Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

 


 

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A one handed stranger comes to a tiny town possessing a terrible past they want to keep secret, by violent means if necessary. Full summary »

Genre: Drama,Thriller,Western

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
   
Release Date: 7 January 1955 (USA)
Country: USA
Director: John Sturges
Cast:
  • Spencer Tracy
  • Robert Ryan
  • Anne Francis
  • Dean Jagger
  • Walter Brennan
  • John Ericson
  • Ernest Borgnine
  • Lee Marvin
  • Russell Collins
  • Walter Sande


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weevil brained and butt sprung;

33 Responses to Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

  1. nightpike11
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    Does anyone know who the doubles were for the famous judo fight between Spencer Tracy and Ernest Borgnine? It’s obviously not all the actors themselves.

  2. MycroftHolmes
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    This was released the year I was born and I couldn’t even guess how many times I’ve seen it.


    What we have here is failure to communicate!

  3. jescci
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    No close-ups. Barely any medium shots – most were more like medium-long. Guess that was done for a reason. Create and maintain a "distance" among the characters?

  4. paule-rooney
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    ……how about Hector and Coolie : two tough guys, the right age, I wonder why they hadn’t enlisted after pearl harbor ? ( I’m guessing that maybe Pete would have been too young ?? )

    :-)

  5. joseph-reeves2
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    *******************This post may contain spoilers****************************

    I’ve watched this movie many times since I first saw it as a little kid, and I still think it’s one of the best drama/action films ever made. However, I’ve always wondered about what Macreedy was really planning to do once he gave the medal to the Komoko’s father. Macreedy says he’s going to some island, where his arm won’t be a problem, to disappear. My father and I always thought that was 1950s movie code for him saying he was planning on killing himself because he thought he was useless now. In fact, when he realizes that Smith and his men are going to kill him, Macreedy makes a comment that it’s surprising how strong a man will cling to the earth when he knows someone is trying to remove him from it. I always interpreted that as meaning Macreedy thought he wanted to die until Smith’s tactics showed him that he still had the survival instinct and the ability to change things for the better.

    Of course, my interpretation doesn’t change anything from the film’s impact. I always got the impression that Macreedy was fulfilling one last duty to the father of one his soldiers before committing suicide, but the movies of the 1950s probably wouldn’t have stated that so explicitly.

    In my house it’s still one of those movies that I will stop my channel surfing when I come across it and watch the whole thing.

    Does anybody feel that the same way I do about Macreedy’s final goal?

  6. miso5000
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    This has to be the most didactic film ever. Theatrical, play-like scenes and simplistic, one-dimensional characters. In this movie you are Good or you are Bad. Red-neck white man is Bad. (Dead) Japanese = Good. Smalltown people are narrow, stupid, criminal and uncaring until big-city guy shows some of them how to think. Suspense? What suspense? I am sure most viewers had it figured out 20 minutes in. Good acting? What is the point of good acting if all we are getting is a giant sermon?

  7. Ipsissimus
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    "Weevil-brained"? "Butt-sprung"? Has anyone heard of those slang terms?

    "Baby, I don’t care."

  8. dirtymac-1
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    When he got outta bathroom and finds Hector David on his bed?

    I shot the sheriff and the goddamn deputy

  9. jtcbrt
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    It has long been my belief that the cast of this film own the most "Oscars", both current and future, in performance categories, than any other.

    Brennan = 3, Tracy = 2, Jagger, Borgnine, Marvin = 1 each, for a total of 8.

    Is there another film that can claim as many or more? And if so, is there a single scene in that film in which they all appear?

    Can anyone think of what that film might be? Please chime in.

    – – – – – – – VCR alert – – – TCM, Thursday, Nov.9 – – – – – – –

    "What do ya hear? What do ya say?" – Rocky Sullivan

  10. lesoran
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    Apparently this film has been released in the Criterion collection with a special commentary by the director, but this version seems to be nowhere to be found. In fact, the only result that came up when I Googled it was some auction in the UK where the DVD was going for almost $100. Does anyone know a place where the Criterion version can be found? I’m dying to hear the commentary. Thanks.

  11. odo5435
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    It bemuses me that BDaBR is classified as a Western. I include BDaBR with Giant, Hud, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (and there are others) as films that all have elements of the Western genre but are not true Westerns in my mind.

    BDaBR is set in the late 1940’s with a man in a business suit who travels by a sleek, high-powered, diesel-fueled, intercontinental train then by a jeep he hires at a petrol/gas station. Furthermore, the plot revolves around McReedy trying to deliver a WWII medal to a victim of the Japanese/American "relocation camp" debacle. There isn’t a six gun, or a horse, or an Indian in sight.

    In all fairness, the location is NM or AZ or thereabouts and the title sounds like a horse opera (probably a marketing ploy by MGM). However, as another poster has pointed out, this film’s story could just as easily have placed it in the Film Noir category. The movie should just be classified as a Drama in my book.

    BDaBR might have a Western feel or look because of its location, title and certain plot elements, but it is hardly a true Western in the accepted sense of the term.

    That wasn’t very sporting, using real bullets.

  12. Bladerunner•
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    At the time this film was released, hatred for the Japanese was still pretty high. Bataan was still quite fresh in the American mindset.

    Too many people forget how people felt after Pearl Harbor, that placement in the internment camps was as much for the safety of the Japanese people as it was for the people of the United States. It was a dark day in the history of the U.S.

    This film was remarkable because it tapped into a unspoken anger, a hatred that wasn’t talked about that was holding our nation back (the U.S.) This film went a long way in healing that hatred, an open wound that needed treatment. At that time in our history most decent people still equated following the law with decency. This film appealed to our sense of justice and that belief that good people obeyed the law, even if they might disagree with it. It was a masterful idea and a truly classic film.

    "…nothing is left of me, each time I see her…" – Catullus

  13. Session_9
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    Bold statement? Hardly. This film is so endlessly irresistible and captivating. It’s a modest film in essence, but for whatever reason it feels like a fireworks display that never ends. No doubt thanks to the incredible tight and assured script, more than superlative acting, masterful direction, and most all the riveting, intimidating atmosphere! I can’t have enough of this picture, it grows and grows and when you think it can grow no further, it rises above all other films you’ve ever seen.

    I would like to claim this is the best film ever made, but I wouldn’t have the courage, however I dare say it’s my FAVORITE.

    To claim that title it would have to compete with some other marvelous films (IMO) such as: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, Touch of evil, Le conseguenze dell’ amore, Chinatown, Lawrence of Arabia, The hustler, The thing, Apocalypse now, Blade runner, The hitcher ( ;-) ), Once upon a time in america, Good, the bad, and the ugly, The passenger, Arsenic and old lace, Stalker, Paths of glory, Out of the past, Du rififi chez les hommes, A face in the crowd, Mean streets, Salaire de la peur, Le vieux fusil ( go see it!)…

    You get the idea, film’s history is just too big and broad to make such a daring claim. And taste is just too different.

    And not to forget, probably a whole bunch of films you see on TCM where you go ‘oh yeah, how could I forget that one!’ haha.

    Anyway, I just felt the need to post this. I don’t want ‘bad day at black rock’ to be forgotten in time. It would be a shame, don’t you think? ;-)

    Lips of Salome and the eyes of cleopatra.

  14. Anonymous
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  15. Anonymous
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  16. Davina-8
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    It is stated on the DVD case "Just the Way It Happened!" but the credits say that is based on a story. So, is any of this based on something that actually happened?

  17. ironmanone
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    Was Liz trying to help Macreedy escape or did she bring him to Adobe Flat on Smith’s instructions? I didn’t understand the dialog very well at the final shootout.

  18. Anonymous
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  19. JSlack3
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    This marvelous film features a terrific opening with the long train heading toward Black Rock filling the huge expanse of the CinemaScope screen while Andre Previn’s high-gear score propels the film into maximum overdrive.

    Spencer Tracy arrives to find a small town hiding a terrible secret, and the picture becomes a study in mass guilt and paranoia about racial intolerance and genocide.

    Director John Sturges masterfully emphasizes the isolation of the town and its microcosmic overtones, keeping Tracy a man of mystery until the film erupts into shocking violence, during which his true identity is revealed.

    This is brilliant and provocative filmmaking with a superb cast of actors–Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan, Dean Jagger, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and as apparently the only female in Black Rock, the gifted and underrated Anne Francis.

    Like High Noon, this film is brilliant, compact and economical, featuring the simplicity of plot and structure but a complexity of themes and characterizations.

    "Well, Judy’s gone and Peggy can’t sing them all." –1970

  20. dudecouch42
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    It has the elements of both other than a token damsel in distress common to noir. McCready goes about in his black suit and hat solving a mystery like a good detective, while at the same time he’s that mysterious drifter who passes through town who is unidentifiable who associates with the weaker townspeople and takes down the big oppressing townspeople, a Western hero all in all, just not quite as scruffy as Clint Eastwood.

    A good film overall, crossing two of the staple genres of American culture, and doing so well.

  21. Anonymous
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  22. MrPie7
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    Typical actor playing with his food.He orders it. Puts his spoon in it. He seasons it. Moves the bowl. Mixes it. Does everything but EAT it. No WONDER Ernie poured the ketchup in it. My favorite line from the film is "I feel for ya, but I’m overcome with apathy." It’s a great line to use when you don’t want to be bothered.

  23. michaelwill-1
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    The hotel lobby has a slot machine. This 1955 movie is set in 1946. The Jeep has California license plates, shown in close-up.

    Now in what state would you figure this mid-century desert hamlet, with its slot machine, would be set?

  24. andy.marshall
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    OK, this film is entertaining but there are three glaring things wrong with it:

    1.) When I first saw this film I missed the opening credits and then kept asking myself: "Is that Anne Francis"? I couldn’t be sure because she was only ever shot (no pun) in left profile and so you never saw her trademark beauty spot. I guess she (or director Sturges) were sensitive about that in 1955;

    2.) If the all the action takes place within a period of about 12 hours, how come Robert Ryan is seen in 3 different (very stylish) outfits? and

    3.) How could Spence change gears on the jeep if he was using his one good arm to steer?

  25. Mr_McLaurel
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    Since 3:10 To Yuma was a fairly big hit, I bet this’ll be one of the first movies on the list of "potential western remake properties." The problem is, that old saying about "not making ’em like this anymore" really holds true with this one. This movie is so crisp and straightforward that a lot of people probably dismiss it as just an action movie. But I think the tension is remarkably consistent, and the moral "message" of the movie is delivered with a fair amount of subtlety. Plus, who doesn’t want to watch a one-armed Spencer Tracy kick Ernest Borgnine’s ass in a dirty bar? Awesome.

    What’s the spanish for drunken bum?

  26. Anonymous
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  27. Anonymous
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    This message has been deleted by the poster

  28. stanistreet-2
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    The tension in the film "Bad Day at Black Rock" is palpable from the moment the train stops. It never lets up from start to finish.

    So why embellish it with music? The musical soundtrack is deafening, but, more to the point, unnecessary.

    It also spoiled my enjoyment of an otherwise fascinating film.

    The sound of the wind out at the mine; the squealing of tyres in the short chase; the sound of footsteps – all are more than sufficient to point the scene.

    Hollywood has this perennial desire to gild the lily with music.

    Maybe they are trying to give work to deserving composers – or friends or relations? but most films can survive on the dialogue and what one sees.

    After all, very few French or Italian films seem to need all that noise.

  29. Anonymous
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  30. safetyswami
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    This has always bugged me:

    Was Clint’s intro scene in For a Few Dollars More an homage to the diner fight between Spencer Tracy and Ernest Borgnine? They seem awfully similar. I wonder if it was meant as an homage, from one great movie to another?

    Let’s go get sushi and not pay!

  31. not-always
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    I saw "Bad Day at Black Rock" aired on a local PBS affiliate over the weekend. Not having seen the film in many years, I just now realized that Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Robert Ryan would star together again as primary cast members in "The Dirty Dozen."

    "Diversity is Adversity"

  32. Eric-1226
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    Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Robert Ryan all appeared together 12 years later in the movie "The Dirty Dozen". It’s interesting to see them here in what amounts to more or less "low-life" roles, whereas in TDD, they were fairly high-ranking Army officers.

  33. zelton-1
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    The movie sure is a great one.But I just cannot help noticing one little detail. According to the confession of Peter, Smith was rejected when he tried to enlist,right after the day of Pearl Harbor. And when he went back, a bunch of them got "patriotic drunk" and killed Kamako. The whole thing should happen within one or two days of Pearl Harbor. Later Kamako’s son, Joe joined the army and died in Italy.So when Joe died,he should already knew that his father is dead. One problem is, if Joe knew his father was dead,he should have reported to the US government and then the murder is not a secret anymore. Another problem is, I guess Tracy should knew about this fact,too. So how come he was still trying to give the medal to the dead father?

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