Alien Thunder (1974)
aka Dan Candy’s Law
Throughout his long and active career, Donald Sutherland has maintained a presence in his homeland of Canada and returned to it for this authentic looking story of a manhunt conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Thunder was filmed in Saskatchewan where the story seems to take place around the 1900 mark. Donald in full Mountie attire has his duties to carry out when an Indian played by Gordon Tootoosis leaves the reservation and slaughters a cow bringing the meat back to the reserve for the hungry. Along with his partner Kevin McCarthy they arrest their man and return him to the jail house. In somewhat of a drunken stupor Don teases the captive that he’s sure to hang in the morning. News of the escape reaches a hungover Don in the morning.
The problems escalate when McCarthy attempts to take Tootoosis back on his own and is shot down leaving Donald to find his cold body on the prairies. Vengeance is sworn. McCarthy had a wife and young son that Donald feels beholden too.
Leading the natives at the reserve and offering no help to Donald’s vengeance is Chief Dan George. Chief Dan was by this time turning up in both TV and movies at a late age and would find everlasting fame opposite Clint Eastwood’s Josie Wales.
Without the support of his commanding officer, Donald sets out onto the plains to exact his revenge minus his red coat. It becomes a game of cat and mouse where the tables begin to turn and the Indian outlaw soon takes his chance with a couple other braves at bushwacking Sutherland.
Apparently based on a true story and if legend is correct that “the Mounties always get their man” then one should suspect the outcome of this Claude Fournier film that he is also credited with photography on. The credited crew list on Thunder is sprinkled with French Canadian names and many of the supporting cast speak English with the heavy Quebecois accent.
On the minus side the movie unfortunately looks somewhat amateurish far too often though at times there is some striking images and scenic beauty to behold. Too much of the film is carried out in long shots with very little close ups used to break up the story telling. Sutherland’s performance gets lost and the lack of a better script only fails to flesh out his character for me.
On the plus side many of the images focusing on the native people carry an honesty to them that is appreciated and the film does display a pioneering spirit.
Trivia buffs like myself cannot overlook the fact that both Donald Sutherland and Kevin McCarthy share the early scenes together before the plot is set in motion. For those who don’t immediately make the connection, Kevin played the lead in the 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers while Donald starred in the top notch remake of 1978. Kevin actually played a walk on role in the remake giving the audience quite a jolt.
Thunder or Dan Candy’s Law has turned up in countless low budget editions but recently Scorpion Releasing released a HD master from the original negative which puts this one far up the ladder from the many low grade releases found in bargain bins over the years.