Thunder Rock (1943)

Article 1806 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2006
Posting Date: 7-23-2006
Directed by Roy Boulting
Featuring Michael Redgrave, Barbara Mullen, James Mason

In the years before World War II, a British journalist spends time in Europe observing the rise of Hitler and fascism. He attempts to spread the warning of the upcoming war to his fellow countrymen, but is greeted by apathy and indifference. Disillusioned, he retreats from life by taking a job as a lighthouse keeper on an isolated island in the Great Lakes in the United States, and keeps himself company by mentally recreating the captain and several immigrant passengers on a ship that went down near the spot several decades ago. But these images he’s conjured up soon begin to take on a life of their own…

In some ways, this movie is fairly obvious; it’s sort of a variation on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, with a different lesson to be learned and a different modus operandi to teach the lesson. You should be able to figure out the basic direction of the plot once the lighthouse keeper’s backstory is shown, especially if you keep in mind that the movie was made in 1943 while Britain was still very deeply in war. However, the stories about the real struggles of the immigrants are engaging and powerful, especially as we see that the reasons that they came to America had little to do with the hopeful promise of new opportunities that the lighthouse keeper had attributed to their motives. It’s a long movie, and it takes a little while to get going, but it’s worth the watch.

I also find it interesting to ponder on the nature of the fantastic content. Do the immigrants and the captain remain mental creations, or have they truly taken on a life of their own? Their personalities may well have changed as a sign of the lighthouse keeper’s own reflections on the wisdom of his decisions, or they may have come to life in their own way. At any rate, their presence gives the movie an enticing way to deliver its message. I do know that there is enough ambiguity on this point to account for the fact that this movie is omitted from many guides of fantastic cinema.

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