“Rolling Thunder” (1977) starring William Devane & Tommy Lee Jones / Z-View

Rolling Thunder (1977)

Director:  John Flynn

Screenplay: Paul Schrader, Heywood Gould; story by Paul Schrader

Stars: William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, James Best, Lisa Blake Richards, Luke Askew, James Victor, Cassie Yates and Dabney Coleman.

Tagline: CHARLES RANE: EXECUTIONER! The war had turned him into a machine for murder. He had nothing to live for…except revenge

The Plot…

After seven years in a prisoner of war camp, Major Charles Rane (Devane) returns home.  The years a prisoner were brutal.  Rane was repeatedly tortured.  Adjustment to his new freedom will be difficult.  Making it worse, his son, who was a baby when Rane was captured, doesn’t remember him.  His wife now loves another man,

Although his hometown considers him a hero, Rane doesn’t feel like one.  At a ceremony honoring his return, Rane is presented with a new Cadillac and 2,555 silver dollars – one for every day he was captive, plus one for luck.  Later three lowlifes break into Rane’s house to steal the money.  They torture Rane but he refuses to tell them where he hid the cash.  Even when they force Rane’s hand into a garbage disposal, he won’t talk.

When Rane’s wife and son enter the house, the thugs threaten them.  Rane’s son tells where the silver dollars are hidden.  The thieves then shoot Rane, his wife and son.

Only Rane survives.  He awakens in a hospital,  His mangled hand had to be removed, replaced by a hook.  Rane reaches out to  Johnny Vohden (Jones), another soldier from his unit that also was a POW with him.  Rane plans to get revenge on three murderers who killed his son, wife and left him for dead.  Johnny doesn’t hesitate to join him.

Major Charles Rane has come home to war.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I’m not a fan of the movie’s poster shown above.  It makes Rolling Thunder look like a cheap horror film.

Paul Schrader who co-wrote the film originally had Rane written as a “white-trash racist”.  He wanted Rane’s killing spree to be metaphor for Vietnam.  The rewritten screenplay takes out that aspect and makes Rane a hero.

James Best known as the bumbling Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard plays one of the three murderers.  If you only know him from The Dukes, it’s odd seeing him play a tough guy thug.  In Rolling Thunder, Best’s character always seems to be sweating.  He achieved his effect by placing ice cubes under his hat.

Rolling Thunder (1977) earns 3 of 5 stars.