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The working title of this film was Rage of the Vulture, or The Rage of the Vulture. The film opens with the following written statement: "August, 1947 India gains its independence. With it came many internal problems. Our story concerns itself with what happened when the outlaw tribesmen, from the hills, led by Nawab Khan, saw their chance to take over control from the legitimate government of the tiny province of Ghandahar."
In September 1950, ParNews reported that Robert Fellows was to produce Thunder in the East. According to a February 23, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, the script encountered many difficulties and the project was temporarily shelved prior to principal photography. The script's American gunrunner character, questionable Moslem, Hindu and other East Indian characters, as well as concerns about the current political situation in India caused Paramount executives, including Y. Frank Freeman, to halt production. Although Hollywood Reporter announced that director Charles Vidor and producer Everett Riskin were to be given new assignments, the film was back on the production schedule by February 26, 1951, after acceptable script revisions had been completed.
Paramount borrowed Corinne Calvet from Hal Wallis' company and Deborah Kerr from M-G-M for the production. Thunder in the East was Kerr's first loanout role and marked the debut of Jill St. John, who was listed by the CBCS as Jill Oppenheim. John F. Seitz is listed as cameraman in the first two production charts; Lee Garmes, who is credited onscreen as director of photography, is listed in the remaining charts. Hollywood Reporter news items add Daniel Chang, Ronald Chan and Harry Guardino to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
According to a December 1952 Variety news item, release of the picture was temporarily held up at the request of the State Department, which was concerned that United Nations representatives from India and Pakistan, the presumed rebel country, would take offense at the story. Paramount withheld distribution of the film in both countries, but went ahead with release in the U.S. in January 1953.