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Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

In his directorial debut, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate) put together this hodgepodge of a character study, crime drama, and road film, that somehow all works out, thanks to sympathetic performances from Clint Eastwood playing a bit out of character and Jeff Bridges, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the role.

Retired thief and Korean War veteran Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood) and amiable drifter and car thief Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) meet serendipitously when Thunderbolt jumps into Lightfoot’s stolen car to escape a couple of gangsters out to kill him. Though Thunderbolt does not initially take to Lightfoot, he soon finds himself kind of liking the free-spirited drifter and the two are soon plotting together. Thunderbolt is on his way to get back some lost loot from an old robbery, and he needs to do it before his former partners in crime, the violent Red (George Kennedy) and dimwitted Goody (Geoffrey Lewis), get to it first. But Thunderbolt and Lightfoot hit a snag when the location of hidden stash has moved and the two pursuing them finally catch up. Rather than take each other all out, the foursome goes with a crazy plan to knock over the same jewelry place that they hit before. The settle into some mundane jobs in town while banging out their plan until the time comes to pull of their heist, but on the night of the job, things go awry. However, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot find that they may in fact still have a choice for recovering the lost stash for which they initially showed.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot may not have the gravitas of Cimino’s pet project, The Deer Hunter, or be as rambling and poignant like the cause of his ultimate Hollywood downfall Heaven’s Gate, but it does have a lighthearted comedic energy that is something quite different for Cimino. Thanks to the beautiful cinematography of the Montana locations and the on-screen chemistry between actors Eastwood and Bridges, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a pleasant romp that is an Easy Rider-inspired social commentary (like when Lightfoot answers “nope, just American” when Thunderbolt asks him if he’s Indian, because of his name), but mostly it’s a crime caper satire about a few bozos so caught up in their own greed they can’t seem to pull it together.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was only a modest success upon its release, but as directorial debuts go, it could not have been a more resounding one. It’s obvious Cimino had a strong grasp of handling material and actors from the get-go, something he would prove with his next endeavor, The Deer Hunter. Too bad he did not continue to pursue the avenue of films in this less serious vein rather than the more cerebral, unwieldy drama that would be his undoing.

  • Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy, and Geoffrey Lewis in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
  • Clint Eastwood and George Kennedy in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
  • Clint Eastwood in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
  • Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
  • Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)

The Video

Kino Lorber Studio Classics lists Thunderbolt and Lightfoot as a “Brand New HDR/Dolby Vision Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative.” The film is presented on 4K Ultra HD in a 2.35:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement and on the included Blu-ray – which is from a “Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative” – in 2.35:1 AVC 1080p.

The granularity looks completely organic in this transfer and the beautiful, deep focus cinematography, has excellent depth of field that tapers off ever-so-slightly showing just a tinge of softness in the background, so that overall, we get a crisp image. The color grading with the Dolby Vision presents natural flesh tones, verdant greenery, and excellent ‘pop’ in specular highlights such as the neon signs at the bus depot when Lightfoot is dropping off Thunderbolt, for instance. This film has never looked better on home video.

The Audio

The original mono mix is provided in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and it sounds clear but still a bit boxy and limited in dynamics. The lossless 5.1 in DTS-HD Master Audio extends the dynamic range a bit and bumps up the low end, but there is a very narrow stereo image and the surrounds carry just low-level ambience.

The Supplements

There are no new bonus features includes on this release, but the audio commentary and featurette with Cimino are welcome inclusions.

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Critic Nick Pinkerton

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Critic Nick Pinkerton
  • For the Love of Character: Featurette with Director Michael Cimino (1080p; 00:28:42)
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – TV Spots (1080p; 00:01:32)
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – Radio Spot (1080p; 00:00:56)
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – Trailer (1080p; 00:02:10)

The Final Assessment

An Eastwood classic with an amazing cast is born anew in this restored edition on 4K from Kino Lorber Studio Classics who have been on a roll bringing great films to the 4K format. Eastwood fans, fans of 1970s American cinema, and cinephiles in general should grab this one. Highly recommended.


Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo September 26, 2023, from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.


  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: The Malpaso Company | United Artists | Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • Director: Michael Cimino
  • Written By: Michael Cimino
  • Run Time: 115 Mins.
  • Street Date: 26 September 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 879 nits
    • MaxFALL: 240 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes In his directorial debut, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate) put together this hodgepodge of a character study, crime drama, and road film, that somehow all works out, thanks to sympathetic performances from Clint Eastwood...Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (4K UHD Review)