USA 1953


Thunder Bay (1953) was the first Hollywood movie to focus on the subject of offshore oil drilling. This may not sound like the most thrilling fact, but in 1953 offshore drilling was very topical indeed, with congressional hearings and controversies surrounding it. The movie is a brawny, testosterone-charged action flick, with James Stewart and Dan Duryea as oil riggers convinced there is black gold at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. They in turn convince Jay C. Flippen, a wealthy financier, who funds their risky, storm-proof oil platform. The construction of the rig, however, disrupts a local Louisiana fishing community, and tensions build to the breaking point.

This picture may be a minor credit for both Stewart and director Anthony Mann, but even a minor film from these artists is well worth watching. Stewart and Mann had just made three outstanding westerns together - two of them produced by Aaron Rosenberg, who also produced this one. Thunder Bay was described by many at the time (including Stewart) as a modern western with boats and oil standing in for horses and guns. Even Variety made the comparison in its review: "A modern plot that deals with offshore oil drilling, instead of being a costumed, western-localed story, gives this regulation outdoor actioner an interesting switch." Certainly Stewart's character of an obsessive entrepreneur is a variation on his edgy and neurotic cowboys in Bend of the River (1952) and The Naked Spur (1953). His costume may be different, but the character is fairly similar. Stewart's and Mann's next collaboration would be The Glenn Miller Story (1953), definitely not a western in any way, after which they returned to the genre they did best with The Far Country (1954).

Excerpt from TCM located HERE


Theatrical Release: May 21st, 1953

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DVD Review: Optimum - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution Optimum - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:38:30 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.88 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles None

Release Information:
Studio: Optimum

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Theatrical Trailer (2:09) 

DVD Release Date: January 26th, 2009

Keep Case
Chapters: 12



About the aspect ratio - here is a blurb from IMDb's trivia about the film: "Although filmed in the standard 1.37-1 aspect ratio, Thunder Bay was chosen by Optimum-International as its first wide screen 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 UI's first use of directional stereophonic sound."

NOTE: Thunder Bay is also available in the incredibly reasonable James Stewart: Screen Legend Collection (which includes Shenandoah / The Glenn Miller Story / Thunder Bay / You Gotta Stay Happy / Next Time, We Love) I believe it is anamorphic 1.85:1 (Thanks Jason!)


The single-layered bare-bones Optimum DVD looks surprisingly good. Colors are especially bright reminding me of Desert Fury (although not reaching the lofty hues of that transfer). It shows some minor frailty but looked just fine on my system. Audio is unremarkable but clear and consistent enough to enjoy the film (which I, surely, did). This is region 2 PAL and the good news is that I don't see excessive manipulation and the image is quite clean.

There are no extras save a trailer. Mann-Stewart fans won't want to miss out on this beauty. It's not up to their more lauded work but definitely worth seeing. I loved it! 

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Optimum - Region 2 - PAL


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