The Film (4/5)
Synapse Films began talk of releasing Curt McDowell's legendary avant-garde, horror, porno Thundercrack! a number of years ago. I had heard of the film prior to this announcement as this was a film well known, but little seen in cult and exploitation film circles. The film had a prior DVD release in the U.K., but it was from an extremely cut, and unrestored source, so I myself didn't bother with it. Synapse has managed to get the only known uncut version of the film to source their restored version, which has now been released on Blu-ray in this lavish special edition release.
For those unaware Thundercrack! basically follows the Old Dark House cliché of a group of people organizing at a house during a storm, however instead of a murder or haunting we find ourselves in a house with sexually perverse and bizarre individuals. The house is owned by Gert Hammond (Marion Eaton) who seems to have quite a few skeletons in her closet, but acts like a sort of 1950's house Mom to the guests who keep arriving to her home which she and her late husband dubbed "Prairie Blossom". Almost as soon as the guests arrive, she begins to prepare a meal for them, but the group begins to separate and have sorts of kinky sexual escapades. After about 90 minutes the film breaks for an intermission after which the storm that held the guests in is gone, but we find ourselves with another problem. A newly arrived individual Bing crashed a truck full of circus animals outside including a sexually promiscuous gorilla named Medusa. Now the group must find a way to get past the animals to get back to their outside lives.
Usually when one hears about how amazing a film is for so long, the film doesn't live up to its reputation. Thundercrack! I am happy to report does. It is a film so gloriously bizarre that for the right type of viewer (of which I count myself) the film is like a cinematic treasure trove. The film actually runs about 2 hours and 40 minutes with a 10 minute intermission, but with all the sex and weirdness on display the time just flies by.
The film is well-directed by McDowell who understands sensibilities of all the genres he is bringing together here, whether that be horror, whodunit, porno, or the avant-garde. I will admit that while the sex in the film is more in line with the Jess Franco film of pornographic sex, and is probably not going to titillate any modern viewers. That being said the film is loaded with about as much weirdness as a filmmaker could conceivably cram into 2.5 hours and still maintain some sense of coherency, and I find the film so charming in it’s strangeness that I find it impossible not to recommend this film to open minded viewers.
If there is one company I trust beyond all others to restore films of this type to their best possible versions it is Synapse Films, and they have done so here. The company that produced Thundercrack! only created 5 prints of the film, and aside from one they were all hacked to shreds. Synapse used the only complete print of the film, and I believe used parts of the others where they offered better quality to create this version. The film is presented in a 1:33:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The film is black and white, and offers excellent contrast and depth throughout the presentation. There is excellent detail throughout, and nice organic grain present. There is occasional damage, but that is to be expected, and does not detract from the overall experience.
The audio is English DTS-HD MA 2.0 the track is decent, but considering the nature of the source material, it is imperfect. The dialogue, and score are audible, but there is occasional bits of pops, and hissing throughout. It is at my best guess, the best they could do.
This disc is so loaded it is sure to please existing fans and newcomers alike. An audio interview with director McDowell is used in place of an audio commentary track. Also, on the Blu-ray is the documentary It Came from Kuchar on the Kuchar Brothers. It is feature length, and almost worth the price of the set alone. The second disc (DVD) is loaded up with interviews with participants in the film, outtakes, 5 of McDowell's short films (Confessions, Naughty Words, Loads, Boggy Depot, Siamese Twin Pinheads), Audition footage, a trailer, and more.
Synapse has been working at putting this release together for YEARS, and the wait has been definitely worth it. The Blu-ray looks and sounds amazing, and the film is so joyfully bizarre that I can't wait for this disc to get out so the film can find more fans. The disc is also loaded up with so much content that it's sure to please anyone who picks this up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.