Thursday, 9 March 2017

Thunder Bay
Dir: Anthony Mann
1953's Thunder Bay is the third collaboration between director Anthony Mann and actor James Stewart and the first of their non-Westerns. The two film makers had a fascinating working relationship that lasted for eight films but only five years and I always felt that Thunder Bay could and should have been my favourite, had the ending been a little different. It starts off great with two ex-Navy engineer's, Steve Martin (no not him) and Johnny Gambi (played by Dan Duryea), somewhat out of pocket but full of cunning and ambition. They both travel to Louisiana with dreams of building an offshore oil drilling platform, the first of its kind, just off shore from a shrimp fishing village. They soon get financial backing from a large investment company but they also upset the locals with a total disregard to their livelihood. This is where you'd expect the two men to maybe realize their mistakes, make things good with the locals and redeem their earlier actions but no. In the end they build their platform, say to hell with the locals (because this is progress) and even try to justify their actions in saying that the oil will be for everyone, including the fishermen. If this distasteful display of arrogant capitalism isn't enough, Steve Martin (again, not that one) sleeps with the head fisherman's daughter. It is modern day (but still legal blah blah blah) pillaging in the name of progress. James Stewart is once again brilliant in his portrayal of a man obsessed but what should have been an 'Old Man and the Sea' type story, soon turns into a dreadful display of greed and selfishness and somehow everyone is okay with it by the time the end credits roll. It's not the adventure film it thinks it is, not the drama it wants to be and nowhere near as romantic as it tries to be, although why there is a romantic plot is beyond me, it doesn't need it nor does it prosper from having one. Stewart's performance makes it worth watching as do the special effects and action sequences. Gilbert Roland's fisherman character is probably the best thing about the film and although it is woefully flawed it is still rather entertaining.

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