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David Charleston, once a world renowned journalist, now lives alone maintaining the Thunder Rock lighthouse in Lake Michigan. He doesn't cash is paychecks and has no contact other than the monthly inspector's visit. When alone, he imagines conversations with those who died when a 19th century packet ship with some 60 passengers sank. He imagines their lives, their problems their fears and their hopes. In one of these conversations he recalls his own efforts in the 1930s when he tried desperately to convince first his editors and later the public of the dangers of fascism and the inevitability of war. Few would listen. One of the passengers, a spinster, tells her story of seeking independence from a world dominated by men. There's also the case of a doctor who is banished for using unacceptable methods. David has given up on life but the imaginary passengers give him hope for the future Written by
Based on a play, "Thunder Rock" is a 1942 film that follows the fascination with ghosts that seems prevalent at the time, just as it is prevalent in ours. There was "Between Two Worlds," which was the remake of "Outward Bound," "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "Heaven Can Wait," "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," - etc.! I won't go into the angels - "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Bishop's Wife," etc. The war caused people to think about death and the afterlife a great deal.
"Thunder Rock" is about a newspaperman David Charleston, (Michael Redgrave) who saw the rise of Fascism and Nazism and tried to warn people to wake up and take action. Unfortunately, his editors wouldn't allow the doom and gloom. His response is to give up and take a job as a lighthouse keeper on Thunder Rock in Lake Michigan. There, he becomes interested in a ship's log of a ship that went down 90 years earlier. He begins to have conversations with them in his mind. None of the passengers know they're dead except for the captain (Finlay Currie). He shows David how each of these people came to be on the ship. There's a doctor driven out of Vienna for using an early form of anesthesia (Frederick Valk), an early feminist (Beverly Mullen) jailed repeatedly for her views, a man and his wife en route to America to try for a better life for their family.
There are several themes present in this film - the themes of keeping hope, not giving up one's quest, and affirming life, certainly important ideas in a time of war. There's also the theme of reincarnation, as one of these people could have been Charleston. In the beginning of the film, there is the communication of information from one person to another to another to another, as knowledge is passed through generations.
Redgrave is excellent, as are Finlay Currie, Beverly Mullen, James Mason (as David's friend) and a young Lili Palmer as the doctor's daughter. In fact, the whole cast is good, including a young Barry Morse in his pre-"The Fugitive" days, as the ex-fiancée of Beverly Mullen.
Beautifully photographed and thought-provoking.
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