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A view on Blu-ray by Eric Cotenas of Cineventures Blog

Thundercrack! [Blu-ray]

 

(Curt McDowell, 1975)

 

   

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Thomas Brothers Film Studio

Video: Synapse Films

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:39:29.935

Disc Size: 48,047,278,066 bytes

Feature Size: 39,244,975,680 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.99 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 8th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1713 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1713 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), Castilian Spanish, Parisian French, German, None

 

Extras:

Rare archival interview segments with director Curt McDowell presented as audio commentary

"It Came from Kuchar" documentary (1:26:25)

DVD of the film

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Witness if you dare... THUNDERCRACK!... the world's only underground kinky art horror film. 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 eerie and different. 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.

In 1975, Curt McDowell and writer/actor George Kuchar created the 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!

 

 

The Film:

An underground homage by Curt McDowell and George Kuchar to thirties horror films like OLD DARK HOUSE (and other "old dark house" films) masquerading as a pornographic film (substituting things that go bump in the night for the sexual traumas of the house's host and guests), THUNDERCRACK! opens on a dark and stormy night in the Midwest as seven motorists end accepting the hospitality of soused widow Gert (her husband devoured by locusts and pickled in the cellar) when the bridges wash out. Roo and red-assed Sash overturn their car while teasing bisexual hitchhiker Toydy. Hustler Bond and effete Chandler – his sexual desire deviated towards males after witnessing his wife's fiery death by exploding girdle – are stopped by country rock singer's virginal wife Willene to rescue them. Bing overturns his circus van. The sex-starved Gert pickles her cucumbers while spying on her guests changing into dry clothes in the sex toy-filled bedroom belonging to her sixteen-year-old son (who has ceased to exist since his ill-fated libido-fueled expedition to Borneo). Sexual tension builds up and explodes into various couplings (heterosexual and otherwise), but none so perverted or so deadly as the embrace of escaped amorous gorilla Medusa who has developed a taste for virile male flesh.

Eric Cotenas

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly - part of the miracle of this Synapse Blu-ray is it's actual release. So we won't be overly picky on the video quality - originally shot in 16mm - which is actually well-transferred. The 2.5 hour film (including 10-minite intermission) is on a dual-layered disc with a high bitrate. The 1080P looks extremely film-like with plenty of texture - which is one of the appearance's stronger attributes. Contrast is also reasonably well-exported and there is some surprising detail in close-ups. The meager overlay video effects (see 2 examples below) are impressive in HD. The overall visuals have inherent softness, and some minor surface scratches but overall, you'd have to say the Blu-ray provides an excellent presentation.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Synapse use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1713 kbps (16-bit). Again we suffer from the film production roots but audio/dialogue are competent and reasonably clear. The score is credited to Mark Ellinger who has acted in such films as The Devil's Cleavage, 1974's Nudes: A Sketchbook, Siamese Twin Pinheads and Pornografollies. While the music used in Thundercrack! is modest - it remains strangely addictive approaching annoying. But the transfer is adept in the lossless. There are optional subtitles in English (SDH), Castilian Spanish, Parisian French, or German and the Blu-ray (and enclosed DVD) is region FREE playable on machines worldwide.

 

 

Extras :

The first eighty-odd minutes of the film is accompanied by a vintage audio interview with the late director Curt McDowell from 1972, predating the film and concentrating on his earlier interests in painting, photography, and music before he realized that film could encompass all of them. He also discusses his early attempts at filmmaking as he started taking classes and the reception of his first exhibited works and festival screenings, as well as the increasing ambition of his projects and the need for technical proficiency. Conducted while he was still at school, he and the interviewer spend a lengthy amount of time discussing school politics and the institution's general preference for those with the ability to pay tuition over those who exhibit talent.

 

Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition is the feature-length documentary "It Came from Kuchar" focusing on the works of the twin brothers George and Mike Kuchar (the former having co-written, co-starred, and created the special effects for THUNDERCRACK!). The DVD part of the package includes an interview with Kuchar who reveals that McDowell's concept was a film about people working out their sexual traumas and the effect of their contrasting views on sex (McDowell saw it as a joyful union while Kuchar saw it as horrific and obsessive) on the final product. Eaton reads a letter she composed for the interview, recalling her favorite scenes and lines, but was much more candid in the included vintage interview with McDowell for the program San Francisco Bay Area Filmmakers. Co-writer/composer Ellinger discusses his and McDowell's shared love of black and white horror films and noir, scoring the film, and provides a rundown on the condition of the surviving prints of the film. The outtakes & behind-the-scenes footage section includes alternate takes, blown lines, blocking, as well as the setting up of some of the models and special effects while the sex scene outtakes section features alternate takes and angles for three of the sex scenes. The cast auditions are presented without sound and consist of some of the final cast and others who did not make it reading with McDowell's sister (who plays Willene in the film) and then stripping down for the camera (with one or two seeming quite uncomfortable). Also included are five short films by McDowell that ranges from the confessional and exhibitionist "Confessions" and "Loads" to the obscenely jokey "Naughty Words" and "Siamese Twin Pinheads" as well as the more ambitious classic musical homage "Boggy Depot" which in some ways stylistically and technically anticipates THUNDERCRACK!.

Eric Cotenas

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Less of a pornographic romp than a probing of sexual pathologies disguised as an XXX-rated expressionistic horror film homage, THUNDERCRACK! is not for everyone (even the more seasoned viewers who became aware of it when Synapse originally announced it in their formative years). The Blu-ray is very competent and garnered top votes in year end polls including DVDBeaver's and BFI's Sight and Sound

Eric Cotenas

January 19th, 2016

   


 




 

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Gary Tooze

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