“God gave him a calling in life, and that was to make pornography.”–George Kuchar on Curt McDowell
DIRECTED BY: Curt McDowell
FEATURING: Marion Eaton, Melinda McDowell, Moira Benson, Mookie Blodgett, Ken Scudder, Rick Johnson, Maggie Pyle,
PLOT: On a dark and stormy night in the Nebraska hinterlands, several individuals on the road end up taking shelter at “Prairie Blossom”, an old dark house that is the dominion of alcoholic matron Gert Hammond (Eaton). Everyone present has secrets and obsessions that are brought to light, and pair off in various combinations for sexual liaisons. The group also finds itself trapped inside the house by a gorilla rampaging outside.
- Producers John Thomas (who briefly appeared as country singer Simon Cassidy) and Charles Thomas were film students of Thundercrack! actor/writer George Kuchar, classmates of director Curt McDowell, and heirs to a fortune from the Burger Chef fast food chain, which they used to fund the movie. They also provided a rooms in their home for the shoot.
- George Kuchar was a legend in the underground film industry, making hundred of short, campy avant-garde films together with his twin brother Mike. Noteworthy titles include Sins of the Fleshapoids and Hold Me While I’m Naked (both from 1966).
- Actress Melinda McDowell was director Curt McDowell’s sister.
- Kuchar and McDowell were rumored to be lovers.
- The movie was shot for $9,000 and $40,000 in deferred costs.
- Buck Henry used his clout as a judge to set up a (scandalous) screening at the 1976 Los Angeles Film Festival.
- The original negatives disappeared and only five 16mm prints of the film were struck. One print was seized by Canadian authorities and three had been edited in an ineffectual attempt to make the film more marketable. The badly-damaged but uncut fifth print was primarily utilized for the transfer of the 40th anniversary Blu-ray release by Synapse Films.
- El Rob Hubbard’s Staff Pick for a Certified Weird movie.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Among the various obvious (and mainly pornographic) images to choose from, the one that sums up the spirit of Thundercrack! is the publicity photo of Gert and Bing in a melodramatic clinch—Bing in a wedding dress, Gert staring off into the horizon. It’s iconic, yet subversive, and pretty much encapsulates the film’s mood.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Versatile cucumbers; pickled husbands; amorous bipeds
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The collision of several elements: the lurid melodramatics along with the hardcore action, the visual stylization and the complex wordplay, all combine to make a film much more engaging and—dare I say it—innocent than one would expect from a mid 1970s hardcore sex parody film. Or, is it a parody film with porno elements? You decide…
Brief scene from Thundercrack!
COMMENTS: “What the heck is going on here—some sort of communal therapy group? Is that what this is?!!”—Bing
That’s probably a fair assessment of Thundercrack!, Curt McDowell’s Continue reading 275. THUNDERCRACK! (1975)
- Fun Fact: actress “Maggie Pyle” and her husband (one of the crew members) were my landlords for a short time in San Francisco in the early 90’s. [↩]