKinney, Vic Tayback, Dub Taylor, and Gregory Walcott.
The film’s 2.35:1 Panavision theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is most often excellent apart from a couple of isolated instances of softness (possibly focus problems), and color is strong throughout with very accurate flesh tones. Black levels are only fair, but there is plenty of detail in the images, and there are no age-related artifacts like scratches to mar the viewing experience. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is very typical of its era. Dialogue, the music score by Dee Barton, and the sound effects all mesh splendidly into a single track with better than average fidelity. No age-related artifacts like hiss or crackle spoil the succinctness of the sound design.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary: producer Nick Redman, screenwriter Lem Dobbs, and film historian Julie Kirgo engage in a highly enjoyable and quite interesting discussion of the film, its subtext and style, and the effectiveness of Cimino’s directorial debut with a firm hand like Eastwood guiding his steps.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
Theatrical Trailer (1:58, HD)
MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains color stills and illustrations, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s summary and analysis of the movie.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is one of the most effective of the 1970s road movie/buddy pictures, and this Blu-ray release presents it by far in its best-ever light. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if the product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: