Today we got my tribute to the late, great David Carradine. Now, I don’t want to brag, especially considering the morbid and tragic nature of his death, but I cracked the Carradine case several hours before both the press and the authorities. When I first heard of his supposed suicide, something just didn't add up for me. I knew there was no way Carradine would off himself. That dude loved living. He still had broads to ball and martial arts to master. My gut said “sex game gone awry,” and I shared that hunch with the world. People said I was just being a clueless fanboy. In their stunted view, David Carradine was ashamed of his 45-year B-movie legacy and decided to take the coward’s way out. But I knew he was proud of the work he’d done, and I stuck to my guns. Now everybody’s talking about “autoerotic asphyxiation” this and “murderous ladyboys” that. This is one case where I take no joy in being right, but you have to admit that dying in the middle of a sleazy sex game in a Bangkok hotel room is way less of a bummer than hanging yourself in the closet of a Bangkok hotel room. It's not exactly a blaze of glory, but I guess it'll have to do.
Anyway, I said goodbye to the star of possibly the two greatest B-movies of all time, Death Race 2000 and Q: The Winged Serpent, by watching a Roger Corman-produced moonshinin’ picture from 1977 called Thunder and Lightning. Carradine plays a swamprat who wears an earring in a time and place where that’s probably a lynch-worthy offense, but he runs the county’s best rotgut so it’s okay. Then his girlfriend’s fatcat daddy, who runs his own bootlegging operation out of a soda factory, starts blowing up Carradine’s stills and smacking around his whiskery hillbilly compatriots. So you know what that means: car chases and kung fu.
Since this is a Roger Corman picture, Thunder and Lightning gives it to you with the science. At the three minute mark, we got an explosion. At seven minutes, we got a hydrofoil chase. At ten, we got a car crash. Then we need to handle some business like introducing the villain and the love interest, Kate Jackson (a.k.a. Charlie’s Other Angel), but that’s okay because these scenes get sugarcoated with some tits and gator-rasslin’. That makes the eight minutes we have to wait until the next explosion fly by. Then we got some minor karate at the 25-minute point, followed by a car flipping over two minutes later. At 28 minutes, we got a speedboat race, and at 33, we got a fistfight. Then we got 15 minutes of plot, so you can go take a piss or smoke a cigarette or something, because then the rest of the movie is pretty much just shootouts, crack-ups, and moonshine Molotov cocktails.
Thunder and Lightning is a pretty damned entertaining good ol’ boy flick full of great character actors like George Murdock (playing pretty much the same role he did in Chuck Norris’ starring debut, the CB-craze cash-in Breaker! Breaker!) and Majestyk's Movies salutee Charles Napier (Hit List). It’s also got lots of quotable cornpone dialogue like “Shit fire and save matches!” and “Sweet kidneys o’ Christ!” David Carradine’s filmography is full of little gems like this, and when he died (hopefully in the middle of a toe-curling orgasm), the B-movie world lost one of its most gracious and elegant ambassadors.