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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Encore Edition) (Blu-ray)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Encore Edition) (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // Unrated // April 12, 2016 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Twilighttimemovies]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted April 18, 2016 | E-mail the Author

Dirty Harry-era Eastwood and young Jeff Bridges in a buddy flick about bank robbers driving through Big Sky Country? Sure, why not? Throw in the second film appearance of Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach and cameos by the likes of Gary Busey, Vic Tayback (Papillon), and Bill McKinney (Deliverance), and you're got a recipe for entertainment. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) also doubles as the directorial debut of Michael Cimino, before his rise to mythical status for The Deer Hunter (1978) and the almost career-ending reception of Heaven's Gate two years before.

Eastwood stars as "Thunderbolt", a nickname given to him by the press after his daring theft at Montana Armored a few years ago with three associates. He's currently hiding out as a small-town preacher before one of his three "old friends" tracks him down at gunpoint, right in the middle of Sunday sermon, over a dispute about their money that remains hidden in a secret location. After escaping, Thunderbolt---who's called "John" exactly once, so let's assume that's his real name---literally runs into "Lightfoot" (Bridges), who'd just stolen a car and accidentally struck the man with the gun. The two get along almost instantly and form something of a mentor-disciple relationship: Thunderbolt's obviously secretive of his past, but the charismatic Lightfoot still manages to read him like an open book.

The first half of Cimino's film, which he also wrote, lets us ride shotgun as their "anything goes" road trip unfolds around constant attempts to avoid Thunderbolt's remaining "old friends", Red (George Kennedy, Airport) and Goody (Geoffrey Lewis, The Wind and the Lion). Whether it's talking about the past, flirting with waitresses, or the occasional trunk full of rabbits, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot virtually bounces around at random before finally settling down during the film's second half, a daring duplicate attempt to pull the very same job at Montana Armored. The stakes are a bit higher and the team is different, but they've got every confidence that things will go off without a hitch.

Unfortunately, their nighttime escapade almost immediately spirals out of control after what appears to be a clean getaway, leading to a number of unfortunate left turns and a climax that's every bit as unpredictable as what came before it. First-time viewers will be drawn in by the film's twisting narrative, wide-open landscapes and peppered suspense, not to mention terrific performances by its lead and supporting actors and a loose structure that helped create a blueprint for buddy films during the next several decades. In hindsight, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot's only missteps are a few too many disjointed, random encounters during the first half, as well as the repetitive, misogynistic treatment of at least 80% of its limited female cast. Still, this largely enjoyable adventure holds up well and remains a career highlight---or at least an interesting diversion---for almost everyone involved.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot first appeared on DVD more than 15 years ago, as a barebones MGM disc that eventually went out-of-print and commanded high prices from third-party sellers. In 2014, Twilight Time finally came to the rescue with a much-needed Blu-ray upgrade that even threw in a few extras...but, as expected, the limited edition quickly sold out and still commands similarly high prices. Kino Lorber offered a like-minded 2015 DVD with less extras...but now that Twilight Time has released this "Encore Edition" Blu-ray (essentially, the same disc with new artwork), fans who missed Thunderbolt and Lightfoot the first time around should grab this while it's still around.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Twilight Time's out-of-print Blu-ray represented a huge leap in quality over MGM's 15 year-old DVD...and since is the very same disc, fans should be pleased with this 2.35:1, 1080p transfer. Image detail, textures, and color reproduction are much improved overall, with minimal dirt and print damage along the way. It's also encoded well with no flagrant digital issues, serving up a pleasing film-like presentation that's most likely close to (or better than) original theatrical showings. The only less-than-impressive moments are during a handful of scenes shot indoors or at night, though this drop in image detail is likely due to the source material and not a problem with the restored transfer.

DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized images are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.

The audio is presented in its original DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 format, with a moderate and almost surprising amount of depth on many occasions. Dialogue and background effects are well-balanced and don't fight for attention, while a few stray moments of low end support several of the music cues along the way. Defects are minimal, though I did notice some tinny distortion during at least one of the many interior car scenes; again, this is most likely a source material issue. Thankfully, optional English subtitles have been included during the main feature.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The interface is plain but perfectly functional, with quick loading time and the bare minimum of pre-menu distractions. This one-disc release arrives in a clear, unbranded Blu-ray case with alternate poster-themed artwork and a Booklet featuring production stills, vintage promotional artwork, and the usual essay penned by TT regular Julie Kirgo.

Bonus Features

Everything from Twilight's own 2014 Limited Edition Blu-ray: a feature-length (and very helpful) Audio Commentary with Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo, and Lem Dobbs; the Isolated Score presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; and the film's rough looking and spoiler-heavy Theatrical Trailer (just for the record, the poster gallery from Kino's more recent 2015 DVD is not included). Overall, a great batch of extras that fans will enjoy, especially the commentary.

Final Thoughts

Though not without a snag or two along the way, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot holds up as an entertaining road trip with great performances from Eastwood, Bridges, and the supporting cast, while the film's "anything goes" attitude maintains a broad and lasting appeal for new and seasoned fans alike. If you were lucky enough to snag a copy of Twilight Time's Blu-ray last year, you needn't bother with this "Encore Edition"; otherwise, snap it up while it's still available. Owners of either DVD release should consider an upgrade, as the noticeable boost in A/V quality and added bonus features (especially the audio commentary) are definitely worth the extra cash. Highly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
Highly Recommended
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