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The Moonshine War (1970)

A federal agent attempts to make some real money before the alcohol ban is lifted so he sets his sights on the whiskey cache of an old army buddy.


Richard Quine


Elmore Leonard (novel), Elmore Leonard (screenplay)


Airs Fri. Oct. 26, 10:00 PM on TCM


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Patrick McGoohan ... Frank Long
Richard Widmark ... Dr. Emmett Taulbee
Alan Alda ... John W. (Son) Martin
Melodie Johnson ... Lizann Simpson
Will Geer ... Mr. Baylor
Joe Williams ... Aaron
Susanne Zenor ... Miley Mitchell
Lee Hazlewood Lee Hazlewood ... Dual Metters
Max Showalter ... Mr. Worthman
Harry Carey Jr. ... Arley Stamper
Tom Nolan Tom Nolan ... Lowell
Dick Peabody Dick Peabody ... Boyd Caswell (as Richard Peabody)
John Schuck ... E.J. Royce
Bo Hopkins ... Bud Blackwell
Charles Tyner ... Mr. McClendon


A federal agent attempts to make some real money before the alcohol ban is lifted so he sets his sights on the whiskey cache of an old army buddy.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


1932: The Moonshine War. The 18th amendment prohibited drinking. It didn't say a word about killing, double-crossing or blowing things up.


Comedy | Crime | Drama


GP | See all certifications »






Release Date:

July 1970 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Whisky brutal See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Filmways Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The September 3, 1969, issue of VARIETY reports that Claude Johnson (I) took over the small role of "young man" from actor Tex Barnum (credited as Charles Akins) when Barnum declined to do the nudity required for the role. See more »


Featured in Shooting the Moonshine War (1970) See more »


Love Brings Love
Music by Neal Hefti
Lyrics by Hermine Hilton
See more »

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User Reviews

One of the BEST B's ever !
16 August 2008 | by wmjahnSee all my reviews

Come on folks, you can't be serious! THE MOONSHINE WAR has only a 5,9 rating on the IMDb ??? 123 voters ?

I really like Alan ALDA, he is such a normal guy, always a reliable actor, very watchable, practically never a bad part, funny, poignant, great timing. Hardly anybody ever looked at his lesser known movies?

THE MOONSHINE WAR is a terrific B-movie! A novel and script only ELMORE LEONARD in his prime could have come up with, paired with a director many would not really call a great one, but here he has delivered his best directing-effort ever! I would have never thought Richard QUINE to be such a cynic to deliver a movie like this, but obviously this director, who had worked with so many stellar 50ies and 60ies casts, was so happy to get a little B-effort to direct, probably with hardly any studio-involvement, that he decided to make one of the MOST CYNICAL movies I have ever seen! And the sheer joy everybody involved had in making this little gem is visible in every frame.

And the cast loves it! Alan ALDA is terrific, as is Richard WIDMARK, who has made a couple of nice movies shortly before and after that, but where he really shines like in his early prime is in MOONSHINE WAR. And nobody having seen this gem will ever be able to forget LEE HAZLEWOOD, who only starred in 4 movies, of which this one is by faaaar the best!

Two reviewers call the performance of Alan ALDA "curiously blank" and "pretty blank" (I think one reviewer copied from the other), but sorry, I can't but disagree: First I think Alan ALDA does a magnificent job and plays his part exactly as wanted by director and script. His role IS the only "normal" (boring ??) one in the sense of being unweired, he is the "backwood boy", the bland guy. Nobody expects anything great from him, which is EXACTLY what makes the ending such a winner: the guy nobody expected to handle the job does exactly that! Marvellous! And second I do not see why everybody in a movie has to be weired? If you do not have any normal guy, but only weirdos in a movie, then where is the counterpart, where is any balance? One has to have at least one normal guy to make the oddballs even more odd. Alda does this and he does it magnificent. I think this is also HIS BEST movie.

OK, it is brutal, no doubt, but so what? Moonshining was never a "profession" for cowards and the times back then were not the most peaceful, but what the heck. Just that Alan ALDA is in it, does not mean it has to be a cozy harmless comedy. It certainly is a comedy anyway, but a very brutal one and from what I can see, Alan ALDA loves to be part of it as much as anybody else in this cast. Just look at this classical ending: just wonderful! This ain't a family-movie, nothing for the kids to enjoy on a Sunday evening, unless Dad wants to risk a war with his wife, but that is exactly the reason why this is nothing short of a MUST-SEE for every movie-lover.

Folks, give this another viewing, this is up there with the best B's ever made, up there with THE OUTFIT, ROLLING THUNDER, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, VANISHING POINT, POINT BLANK, LOLLY MADONNA WAR, ... etc. etc. etc.

Tarantino loves this one and so do I! I wonder who discovered this gem first? :-) I saw it in my middle teenage years the first time, which is 25 years ago, of course on TV in one of those wonderful midnight viewings, where such oddball movies were shown in a regular way back then, where I discovered most of the great B's in movie history. Tarantino is a few years "older" than I am, so he might have discovered it first, but then again maybe not. :-) Anyway, that is not really important.

What is important is that this great effort is not covered anywhere by any top critic yet. But this is perfect Danny Peary-stuff! The guy who wrote these wonderful books about cult movies, ya know. This one has a small cult following, although it does not show on the IMDb yet, but all my mates and every oddball-movie lover I ever talked about with knows and loves it, so this is a CULT MOVIE, even if the followers are not yet that many. Danny, write another cult movie book and this one HAS TO BE covered there. And I can send ya a list of others that need coverage! :-)

Call me biased, but I rate this as high as 10! I wish there would be more flicks like this out there to discover. If you know any comparable one, drop be a line, please.

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