Drivers’ Cinema: Thunder Road (1958)
Thunder Road (1958), directed by Arthur Ripley, stars the great Robert Mitchum as an illicit runner of Moonshine for his family’s business. The film takes place in the south as Mitchum’s character evades the police and delivers the moonshine via his modified ’50 Ford Custom. He drives like a bat out of hell with the liquor stashed in a secret compartment located in the undercarriage of his car. The multitude of intense chases keep you on the edge of your seat as the bootlegger not only evades the police, but also has to stay out of the hands of the mafia.
The film solely features all-American automobiles, which is only appropriate for its Southern, lawless attitude. As mentioned before, Robert Mitchum’s man drives a ’50 Ford, but later in the movie he switches to a ’57 Ford Custom. Also making an appearance on screen is a smooth 1940 Ford V8 De Luxe as well as a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500. Seeing these cars in black-and-white footage really evokes nostalgia for an era that has long passed. It takes you to a special place where the good, old-fashioned American cars were the only ones that really mattered.
I would personally recommend this film for its dark film noir aesthetic. Also, some of the cars in the film are equipped with mechanisms for deterring the villain, which make for some entertaining surprises. The song created for the film is also worthy of mention as it is sung by Mitchum himself and brings a delightful sound to the movie. Just hearing the southern twang of the characters, combined with the high speed chases and liquor smuggling, make Thunder Road a renegade joyride to watch.