From the time John J. Macreedy steps off the train in Black Rock, he feels a chill from the local residents. The town is only a speck on the map and few if any strangers ever come to the place. Macreedy himself is tight-lipped about the purpose of his trip and he finds that the hotel refuses him a room, the local garage refuses to rent him a car and the sheriff is a useless drunkard. It's apparent that the locals have something to hide but when he finally tells them that he is there to speak to a Japanese-American farmer named Kamoko, he touches a nerve so sensitive that he will spend the next 24 hours fighting for his life. Written by
Legendary actor Spencer Tracy leads notable cast in unmissable film
"Bad Day at Black Rock" is only a short film by present day standards (at just 81 minutes) but in that time it manages to pack in more intrigue, mystery and action than many Hollywood films of two hours or more. Expertly directed by John Sturges in breathtaking colour and CinemaScope the film holds your attention throughout its tight running time. "Bad Day at Black Rock" has an exceptionally talented supporting cast including Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Anne Francis, John Ericson, Dean Jagger and Walter Brennan who all give accomplished performances - particularly the baddies Ryan, Borgnine and Marvin.
Spencer Tracy was deservedly nominated for the Best Actor Award but unfortunately for him 1955 was a very exceptional year with so many fine performances from other actors including Ernest Borgnine in "Marty" (the winner), James Cagney in "Love Me Or Leave Me", James Dean in "East of Eden", and Frank Sinatra in "The Man With the Golden Arm". Tracy had in fact won the Best Actor Award twice before - for "Captains Courageous" in 1937 and for "Boys Town" in 1938 so his memorable screen acting had already been recognised by the Academy voters two years running.
Tracy plays the mysterious John J. MacReedy who arrives at the small Western town of Black Rock causing suspicion and concern among the local residents who are hiding a dark secret which MacReedy eventually uncovers. Robert Ryan (Reno Smith) is the chief heavy well supported by his two menacing henchmen Ernest Borgnine (Coley Trimble) and Lee Marvin (Hector David) who are intent on getting rid of Tracy one way or another. Insults and intimidation seem to have no effect on Tracy who is determined to carry on with his one man investigation against all the odds. With the eventual help of Anne Francis (Liz Wirth) and Walter Brennan (Doc Velie) Tracy doggedly pursues his mission through the 24 hours period of the film. When threats and violence won't stop Tracy then Ryan has to resort to attempted murder leading to the dramatic climax.
Some favourite lines:
Tracy (to Marvin): "I don't know why you're so interested but the name is MacReedy. It's all in the ledger".
Borgnine (to Tracy): "Well, if it's not MacReedy, the world's champion road hog".
Walter Brennan (to Tracy): "They're going to kill you with no hard feelings". Tracy: "And you're going to sit there and let 'em do it!".
Train Conductor: "What's all the excitement? What happened?". Tracy: "A shooting". Train Conductor: "Thought it was something. First time this train line has stopped here in four years". Tracy: "Second time!". (Last line in film).
"Bad Day at Black Rock" is a superior high class thriller that deserves to be in anyone's "Top Ten" list of all time classic films. It's certainly in mine! 10/10. Clive Roberts.
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