Wednesday, August 24, 2011

THUNDER BAY (1953)

Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart followed up their collaboration on the excellent THE NAKED SPUR with THUNDER BAY, as far as I can tell, the first major Hollywood film about offshore drilling. Stewart is a hardworking man determined to find oil in the Gulf no matter what, even if it fucking kills him. His financial backer (the under appreciated Jay C. Flippen) is just as determined and has invested all of his money into this project. If it fails they're all fucking sunk. But things aren't just as easy as setting up a rig and pumping the oil out. No siree Bob, the local shrimp fishermen believe the oilers are gonna kill all of the shrimp so they'll stop at nothing to get these assholes out of her...even if they have to blow up the entire oil rig!

On a technical level the film is fine and it looks great. Also the acting is good, especially Stewart who carries the entire thing with his portrayal of a man-possessed. The thing that pulls the movie down is the script. It's passable, but I wish that it had been grittier and never included the second romantic subplot between Stewart-Dru. The Duryea-Henderson romance actually added to the film, but the Stewart-Dru one made no sense and it was a distraction away from the exciting oil drilling story. And speaking of oil drilling, I wish there had been a little introduction to off shore drilling earlier on in the film (maybe in a meeting with the towns folk). I don't know shit about off shore drilling so when they started yelling about air pockets and water spurting up through the hole I had no fucking clue what was going one except that it seemed pretty important.

Overall, an entertaining picture, but it's pretty dated, simplified and overly melodramatic. A must-watch for Stewart fans though.