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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
"Bad Day at Black Rock" is one of the more interesting "westerns" ever made. Told in the present(1955), it has all of the elements and feel of the classic western that may have taken place eighty years prior to this. From the first shot of the modern day locomotive traveling along the same path that many a stagecoach may have taken, you realize that this is a story about a way of life that has not been totally brought up to date. Where strangers are suspicious, secrets that take place in a town stay in the town.
John Sturges has done a wonderful job of bringing all of these elements together. One of the things that I found interesting was that there were very few, if any, close-ups. Most of the shots could have been master shots. For me, this made me feel as though I were a by-stander in the room with the characters while they talked. A nice touch.
As expected all of the performances are great. Tracy, Ryan, Brennan, and Jagger are all terrific. As are Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine (two actors at the time who were about to break out, and become top-line stars).
If you like classic westerns, and great acting, "Bad Day at Black Rock" will not disappoint.
8 out of 10
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