Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock

4.5 4
Director: John Sturges

Cast: John Sturges, Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis

     
 

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This powerfully tense, fast-paced suspense drama also yields a grim social message about racial prejudice. Spencer Tracy is John J. MacReedy, a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock one hot summer day in 1945, the first time the train has stopped there in years. He looks for both a hotel room and a local Japanese farmer named Komoko, but his

Overview

This powerfully tense, fast-paced suspense drama also yields a grim social message about racial prejudice. Spencer Tracy is John J. MacReedy, a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock one hot summer day in 1945, the first time the train has stopped there in years. He looks for both a hotel room and a local Japanese farmer named Komoko, but his inquiries are greeted at first with open hostility, then with blunt threats and harassment, and finally with escalating violence. MacReedy soon realizes that he will not be allowed to leave Black Rock; town boss Reno Smith (Robert Ryan), who had Komoko killed because of his hatred of the Japanese, has also marked MacReedy for death. MacReedy must battle town thugs, a treacherous local woman (Anne Francis), and finally Smith himself to stay alive. The entire cast is flawless, especially Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin as the mean-spirited town bullies, and the relentlessly paced action never eclipses the film's sobering themes.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
One of the truly outstanding motion pictures of the 1950s, this taut, suspenseful drama is both a plea for tolerance and a warning against citizen complacency. Heading an excellent cast, Spencer Tracy plays a World War II veteran who arrives in the small, dusty desert town of Black Rock, looking for a local farmer of Japanese ancestry. The farmer’s son died in a battle that left Tracy’s character with one arm, and he intends to deliver the medal that was posthumously awarded to his fellow soldier. But the crippled veteran is met with suspicion and hostility by virtually the entire population of Black Rock, which, it soon becomes apparent, is keeping a terrible secret. Director John Sturges paces the movie superbly, building suspense steadily without resorting to cheap melodramatic hokum and creating an oppressive atmosphere of menace. Tracy underplays his role for maximum effectiveness, and the supporting players -- including Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Anne Francis, and Dean Jagger -- are not only perfectly cast but also shrewdly delineated by screenwriter Millard Kaufman. Looking for more authenticity than he’d have gotten on the studio back lot, Sturges persuaded producer Dore Schary to build the entire town of Black Rock in the Sierra desert region near the tiny hamlet of Lone Pine, a mecca for filmmakers since the silent-movie days. Black Rock -- an inhospitable collection of ramshackle buildings that supply hiding places for furtive schemers and apathetic townspeople -- practically becomes one of the characters. Bad Day at Black Rock is an undeniably effective “message” movie, but it also makes the grade as first-rate cinematic entertainment and richly deserves the “classic” designation bestowed upon it many years ago.
All Movie Guide
Director John Sturges received his only Academy Award nomination for his work on 1955's Bad Day at Black Rock. Sturges is best-known for his action-suspense movies (Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape); in his hands, the story of Bad Day at Black Rock -- a good-guy stranger comes to town and ends up the object of town hatred -- slowly comes to a boil. The film is similar in its ever-increasing intensity to many westerns, most notably Fred Zinnemann's High Noon. Archetypal good-guy Spencer Tracy is his usual honorable self, though without any of the characteristic whimsy; he was nominated for his fifth Oscar for the role, and was named best actor by the Cannes Film Festival and the New York Film Critics. Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin also deliver distinguished performances as Tracy's antagonistic enemies. Screenwriter Millard Kaufman was nominated for his second Academy Award, the first of which was for his previous effort, Take the High Ground.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/06/1996
UPC:
0027616584830
Original Release:
1955
Rating:
NR
Source:
Mgm (Warner)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Spencer Tracy John J. Macreedy
Robert Ryan Reno Smith
Anne Francis Liz Wirth
Dean Jagger Tim Horn
Walter Brennan Doc Velie
Ernest Borgnine Coley Trimble
John Ericson Pete Wirth
Lee Marvin Hector David
Russell Collins Mr. Hastings
Walter Sande Sam

Technical Credits
John Sturges Director
Malcolm Brown Art Director
Joel Freeman Asst. Director
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Howard Hoffman Producer
Millard Kaufman Screenwriter
Newell P. Kimlin Editor
Fred MacLean Set Decoration/Design
Don McGuire Screenwriter
William C. Mellor Cinematographer
André Previn Score Composer
Dore Schary Producer
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design

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Bad Day at Black Rock 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
LongTimeWalker More than 1 year ago
Great modern good guy/bad guy drama, set in a small town full of compromised individuals, and the good guy is a compromised person, too. The Spencer Tracy character, a wounded WW2 vet, learns  to deal with his psychic war damage, getting straight with himself by standing up to deadly menace at home, having returned from menace abroad. The direction and acting are superb. The opening and closing sequences are classic bookends for a modern morality play.
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