Between Dirty Harry, Billy Jack, and Death Wish, the ’70s were a golden age for vigilante films. My personal favorite of the genre has always been John Flynn’s underrated Vietnam-vet revenge flick Rolling Thunder (1977, 1 hr., 40 mins., R). Co-penned by Taxi Driver‘s Paul Schrader, Rolling Thunder is a vise-tight B movie starring William Devane as Maj. Charles Rane, a decorated war hero who returns home after spending eight grueling years in a POW camp, only to find that his wife, Janet (Lisa Blake Richards), has taken up with another man. After a group of thugs murder her and mangle Charles’ hand by sticking it in a buzzing kitchen-sink disposal, he reunites with his old combat pal Johnny (a young, very intense Tommy Lee Jones), constructs a metal-hook prosthesis, and goes on a bender of violent payback. He’s like Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle with a sharpened steel claw instead of a mohawk.
Even though Rolling Thunder is a terrifically twisted thriller, it’s been next to impossible to find on disc over the years. MGM recently released a bare-bones DVD, and now Shout! Factory has gone a step further with a fantastic new Blu-ray edition, which includes fresh interviews with Devane, Jones, and co-writers Schrader and Heywood Gould on the EXTRAS. All of them look back on the film fondly and still seem mystified about why it wasn’t a bigger hit. Trust me, after seeing it, you’ll wonder too. Do yourself a favor and check out this demented lost drive-in classic. A-