USA1971-1980CultCurt McDowellErotica

Curt McDowell – Thundercrack! (1975)


If you’re at all familiar with underground cinema, than you’ve probably heard tales about this flick for years. But actually seeing the damned thing is a different matter entirely. Crass, sick and hilarious, this no-budget b&w feature is filled with the essence of pure, undiluted cinematic derangement. Like the earliest works of John Waters, it revels in taboo-shattering shocks and an undying love for Hollywood kitsch. Glorious overwritten by George Kuchar, and directed by the late Curt McDowell (who was one of Kuchar’s first students), it’s a torrent of comically-lit cliches, heated to the point of lurid parody. The time: A dark and stormy night. The setting: An old, secluded mansion–the home of the terrifically obscene Mrs. Gert Hammond (Marion Eaton), who staggers about the place with heavy, mismatched eyebrows and a vomit-caked wig.
And as the night progresses, more and more visitors arrive at her doorstep, stranded by the inclement weather. One guy has a fear of ladies’ girdles, another is the Christian wife of a country western singer, a few more were in a car wreck, and George Kuchar himself shows up (and steals the show) while transporting circus animals. The characters then proceed to fight, fuck and spout pages and pages of dialogue, while Marion plays voyeur through secret peepholes–watching the males play with vacuum-powered penis enlargers as she masturbates with a huge cucumber. A smorgasbord of 42nd Street goodies are left out for the guests’ disposal (the predictable array of blow-up dolls, jellies, dildos, et cetera), and they’re certainly tested out thoroughly. Everyone has dark, nasty secrets. Everyone has weaknesses which are eventually exposed. And all the men have hairy asses (which we get in WAY-too-loving close-up). Of course, the best is yet to come, when the viewer is introduced to Marion’s dead hubbie, who she had pickled in jars after he was killed by locusts; and her son, who’s kept locked in the basement with Elephantitis of the balls. Plus, since the filmmakers have every other sexual combo on display, why not toss in a horny gorilla with a taste for young men, and Kuchar’s indescribably demented story of having sex with an ape?!…With a running time of over two hours, the film may sound like a task, but it never slows down and NEVER shuts up, not even for the sex scenes. Never one to waste film stock, Kuchar has the characters rambling incessantly, even in the middle of a blow job. This is a full-blown, near-perfect parody which cobbles together a cast of Irwin Allenesque characters, and then steeps them in hardcore sex and disturbing imagery, until it becomes a twisted, OLD DARK HOUSE-style soap opera. The performers are all appropriately hyperactive, with Kuchar bringing power (and flying spittle) to every word. But the flick’s true joy lies in George’s gift for scriptwriting. The movie’s packed with long, lush monologues, wall-to-wall revelations, plus dialogue so dense (and often drowned out by the score) that it’s impossible to ingest in only one sitting. But is it erotic, you wonder? Not to the unimaginative mainstream viewer, but I certainly found something cruelly, crudely seductive in its fondness for fetish and secret pleasures. Without question, THUNDERCRACK! is one of the great underground sleaze epics, and a touchstone for all independent filmmakers to come!



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