Rolling Thunder has been a major title with cult movie afi­ciona­dos for decades. Until recent­ly, part of its allure has been how hard it was to get the film on home video: after a Vestron Video VHS release in the ear­ly ‘80s, it slipped out of print and was not issued on DVD dur­ing that format’s hey­day. Things have improved in recent years via a DVD-R release from MGM’s on-demand divi­sion and a for­eign blu-ray release — but nei­ther of those option were ide­al for a lot of U.S. based film fans. Shout! Factory has stepped in to fill this gap with their own domes­tic blu-ray/DVD com­bo edi­tion — and it does well by this deserv­ing film.

The blu-ray is what was watched for this review and the results are very impres­sive. The high-def­i­n­i­tion trans­fer cap­tures the extremes of Jordan Cronenweth’s styl­ish cin­e­matog­ra­phy, which off­sets nat­u­ral­is­tic exte­ri­ors with moody, dim­ly lit inte­ri­ors that allow the actors to trail off into shad­ows. This trans­fer lives up to this palet­te with vivid yet real­is­tic col­ors and also brings out the fine detail and rich black lev­els in those shad­owy inte­ri­ors. The audio com­po­nent of the trans­fer offers a loss­less pre­sen­ta­tion of the film’s orig­i­nal mono mix and this vin­tage track holds nice­ly, offer­ing a solid blend of sounds and some punchy sound effects in key spots (especial­ly those gun­shots).

There is also a small but potent col­lec­tion of extras includ­ed. The most sub­stan­tial is “The Making Of Rolling Thunder,” a fea­turet­te that chron­i­cles the film’s sto­ry in around 20 min­utes. The pro­duc­ers assem­bled an impres­sive ros­ter of com­men­ta­tors here: stars William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones, co-writer Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould. Topics they dis­cuss include when and why Gould was brought in to do rewrites, the dif­fer­ences between the film and Schrader’s orig­i­nal script, how the film’s bru­tal finale was pulled off from a stunt stand­point and the skill of direc­tor John Flynn (who sad­ly passed away in 2007). This piece isn’t afraid to address griev­ances — Schrader isn’t shy in his crit­i­cisms of the rewrit­ten script — and the results offer plen­ty of insight into a film that hasn’t been chron­i­cled in great detail oth­er­wise.

The rest of the extras con­sist of pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als. The gut­sy the­atri­cal trail­er is includ­ed as well as an inter­est­ing tele­vi­sion spot. A quar­tet of inter­est­ing radio adds are also includ­ed: there are two dif­fer­ent spots that appear in two vari­a­tions, one sell­ing it as a straight­for­ward revenge item and two that try to pitch as a Walking Tall-style opus. The last item is an image gallery that con­tains a vari­ety of stills.

In short, Shout! Factory’s com­bo set for Rolling Thunder is a good one, boast­ing a strong trans­fer and some inter­est­ing bonus mate­ri­als. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s a good way to get acquaint­ed with its grit­ty charms. If you’re already a fan then you can final­ly fill that miss­ing slot in your col­lec­tion.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Rolling Thunder, click here.