Above: Thunderbolt enters the Black Cat.
Below: Fay Wray as the woman Thunderbolt has lost, and
Theresa Harris as the dream of another possibility.
Above, Thunderbolt acts as virtual executioner for "Bad Al" (Fred Kohler).
Below: Bob confronts his enemy at last.
Watch that hand, Bob!
What happened here, exactly? There's room to see it two ways. It may be that something about Bob's story made Jim relent, but for all we know that other gangster was talking through his hat and Jim never had any intention to kill Bob after the wedding scene. Conceding some ambiguity makes the moment somewhat less corny, and my overall impression of Jim Lang is that he is too easily amused by things to be as deadly as everyone assumes, and that even his frame-up of Bob is little more than a practical joke. At the very end we leave him laughing at a guard having the name Aloysius. You could almost believe that Thunderbolt is tired of his life without actually realizing it. I may question Bancroft's line readings sometimes, but there's a subtlety to his performance that makes my view of Jim's bemused ambivalence seem plausible. Whatever Sternberg's intentions, Thunderbolt isn't one of his characteristic spectacles, though it is nicely shot. That may be because his camera doesn't really worship Fay Wray the way he'd worship Dietrich, or the way he worships Theresa Harris during her song. In the end, it's Bancroft's imperfect but intriguing performance that makes the film worth seeing.