Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Thunder Alley was the last movie Annette Funicello made for American International Pictures, purveyor of The Beach Party Movies, and except for a bit part in Head, she didn't appear in another major motion picture until 20 years later when she re-teamed with Frankie Avalon for Back To The Beach. Annette wasn't idle during that period, she made appearances in numerous TV shows. Her appearance in Thunder Alley was her most adult role in any of the AIP films, even more so than in Fireball 500, and like that movie, Thunder Alley has a stock car racing theme. This time out her usual co-star/love interest Frankie Avalon was replaced with Fabian
Like Avalon in Fireball 500, Fabian also tools around in a George Barris customized car. As you can see from the above photo, his Dodge Charger is a pretty ugly piece of machinery. It seems Fabian always gets black-outs when he gets boxed in during a race and his last black-out caused the death of another racer. He finds the only person who will hire him is Jan Murray, who runs a Thrill Show (similar to Joie Chitwood's Thrill Show) and can use another driver.
Annette plays Jan Murray's daughter and she also drives in his Thrill Show. As you would expect, Annette and Fabian, at first, can't stand each other, but eventually fall in love. Both Annette and Fabian did great with their parts, with one exception. Part of the plot called for Annette to get drunk and whether Annette had never been drunk or just didn't have the acting chops to play drunk is undecidable. However, this is the only weak spot in Annette's acting in Thunder Alley.
Fabian has no songs in Thunder Alley and Annette sings only one song, "When You Get What You Want", a very slow and plaintive song, accompanied by The Band Without A Name (who later changed their name to The American Revolution). The Band Without A Name also does the title song to the movie "Thunder Alley".
I found Thunder Alley to be the least enjoyable of any of the Beach Party offshoots. It moved slow and the story was predictable. I would recommend it only to anyone interested in seeing some vintage stock car racing and/or Thrill Show footage.