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Thursday, January 10, 2013

64 of 1001 Movies: Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)

In this crime drama film, John Sturges brings out the fear of a small town against a stranger to the max, and utilizes some heavy stereotypes to do so. Though you know all is the bad, and good guys for the most part the shortness of the movie keeps you entertained enough throughout. Bad Day At Black Rock is one of those movies that read purely for entertainment especially at the time where color in a film like this added way more to it, and you got some shots that you didn't often see in 1955.

John J. Macreedy is just coming to town to deliver the news personally of something that happened to him during World War Two that is relevant to one of the citizens of the town. When he gets there though the residents instantly grow suspicious of the new guy because they have a secret of their own that they are wanting to keep from escaping that town. With only a couple of residents in town to give him the benefit of the doubt, Macreedy finds that leaving the town may not be what they let him do as they believe he is a threat to keep the secret of their dark past.


It's a good thing this movie doesn't really expand past 81 minutes. After watching this guy make failed attempt after failed attempt to leave the town it sort of gets old, but it does lead up to a nice showdown of sorts at least. The characters are very one-dimensional too, but considering we don't have long to get to know them that sort of explains. There doesn't even really seem to be a point to the movie except one guy's fight against the bad guys with a few men in the town who don't want to be a tool for the bad ones anymore. Maybe that is a deep enough point, but still it is best just to watch, and enjoy it for what it is.

Spencer Tracy shows he can play a variety of characters, and bring a new element into them whether it's a lawyer in Adam's Rib, or a military hero in Bad Day At Black Rock. The thing is he seems to always play a guy with some sort of positive status, but he does it well. He's one of the few characters in the film who seems to have a bit more to him. There is also Robert Ryan as Reno Smith, and he is one of the more interesting bad characters in the film. You feel he could go anyway, which makes him interesting. Now Dean Jagger as Tim Horn feels very scary, but also not a lot of depth there. You just don't like him. One of the more likable characters is Doc Velie though. Watching the conflict he had of trying to help Macreedy yet not get himself in trouble was intriguing.

The town does need at least one lady though. She was seriously the only woman spotted in it, and this is eventually going to get dangerous for her. All these single guys and one lady? Anyways, her character is probably the most embarrassing. She is basically just a model. While Anne Francis did have us question her motives, sadly her character just wasn't well written. While she also wants to be a strong woman in the movie she doesn't end up coming across as one. There is one thing this movie gets you to lightly thinking about that America seems to sort of erased from talking about as part of it's history, and that is the racism after World War War II against the Japanese. This movie is one of the few watched that doesn't ignore what America did during World War II in America...including relocating them in spots that segregated Japanese people.

You have some cool scenes that include the train at the beginning of the movie, and it builds the intensity well even though you know where the movie is going. You figure out the secrets quite soon even if you don't know what it is exactly over. Also, considering the scenery included in the movie it helps that it was filmed in color as it visually a stunning movie. The acting is decent, but a little over the top, and probably too stereotypical. Don't come into the movie expecting too much, and it turns into a decent film. You will cheer for the good guys, and of course go against the bad ones.

Rating 3 of 5.




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