6.7/10
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8 user 12 critic

Thunderbolt (1929)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 20 June 1929 (USA)
A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Moran, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl. ... See full summary »

Writers:

Charles Furthman (story), Jules Furthman (story) | 3 more credits »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
George Bancroft ... Thunderbolt Jim Lang
Fay Wray ... Ritzie
Richard Arlen ... Bob Moran
Tully Marshall ... Warden
Eugenie Besserer ... Mrs. Moran
James Spottswood ... 'Snapper' O'Shea
Robert Elliott ... Prison Chaplain
Fred Kohler ... 'Bad Al' Frieberg
E.H. Calvert ... Dist. Atty. McKay
George Irving ... Mr. Corwin
Mike Donlin ... Kentucky Sampson - Prisoner #4
S.S. Stewart S.S. Stewart ... Prisoner #7 - Piano Player
William L. Thorne ... Police Inspector
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Storyline

A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Moran, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl. Thunderbolt hopes to stave off the execution long enough to kill young Moran for romancing his girl. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The dynamic star of the screen See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 June 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Debandada See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)| Silent (one version)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the earliest of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by MCA ever since. However, because of its extreme age, and primitive sound recording techniques, there is no record of it ever having been locally televised. On cable TV it received what may have been its first and only telecast on Turner Classic Movies in August 2016. See more »

Quotes

Prisoner: Do you sing tenor?
Thunderbolt Jim Lang: Who me? I kill tenors.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Made in both sound and silent versions. See more »

Soundtracks

Thinkin' About My Baby
(uncredited)
Written by Sam Coslow
See more »

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User Reviews

 
THUNDERBOLT (Josef von Sternberg, 1929) ***
6 March 2011 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

Sternberg's first Talkie is virtually a retread of his UNDERWORLD (1927), with the same leading man – George Bancroft – no less. However, while ably flanked by his co-stars there, he is practically the whole show this time around (Fay Wray and Richard Arlen being no match for Evelyn Brent and Clive Brook) and, consequently, the role earned Bancroft his sole Oscar nomination (and the film's as well)! Anyway, the director's approach to Sound was not as experimental as may have been anticipated (resorting to Death Row histrionics and even a number of songs to showcase the format!) and the end result is hardly dazzling in this regard – though the dialogue is surprisingly clean, i.e. audible, for such an early example. Conversely, the visual aspect of the film, usually the director's main concern, is greatly diluted here through the poor quality of the copy I watched which also sported forced German subtitles!

Bancroft is once again a gangster (as before, his activity remains undisclosed throughout, apart from lording it up in an almost exclusively-black nightclub!) and his moll eventually leaves him for another, younger and handsomer, man. Here, too, the mobster is caught and imprisoned – in a wonderful scene where he shows compassion for a mutt, subsequently proving inseparable, thus preceding Raoul Walsh's HIGH SIERRA by 12 years! Yet, he ingeniously has his associates frame the rival for a murder they committed (the development of this particular plot strand is unfortunately rather muddled) and the hero winds up in the cell opposite Bancroft's. As in UNDERWORLD, Fred Kohler also appears here to antagonize the latter – besides lanky warden Tully Marshall and an Irish guard whose name the protagonist continually tries to guess (with the droll pay-off coming at the film's very conclusion).

Wray and her mother plead with the gangster to do the right thing and clear Arlen of his crime but, of course, he will have none of that at the start. Again, however, Bancroft is softened and confesses his role in the young man's entrapment just hours before his execution is due; I have to wonder here why he, a first-time felon, is scheduled to die before the much sought-after "Thunderbolt"! – yes, the film's title is a reference to the character's nick-name. In any case, the moll's own admission that she had left her lover for the gangster rather than the other way around makes the latter realize, as was the case in UNDERWORLD, that he is in the way and gladly accepts his fate. Incidentally, speaking of references to the director's earlier work, Wray and Arlen are made to undergo a hasty marriage here – much like Bancroft himself and Betty Compson in THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1928)!


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