Thunder Alley (1967 film)

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Thunder Alley
Thunder Alley 1967.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Richard Rush
Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff
James H. Nicholson
Burt Topper
Written bySy Salkowitz
Starring Annette Funicello
Fabian Forte
Music by Mike Curb
Davie Allan
CinematographyMonroe P. Askins
Edited byKenneth G. Crane
Ronald Sinclair
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date
  • March 22, 1967 (1967-03-22)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.4 million [1]
Box office$1,250,000 (US/ Canada) [2]

Thunder Alley is a 1967 film about auto racing directed by Richard Rush and starring Annette Funicello and Fabian Forte. It was released by American International Pictures.



A race car driver, Tommy Callahan, retires after a blackout causes the death of another driver on the motorway. After the accident, he begins working at a Pete Madsen's "Thrill Circus" as a stunt driver. There he meets the proprietor's daughter, Francie, who also drives there, and her boyfriend Eddie Sands.

Bored by his new job, Tommy begins training Eddie to be a professional. Eddie picks it up quickly, winning his first race. This leads to Tommy's gold-digging ex-girlfriend Annie Blaine scheming to steal the hot young driver away from Francie.

Despite their quarreling, plus Francie's concern over his previous blackouts, she and Tommy are paired up during a 500-mile race. On the track, Tommy feels another blackout coming on, but manages to hang on. He comes to realize that the fainting spells are a psychological reaction to a childhood trauma.

Francie goads ex-fiance Eddie into reckless maneuvers on the track, causing him to crash. Tommy wins the race, and her as well.

Principal cast

Annette Funicello Francie Madsen
Fabian Forte Tommy Callahan
Diane McBain Annie Blaine
Warren Berlinger Eddie Sands
Jan Murray Pete Madsen
Stanley Adams Mac Lunsford


The film was originally known as Malibu 500 [1] and Rebel 500. [3] It was the third of a seven-picture deal between AIP and Fabian. [4]

The director was Richard Rush who had made a number of lower budgeted films. He got the job through his agent, who was married to Annette Funicello at the time. Rush says AIP "were fond of my work.... They were the teenage exploitation studio... Since I was very rebellious, my characters were always very rebellious, which seemed to be the keynote of American youth at that time. My pictures worked in the marketplace." [5]

AIP was then run by the team of Sam Arkoff and James H NIcholson. Rush says before filming "Sam Arkoff took me aside and said, "Look, [Jim] Nicholson has got this girlfriend, and I don’t want her on the picture." I said that was okay. A while later, Nicholson pulled me aside and said, "Richard, there's this girl Id like you to use on the picture..."." [6] (It is likely this was Susan Hart. [6] )

Filming began on 1 November 1966. [7]

Rush later said "Fabian turned out to be much better than my expectations. I had that jaundiced view of, "Oh, it's Fabian — a manufactured talent." But he wasn't like that; he was a smart kid, worked hard, and was willing to do whatever you asked him to. Annette had poise and great ability, and was a mini-movie star." [6]

Rush later said it was one of his few films "that I didn't have any freedom on." [5] He says the main problem was when he was hired the producer Burt Topper had already spent three racing seasons shooting car racing footage. [6]

"They came to me with that part already done. Since it’s a racing film, it didn’t have what I was hoping would be my trademark, even at that early stage. So I never felt it was completely my film. It was like writing the story around the footage." [5]

Rush said, "The part of the film that deals with the actors is mine, and the rest is Burt’s. It sort of divorced me from that sense of proprietorship that I have over all of my other films. [6]


Contemporary reviews were mediocre. [8] However AIP liked Rush's work and he made two other films for that company, Psych-Out and The Savage Seven . [5]

Quentin Tarantino is an admirer of the film. "Richard Rush is a terrific director and stunt man and I actually used part of the score from this film in the big car chase scene in my movie Death Proof. It’s a real Sixties hard-driving piece of music with bongos and a syntar. That’s really cool." [9]

According to Diabolique magazine:

Thunder Alley is a far more cohesive and successful film than Fireball 500 – a solid drama with a thumping soundtrack... and Annette Funicello is really good – but then it’s a strong role, perhaps her best ever for AIP. Fabian is also strong – cocky, arrogant, but haunted and basically decent; it’s one of his best parts. [10]


The film features the song "When You Get What You Want" by Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner, performed by Annette Funicello. The duo also wrote the title song "Thunder Alley", performed by The Band Without a Name. [11] The song "Riot in Thunder Alley", by Eddie Beram, from the film also appears in the film and soundtrack album for Death Proof .

See also

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  1. 1 2 Tide Running Out for Beach Films, In for Protest Movies Thomas, Bob. Los Angeles Times 12 Feb 1966: b7
  2. "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  3. Filmways Inks Jack Clayton Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 12 July 1966: c9.
  4. Fabian Role Assigned Los Angeles Times 4 Nov 1966: C20.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Murray, Noel (June 13, 2011). "Interview with Richard Rush". AV Club.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 "Savage Cinema: An Interview with Director Richard Rush". Shock Cinema. No. 36. p. 12.
  7. MOVIE CAL SHEET: SCHALLERT JOINS 'TOMBSTONE' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 15 Oct 1966: 19.
  8. The Screen: Neighborhood Houses Get 'Thunder Alley' New York Times 14 Sep 1967: 55.
  9. "QUENTIN TARANTINO: MY FAVOURITE RACING MOVIES" F1 Social Diary 21 August, 2013 Archived 2014-07-07 at accessed 5 July 2014
  10. Vagg, Stephen (26 August 2019). "The Cinema of Fabian". Diabolique.
  11. Thunder Alley (1967) - Soundtracks