Steve Martin (James Stewart - The Naked Spur) and his partner Johnny Gambi (Dan Duryea) head for Port Felicity in Louisiana with a dream to build a platform for offshore drilling. Despite having no money of their own they secure backing from a big oil company and set about business as well as becoming romantically involved with the daughters of a shrimper. But it is the shrimping community which make up Port Felicity which causes them issues as they are opposed to the development and treat the friends with scepticism. And that is not the only issue as the weather, sabotage and various other things threaten their plans.
Actor James Stewart and director Anthony Mann made a few movies together with their westerns being the most memorable but they explored other ideas as well and "Thunder Bay" is one of those other movies. Here we have the classic tale of tradition versus development as we have two men looking to develop an oil drilling platform battling opposition from the locals who are against the development, set in their comfortable ways. It is a theme which has been covered several times over the years and offers up plenty of possibilities for depth.
Now "Thunder Bay" has some depth as it does highlight the conflict between two types of people who don't understand each other. Martin represents a go getter who can't understand why anyone would want to stay as they are whilst the locals lead by Teche Bossier and Stella Rigaud can't see what development would actually mean to them and their community. And this has a touch of class issues thrown in as well as we have Martin's city man being disparaging towards the locals and their make shift way of life.
But whilst we have some depth "Thunder Bay" is more about entertainment with some typical elements with a hurricane, sabotage as well as romance all contributing to the drama. As I said it is all very typical but nicely handled to provide plenty of entertainment from the troubles and conflicts with just the right mix of action with a touch of humour to keep it bouncing along.
Of course the movie's big selling point is that it is a James Stewart movie and you get a sense that he enjoyed playing this part of a developer with a go getting attitude. He brings a lot of life to the character which isn't one which has a lot of depth but more of an entertaining attitude. But Stewart is not the only star name who delivers a good performance with Joanne Dru, Gilbert Roland and Dan Duryea amongst many others who deliver entertaining performances in what are little more than stereotypical characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Thunder Bay" isn't anything that different or original but it is an entertaining movie from James Stewart and Anthony Mann.