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
The suit that Spencer Tracy wears throughout the film was bought by him off the rack, at his insistence. See more »
Clouds appear and disappear from shot to shot. For example, during the discussion scene on the railroad tracks about 27 minutes into the film, the clouds above the mountains at the tracks' vanishing point appear in wide shots and disappear in tight shots. See more »
Doc T.R. Velie Jr.:
I was just wondering what all you people are worrying about... not that I have the slightest idea. I hold no truck with silence. I've got nothing to hide. It's just that you worry about the stranger only if you look at him from a certain aspect - from my perspective, I look upon him with the innocence of a fresh-laid egg.
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To receive an 'A' (PG) certificate in 1955 the UK cinema version was subject to heavy BBFC cuts. These included Macreedy striking Hector with the brass fire hose nozzle and the climactic shots of Reno on fire. Later TV showings and video releases were fully uncut. See more »
John Sturges directed this quintessentially tight-constructed masterpiece. This is how it was done in the good old days: nothing falls by the wayside. Tight, clear characterizations, with minimalist dialog, costume, manner, and facial expression all reflecting the inner lives of people in their self-constructed hell. Check out how Hector (Lee Marvin) uses the word "boy" to suggest racial overtones well in advance of the slowly-revealed background plot; how Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) in his dark suit and no-nonsense manner contrasts with everyone else's casual dress and edginess, perfectly reflecting his role as avenging angel; how Coley (Ernest Borgnine), trying to run Macreedy off the road, resembles (probably unintentionally) Joe McCarthy, especially as caricatured by Walt Kelly; and of course how the arch-villain, Reno Smith (Robert Ryan), suggests limitless power with his inimitable smirk and almost languid movements: he controls the town without actually doing anything overt--until Macreedy forces his hand. Nicely turned performances by other major players, too: Dean Jagger (the drunkard Sheriff Tim), Anne Frances (nervous Liz), and Walter Brennan (loquacious, self-justifying Doc). The suggestion that one man can--literally single-handedly--make a moral difference is inspiring (and how that one hand utterly confounds Coley is a nifty, low-key precursor of Bruce Lee-inspired acrobatics). This is a keeper.
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