Film Forum's inexplicable decision to include the strange and wonderful film Thunder Road in their six-weeklong festival of film noir did not diminish the fun of seeing it on the big screen for the first time. Directed by Frank Capra protege Arthur Ripley and scripted by star Robert Mitchum, the film would be a rough fit for almost any film festival, since it seems to occupy a genre all its own. Set in the foothills of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1950s, it paints a picture of a joyously unreconstructed South where all higher authority is corrupt and any kind of loyalty other than blood loyalty is dubious. Elder statesmen of the local moonshine trade hold Godfather-like summits in tin-roof shacks, where they discuss how to deal with rival moonshine syndicates trying to poach their customers. This is a film where the biggest applause moment comes when an ATF agent is blown up in a car that was rigged with explosives and meant to wipe out Robert Mitchum's anti-hero character, Doolin. The coda before the film's end credits, in which the U.S. government is thanked for its cooperation in the making of the film, is perhaps stretching the tongue-in-cheekiness too far, but you get the idea: Screw you, yankees!

categories Cinematical