Thursday, February 25, 2010


With the same people I saw the stupendous Hard Ticket to Hawaii I recently watched another cult classic, Thundercrack! It's - umm, what can I say? - stupendous. It's a hilarious spoof of old silent film melodramas and the liberated porn of the seventies. It's shot in black & white and the action takes place in a house that looks like it's haunted, but the people inside the house seem to be only interested in getting each other to bed. Some problems arise from a love-sick gorilla seeking someone to hold hands with. And a locked door behind which there's a man with huge testicles... (The DVD we watched seemed to slightly cut from these scenes, so I can't really say what was behind this subplot.)

Thundercrack! is surely not for everyone, as there's lots and lots of rough sex of many kinds (this must be the only film in the annals of cinema in which a gorilla jerks off another man), and it surely is not necessarily for those who take their films seriously, as it is not very well made or acted. There are occasional moments of genius at work, bits here and there in dialogue (which is absurdly hilarious at times) and in cinematography and editing. At times Thundercrack! looks like a Soviet silent film, something made by Lev Kuleshov or Vsevolod Pudovkin. I'm not sure if this is intentional.

Thundercrack! was directed by one Curt McDowell and written by George Kuchar, better known as one of the Kuchar brothers, the famous underground movie makers of the sixties. This was Kuchar's attempt at mainstream cinema - looks like he couldn't have made a proper mainstream film even if he had tried very, very hard. (Kuchar also plays one of the leads.)

Thundercrack! is pretty hard to describe. It is a bit too long (well, not only a bit - it's almost 30 minutes too long) and it's best to see with some beer and good friends with whom you can laugh your ass off. Yet it's worth tracking down - if you're into this kind of thing, that is.

It's interesting to note, though, that while Thundercrack! is strictly an underground movie, it's totally free of any political content. I wrote recently about John Carpenter's They Live, a so-so horror-cum-action movie from the late eighties. It is much more political than Thundercrack!, and for some reason or another I find this, well, interesting. Is it often that there's more politics in the marginals of popular culture than there is in subversive underground culture?

One extra point: I'm sure David Lynch picked something up from this movie, especially the way Isabella Rossellini looks like in Wild at Heart. The woman living in the haunted-looking house looks exactly like her - and even the way she acts, mumbling to herself, throwing up over her wig that falls down the toilet, could be from a Lynch movie.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Well, the Kuchars have been mostly interested in upsetting people with reminders of our animal nature, not least bodily humors (not a few toilets involved). But, yes, not only is fantastic drama, like fantastic fiction, frequently an outlet (almost necessarily) for criticism for Things As They Are, but the marginal works with commercial intent often choose to make this very clear, while the truly underground doesn't have to make anything clear if its producers have no desire to do so.