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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Rolling Thunder (4K UHD Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Sound
The Supplements


After a violent home invasion, a recently returned Vietnam POW seeks violent revenge on the people responsible.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

One of a number of early films that came out in the wake of the United States finally pulling out of the disastrous war in Vietnam that dealt with the repercussions on its soldiers and society, 1977’s Rolling Thunder was directed by John Flynn from a screenplay by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) and Heywood Gould (Fort Apache the Bronx).

Similarly to many of the films in the genre dealing with the issues plaguing veterans coming home from Vietnam, Rolling Thunder focuses on a POW, Maj. Charles Rane (William Devane) who returns to his Texas home town to a hero’s welcome only to find a young son who does not know him and a wife who has moved on to a new relationship. Rane is caught between those in the town who hate him for the killing he has done in Vietnam and those who herald him as a patriot. One shining light is the cash of silver coins the townsfolk bestow upon him, presented by the beautiful soldier groupie Linda Forchet (Linda Haynes), but even these turn into a nightmare when a group of criminals invade his home to steal the coins. Rane then hits the road with Linda to hunt down the perpetrators, inveigling his fellow returned POW and best friend Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones), who has been having his own struggles trying to reintegrate into his family and marriage.

The first half of Rolling Thunder is a more cerebral character study of the effects of war on society and families, as we watch Rane and his wife try to reconnect, the veterans deal with the fallout of social opinions on the war and their role in it, almost similar to The Deer Hunter, but not quite as well executed. By the second half of the film, the story turns more into a violent revenge thriller, even more poorly executed. For example, there is one fight sequence where one guy has a metal prostatic hand jabbed right into his crotch and later, this guy is walking around like nothing has happened to him. That is terribly inconsistent to say the least.

On the whole, however, the film is enjoyable, with a strong and surprisingly sympathetic performance from William Devane as well as a charming, strong, and seductive performance from the beautiful Linda Haynes. The chemistry between the cold and often removed Devane and soft and sympathetic Haynes keeps the film from falling too far into just a violent and dour journey into despair. This may not be one of the best films to come out of the era exploring these themes, but it is still one worth a watch for its excellent cast and sympathetic direction.

Purchase Rolling Thunder 4K Ultra HD Combo on Amazon.com

  • William Devane and Linda Haynes in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • William Devane in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • William Devane in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • Linda Haynes in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • William Devane in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • Tommy Lee Jones in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • William Devane in Rolling Thunder (1977)
  • Rolling Thunder Blu-ray Combo (Shout! Studios)
  • Rolling Thunder Blu-ray Combo (Shout! Studios)

The Video

Rolling Thunder comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Shout! Studios in a 1.85:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement with HDR10 metadata showing a MaxLL of 979 nits and MaxFALL of 436 nits. The opening sequences look a little troubling with softness and very loose, coarse grain, but the film turns around and has a sharp and crispy presentation with organic and consistently thin and tight grain for most of the time from then on with the exception of a few frames that still look a bit soft and overly grainy. The colors, thanks to the Dolby Vision grading, have a vibrant yet natural look. The contrast is exceptional, such as in scene where, for instance, Rane is speaking with his wife in their home with nothing but two lamps on and the lamp shades glow wonderfully in orange with a soft white light from below against the inky dark background. The highlights look good as well, like when Rane is sharpening his metal prosthetic hand and the sparks fly off into the air with dazzling highlights.

The Audio

The mono track for Rolling Thunder is supplied in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. It offers clean dialogue and the gunshots hit with good enough impact and dynamics, so they are not fatiguing.

The Supplements

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary with screenwriter/novelist Heywood Gould and author/film historian C. Courtney Joyner
  • Commentary with filmmakers Jackson Stewart and Francis Galluppi
  • Lean and Mean: The Early Films of John Flynn (1080p; 00:20:12)
  • Coming Home to War: Scoring Rolling Thunder (1080p; 00:18:51)
  • The Making of Rolling Thunder (1080i; 00:21:51)
  • Trailers from Hell – Eli Roth on Rolling Thunder (1080p; 00:02:31)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:02:22)
  • TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:32)
  • Radio Spots (1080p; 00:03:11)
  • Photo Gallery (1080p; 00:02:07)

The Final Assessment

Shout! Studios does an excellent job bringing this lesser known exploration of the fallout facing the post-Vietnam generation to 4K Ultra HD with the solid restoration.

Rolling Thunder is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo April 23, 2024 from the Shout! Studios Shout Select label.

Purchase Rolling Thunder 4K Ultra HD Combo on Amazon.com

  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: American International Pictures (AIP) | Lawrence Gordon Productions | TBC Film Presentation | Shout! Studios
  • Director: John Flynn
  • Written By: Paul Schrader | Heywood Gould
  • Run Time: 95 Mins.
  • Street Date: 23 April 2024
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 979 nits
    • MaxFALL: 436 nits
    • Max. Luminance: 1000 nits
    • Min. Luminance: 0.0001 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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After a violent home invasion, a recently returned Vietnam POW seeks violent revenge on the people responsible. Rolling Thunder (4K UHD Review)