Tuesday, January 28, 2014

287. Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Running Time: 82 minutes
Directed By: John Sturges
Written By: Howard Breslin, Don McGuire, Millard Kaufman, from the story Bad Day at Hondo by Howard Breslin
Main Cast: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin
Click here to view the trailer


Yet another film from "very long wait" pile, via Netflix. I managed to track this one down OnDemand for the price of $2.99, so I decided to just order it, watch it and simply delete it from my Netflix queue, so I don't have to worry about it. This one was directed by John Sturges, director of "The Great Escape", which I just reviewed last week.

John J. Macreedy (Tracy), a one armed man, arrives, via the Southern Pacific train, in the town of Black Rock one morning, with the intention of staying just twenty-four hours. We're not sure at first what Macreedy is there for, but we do know that the townspeople, though few, don't want him there. It seems that they're trying to hide something and judging by the fact that the train hasn't stopped in Black Rock in four years, the folks aren't used to company. We soon find out that Macreedy is looking for a Japanese American named Komoko and that he plans to find him at a place called Adobe Flats. When the townspeople hear the name Komoko, they tend to clam up and act a little funny, leading the one armed man to believe that they're definitely trying to hide something. It seems that everyone in town is against Macreedy, save for the town mortician Doc (Brennan) and the town drunk, who just also happens to be the town's Sheriff. Everyone else, including Reno Smith (Ryan), Coley (Borgnine) and Hector (Marvin) are desperate to get Macreedy back on the Southern Pacific and out of town. Except that, after a while, they realize that they're going to have to kill him, before they let him leave.

My IMDB ratings list has me giving this one a '3/10' when I watched it six or so years ago. Seriously, what was wrong with me? Not only did I severely stiff "Prizzi's Honor", but now this little gem? If I was too ignorant to give these movies the credit they deserved, I should've just stayed away from them. Luckily, with help from THE BOOK, I've been able to expand my horizons and I'm really glad, because otherwise I'd still be regarding this as a terrible movie and it's certainly not. What you have with "Bad Day at Black Rock" is probably one of the finest examples of racial tolerance ever committed to celluloid. It's a movie that still holds true to this day and should be used to set an example as to how narrow minded, ignorant and prejudiced we as a people CAN be. Tracy shows us what it means to be a good human being, without the slightest bit of self righteousness. Macreedy is just a guy who wants the truth and will stop at nothing to get it, even putting his own neck on the line. When the full story comes out, it's really no surprise, as I think most of us put it all together as soon as we heard the name "Komoko" and saw the half dozen babbling, early rednecks. However, everything made total sense and while the film is slow going at first, it really picks up steam when we realize that Macreedy, a one armed man, is in serious danger.

And how bout that one arm? Back in the day when the only special effects you needed were your own coat pocket! I loved that that's the only thing that they did to show the fact that he had one arm - simple, yet genius! I'll also admit that while the film started out kind of like a Twilight Zone episode - a one armed man arriving in a desolate town, via a train that hasn't stopped there in four years - it all ended up being very normal. Sad that bullying and racism is considered normal, but I'm an American, so that's the way it is.

"Bad Day at Black Rock" is probably the only example of a western thriller that I've ever seen and THE BOOK even calls it a noir. It's something quite unique and it's well acted by everyone. Then again, how could it not be well acted - just look at that cast list. Okay, so I wasn't that impressed with Robert Ryan, but you can't win 'em all. This is the kind of simplicity I was talking about in my "Ride Lonesome" review. How in this western, nothing is over saturated with unneeded plot points. We go from point A to point B and finally to point C and then THE END and that's the way I like 'em.

RATING: 7/10  Lots of good stuff rolling down the pike in the final moments of the season. I've got twelve to go before we reach the "801 watched mark" and honestly, if they all suck, I'll still have enough to make a kick ass TOP 20 list.


January 28, 2014  2:40pm

1 comment:

  1. Well, I think you've done a good job on this one..
    Nothing really to add to...


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