Last updated

Thundercrack! FilmPoster.jpeg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Curt McDowell
Produced by
  • Charles Thomas
  • John Thomas
Screenplay by George Kuchar
Story by
  • Mark Ellinger
  • Curt McDowell
  • Marion Eaton
  • Ken Scudder
  • Melinda McDowell
  • George Kuchar
Music byMark Ellinger
CinematographyCurt McDowell
Edited byCurt McDowell
Distributed byThomas Brothers Film Studio
Release date
  • December 29, 1975 (1975-12-29)
Running time
159 minutes
CountryUnited States

Thundercrack! is a 1975 pornographic black comedy horror film written, edited, shot and directed by Curt McDowell, and written by George Kuchar based on a story by McDowell and Mark Ellinger. [1] It stars Marion Eaton, Ken Scudder, Melinda McDowell and George Kuchar. Combining an "old dark house" mystery with hardcore sex scenes, Thundercrack! is more recently regarded as a cult film. [2] It bears the influences of Jack Smith’s lush, DIY, camp aesthetic, and Nan Goldin’s glimpses of countercultural bohemia. [3]



The story begins during a thunderstorm. The house, which is shown in the opening shot, named Prairie Blossom, is very clearly fake which lends itself to comedic value. A caller, Willene Cassidy (Maggie Pyle), pays a visit to the house owner, Mrs. Gert Hammond (Marion Eaton), who is very drunk. She insists that she make herself presentable before she answers the door. This takes a very long time and she makes a bad job of putting on her makeup. In an effort to get the alcohol out of her system she makes herself vomit by putting her fingers down her throat. Finally, having retrieved her wig from the toilet, where it fell during her vomiting, she is ready to greet her visitor. Willene is shocked at the dishevelled appearance of Mrs. Hammond and insist on giving her a bath. Willene explains that her husband is a very famous yet untalented country music star, Simon Cassidy, whose music is heard on the radio during the later scene. During the course of the bath, Willene unintentionally masturbates Mrs. Hammond. It is also revealed that Mr. Hammond died and that their son "no longer exists".

As the night goes on, more and more visitors appear to shelter from the storm. Among them is Chandler (Mookie Blodgett), widower of the incredibly wealthy Sarah Lou Phillips, whose family owns the largest girdle factory in the United States. Their popularity is such that few American women are without one. Chandler relates the story of his wife's death. She burned to death at a cocktail party, where there was a freak accident and her girdle caught fire. This caused burning rubber to envelop her head, and finally she fell dead into the swimming pool, her head steaming. This causes Chandler to have a bizarre sexual dysfunction. Although initially attracted to women, they would invariably prove to be owners of House of Phillips girdles. When they took off their clothes before sex, he would be reminded of the death of his wife and would not be able to maintain an erection. For this reason he had been having sex with other men, as they don't wear girdles that would remind him of Sarah Lou's horrific immolation. Rather strangely, during the telling of this story, Chandler is being fellated by Sash (Melinda McDowell) and has no apparent erectile problems. The two, while in the basement, discover that Mrs. Hammond had pickled the remains of her husband and kept them in a jar. She tells of the death of her husband, who had been working one day in the grain bin and got covered with grain dust. A swarm of locusts dove on him to eat the dust and in the process devoured much of Mr. Hammond's body.

During the course of the night, many of the guests have sex with each other in various combinations. There are a great many sex toys at Prairie Blossom. Mrs. Hammond explains that her son collected them. They would be delivered in plain brown packages which she would take to him with his morning breakfast. This causes her to wistfully repeat that he "no longer exists". One of the guests, a man named Toydy, becomes obsessed with finding the key to a locked door in the house. One of the female guests, Roo (Moira Benson), finds the key but will not give it to Toydy (Rick Johnson) unless he agrees to ejaculate in her mouth. Despite not finding her attractive, Toydy agrees and manages to stay aroused by watching Bond (Ken Scudder) and Willene have sex.

The final human guest at Prairie Blossom, Bing (George Kuchar), arrives in an agitated state. He had come from the circus in a vehicle containing a toothless lion, a near-blind elephant, and a female gorilla named Medusa. He explains to the group that Medusa is extremely dangerous and is likely to kill anyone she comes across. It is revealed that Bing himself is the cause of the apes murderous tendencies. His circus-mates, having got Bing drunk, convinced him to have sex with a prostitute. Despite her being hirsute, Bing is too drunk to decline. The next morning, he awakens to the pleasant feeling of being masturbated, though to his horror, the act is being carried out by Medusa, who now has a severe crush on him. She soon realises that her feelings are not being reciprocated and becomes enraged with him, and indeed all men. However, subsequent mistreatment by a female circus-worker causes these feelings to spread to women as well. The only way to calm Medusa is by giving her bananas.

Toydy, having watched Bond and Willene have sex, decides to lie to Bond in order to have sex with him. Toydy says that he has a crate of bananas and will give them to Bond if he will have sex with him. Bond considers this carefully, not having had a homosexual encounter before, but agrees on the strength that he and Willene (who has by now forgotten about her husband) can use the bananas to escape the murderous primate. On discovering the deception, Bond takes it in his stride and tells Willene he had to be broken in sometime. He jokes that if things don't work out between himself and her, he can always try for her husband.

Meanwhile, Toydy having gained the key to the locked door earlier opens it with Roo to discover Prairie Blossom's terrible secret. By morning, the fate of Roo and Toydy is unknown to the others. Chandler and Sash leave together, as do Bond and Willene, though Bond tells her he likes to sleep around too much to really settle down. Bing has married Medusa, though for some reason, he wore the wedding dress. Mrs. Hammond, alone with the jar containing her husband, proposes a toast to love, and pours Mr. Hammond's drink into his jar. [4]



Ken Scudder, Mark Ellinger, and Melinda McDowell at a screening with Peaches Christ in 2015 Thundercrack 2.jpg
Ken Scudder, Mark Ellinger, and Melinda McDowell at a screening with Peaches Christ in 2015

Because of its graphic sex including masturbation, heterosexual and homosexual couplings, the film is unavailable in many areas of the world. [5] However, the film is available on DVD in parts of Europe. Synapse Films was working closely with the director's sister and Thundercrack! actress, Melinda McDowell for a 35th anniversary DVD edition originally due to be released in 2010. [6] In a film fan blog published June 7, 2013, the owners of Synapse Films say they are still working on an upcoming release of the film. [7] The Synapse Blu-Ray/DVD was released in 2015 for the film's 40th anniversary.

On December 11, 2015, for the film's fortieth anniversary, Thundercrack! screened at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California in an event hosted by drag queen Peaches Christ.


The film is unusual for its time as it is shot in black-and-white and features graphic sexual acts. In terms of its intentional tastelessness, it could be compared to the films of John Waters. [8]

Home media

The Dutch Shock DVD is available semi-officially (the company were also responsible for its limited release in the 90s on VHS) - however the DVD is struck from the same master as the VHS and the image is poorly transferred. Also the frequent scratches are on the 16mm source print - they are not there to purposefully age the film. [9] The film was edited down from 153 mins by its backers The Thomas Brothers in the hope of making it more marketable.

A new DVD and Blu-ray version was released on December 8, 2015 from cult distributor Synapse Films. This release will feature a high-definition transfer of the film in its original filmed aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The Blu-ray includes such special features as rare interview footage of director McDowell presented in the form of an audio commentary, a behind-the-scenes documentary titled It Came from Kuchar, a documentary about George and Mike Kuchar, and a bonus DVD including interviews, audition footage, short films, and outtakes. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Heathers</i> 1989 film by Michael Lehmann

Heathers is a 1989 American black comedy teen film written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann, in both of their respective film debuts. It stars Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, and Penelope Milford. The film portrays four teenage girls — three of whom are named Heather — in a clique at an Ohio high school, whose lives are disrupted by the arrival of a misanthrope intent on murdering the popular students and staging their deaths as suicides.

Andie MacDowell American actress and model

Rosalie Anderson "Andie" MacDowell is an American actress and fashion model. She made her film debut in 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, before receiving critical acclaim for her role in Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), for which she won Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama. She also received Golden Globe Award nominations for her performances in Green Card (1990) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

<i>The Letter</i> (1940 film) 1940 American crime drama film William Wyler

The Letter is a 1940 American film noir crime melodrama directed by William Wyler, and starring Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and James Stephenson. The screenplay by Howard E. Koch is based on the 1927 play of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham derived from his own short story. The play was first filmed in 1929, by director Jean de Limur. The story was inspired by a real-life scandal involving the wife of the headmaster of a school in Kuala Lumpur who was convicted in a murder trial after shooting dead a male friend in April 1911. She was eventually pardoned.

Melinda Gebbie American comics artist and writer

Melinda Gebbie is an American comics artist and writer, known for her participation in the underground comix movement. She is also known for creating the controversial work Fresca Zizis and her contributions to Wimmen's Comix, as well as her work with her husband Alan Moore on the three-volume graphic novel Lost Girls and the Tomorrow Stories anthology series.

Dorothy Buffum Chandler American cultural leader

Dorothy Buffum Chandler was a Los Angeles cultural leader. She is perhaps best known for her efforts on behalf of the performing arts.


Frankenhooker is a 1990 American black comedy horror film directed by Frank Henenlotter. Very loosely inspired by Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, the film stars James Lorinz as medical school drop-out Jeffrey Franken and former Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen as the title character.

<i>Prom Night</i> (1980 film)

Prom Night is a 1980 Canadian slasher film directed by Paul Lynch, written by William Gray, and starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen. The plot follows a group of high school seniors who are targeted at their prom by a masked killer seeking vengeance for the accidental death of a young girl six years earlier. It features supporting performances from Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton, Mary Beth Rubens and Michael Tough.

<i>Souls for Sale</i> 1923 film

Souls for Sale is a 1923 American silent comedy-drama film written, directed, and produced by Rupert Hughes, based on the novel of the same name by Hughes. The film stars Eleanor Boardman in her first leading role, having won a contract with Goldwyn Pictures through their highly publicized "New Faces of 1921" contest just two years earlier.

Blossom Jackson Fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders

Blossom Jackson is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Mona Hammond. The character originally appeared from 16 May 1994 to 29 May 1997. Hammond was installed as a matriarchal figure of the Jackson clan but quit the role in 1997, reportedly because she was suffering from nervous exhaustion. She reprised the role on 25 October 2010 for two episodes.

<i>The High Window</i> Novel by Raymond Chandler

The High Window is a 1942 novel written by Raymond Chandler. It is his third novel featuring the Los Angeles private detective Philip Marlowe.

The One with Monica and Chandlers Wedding 23rd and 24th episodes of the seventh season of Friends

"The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding" is a double length episode of the television sitcom Friends. It first aired on May 17, 2001 as the finale of season seven. It is usually broadcast in a one-hour slot and presented on DVD as one complete episode, but when the episodes are split the two parts are differentiated by the suffixes Part 1 and Part 2. For his guest appearance, Gary Oldman was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.

<i>Sorority Row</i>

Sorority Row is a 2009 American slasher film directed by Stewart Hendler and starring Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, and Carrie Fisher. It is a re-imagining of the 1982 slasher The House on Sorority Row by Mark Rosman. The film focuses on a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and murdered on the night of their graduation, one year after covering up the accidental death of a fellow sister.

<i>Secrets</i> (1924 film) 1924 silent film by Frank Borzage

Secrets is a 1924 American silent drama film directed by Frank Borzage. The film is based upon a 1922 play of the same name, and was remade in 1933 with Mary Pickford in the leading role. Although the film was never released on video or DVD, copies still exist.

<i>Easy A</i> 2010 film by Will Gluck

Easy A is a 2010 American teen comedy-drama film directed by Will Gluck, written by Bert V. Royal and starring Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Dan Byrd, Amanda Bynes, Penn Badgley, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Aly Michalka, and Malcolm McDowell. The screenplay was partially inspired by the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

<i>Ned and Stacey</i>

Ned & Stacey is an American sitcom created by Michael J. Weithorn, and starring Thomas Haden Church and Debra Messing as the titular couple. The series aired on Fox from September 11, 1995, to January 27, 1997, and lasted for two seasons before being cancelled.

<i>Macabre</i> (1980 film)

Macabre is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Lamberto Bava.

<i>Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor</i> Film by Tyler Perry

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is a 2013 romance drama film produced, written, and directed by Tyler Perry. The film is adapted from Perry's play The Marriage Counselor, with several changes. It was released on March 29, 2013.

Rebecca Brooke was an American former pornographic film actress and model who specialized in sexploitation films, including both hardcore and softcore pornography in the 1970s. Vern L. Bullough wrote that Brooke was "one of the true beauties to grace the porn screen."

<i>Tango</i> (1936 film) 1936 film by Phil Rosen

Tango is a 1936 American drama film directed by Phil Rosen and starring Marian Nixon, Chick Chandler and Marie Prevost.

Curtis A. McDowell was an American underground filmmaker.


  1. Motion Picture Purgatory: Thundercrack
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 2, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. MITTERNACHTSKINO - Thundercrack!
  6. Thundercrack! | Frameline33 | Curt McDowell | USA
  7. GeekExchange (June 7, 2013)
  8. Thundercrack Movie!
  9. for Film : Thundercrack! Movie Review (1975)
  10. "The Highly-Anticipated Restoration of the Underground Classic 'Thundercrack!' on BD/DVD 12/8 from Synapse". October 7, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.