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 train seen in the movie is made up of the Southern Pacific RR (the SP) Daylight streamlined passenger cars including the Parlor Observation car on the rear of the train. SP didn't have passenger service on this line. The train was chartered from the SP by MGM. In 1955 the Daylights were deluxe day trains operating between Los Angeles to San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento (via the Coast Route and the San Joaquin Valley). They carried chair car, parlor car (first class), dining cars and tavern/bar cars. Large dome cars were being added. The train stands out because of the unique paint scheme of red, orange and black. The diesel engine was not used on passenger trains but for freight trains. By 1955 SP was beginning to face stiff competition from the airlines. The Daylights would end service when Amtrak took over passenger service in the early 1970s. See more »
Macreedy is described several times, by different characters, as "a big man" (meaning physically). But, at a reported height of only 5' 8 1/2", Spencer Tracy (portraying Macreedy) could hardly be considered "big" by any physical measure. 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 »
"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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