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Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Cast: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, more...
Director: John Sturges
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre: Classics
Running Time: 81 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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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 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. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Bad Day, Pretty Good Movie by talltale November 25, 2005 - 8:48 PM PST
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
An interesting icon of the 1950s, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK was important in it day and remains so now, though perhaps for different reasons. Directed by John Sturges and filmed in Cinemascope and Eastmancolor (the reds tend to fade), it works pretty well as a one-man-against-a-town, B-level movie, giving Spencer Tracy a chance to shine in his taciturn manner (which he does).

The supporting cast is full of good name actors, from Ernest Borgnine to Lee Marvin, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger and Walter Brennan. Only Robert Ryan fails to ignite, due not to any weakness on his part; the script gives him a one note character and little screen time, unlike his roles in films such as Sam Fuller's "House of Bamboo" or Fritz Lang's "Clash by Night."

The going may seem a tad slow for nearly an hour (Andre Previn's musical score is, as usual with films of the 50s, too often over the top), but it's all building up to one humdinger of a scene in the town café. This few minutes is superb moviemaking, which even the film's climax fails to match, let alone outdo. One of the themes here--racism as the result of war--speaks to our country as strongly today as it did in 1955: The need to stand up to injustice never goes out of date.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.12)
42 Votes
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