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In 1946, ex-Navy engineer Steve Martin comes to a Louisiana town with a dream: to build a safe platform for offshore oil drilling. Having finessed financing from a big oil company, formerly penniless Steve and his partner Johnny are in business...and getting interested in shrimp-boat captain Rigaud's two lovely daughters. But opposition from the fishing community grows fast, led by Stella Rigaud. Other hazards include sabotage, a hurricane...and a treacherous board of directors. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Although filmed in the standard 1.37-1 aspect ratio, this film was chosen by Universal-International as its first widescreen feature, accomplishing this by cropping the top and bottom and projecting it at 1.85-1 at Loew's State Theatre in New York City, as well as other sites. Its initial presentation also marked U-I's first use of directional stereophonic sound. See more »
From the director/actor team that brought us many of the great westerns of the 1950s, Thunder Bay teams Anthony Mann and James Stewart in what could easily be called a modern western. Stewart plays Steve Martin, an oil driller with a dream. His goal is to build an off-shore drill in the Gulf of Mexico. He receives the financial backing of oil tycoon Kermit MacDonald (Jay C. Flippen) and begins work.
He sets out from a small fishing community that has been on hard times lately. They are leery of Stewart and his partner Johnny Gambi (Dan Duryea) at first, and become more so when the two start blasting in the middle of their shrimp beds. To make matters worse, Johnny falls in love with a local girl who is already engaged to one of the fisherman.
Tension builds as the fishermen continue to have bad luck and the drill progresses. One disgruntled fisherman attempts to blow up the drill platform during the middle of a hurricane. Stewart, who had stayed on the platform to see how it would withstand the storm, catches him just in time to save it. A slippery fight ensues, during which the fisherman and Stewart fight not only each other, but a constant onslaught of water. As in the typical western, the hero (Stewart) wins and the villain dies.
The fight scene is one that dates the film. The special effects seem very archaic in wake of such recent films as Titanic and The Perfect Storm. Other than that, the film presents an interesting story on what, at the time, was a very taboo subject.
Aware of the controversy the film would stir-up, the film was carefully crafted to prove that two industries could exist side by side. As the fishermen resolve to destroy the well, Stewart discovers that his well has uncovered a new bed a shrimp. When the fishermen learn this they decide that the well is indeed an asset to their community and all live happily ever after.
As usual Stewart steals the film. His acting is subtle and believable. The simple story did not push him as an actor, but he is properly harried, tough and laconic. Overall this is an interesting film, enhanced by the beautiful location shots filmed in Technicolor by William Daniels. Truly, an intriguing and different take on the western genre.
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