MOVIE REVIEW| Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A compelling story, great acting, high drama, thrilling tension and a big payoff.”

Bad 1

“They’re gonna kill you with no hard feelings.”

The top three highest grossing movies of last year were Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory and Zootopia.  Many film purists might find it disheartening that only one of the three was based on a totally new property, but I’m troubled by a different trend of modern movie making.  While Finding Dory clocks in at an economical 97 minutes, Captain America and Zootopia will respectively take up 147 and 108 minutes of your life.  Of the rest of the movies that round out the top 10, only one is under 100 minutes.  And that one is The Secret Life of Pets, so I’m sure even its scant 87 minutes feel like a lot longer.

What I’m getting at is, most moves over 90 minutes don’t need to be.  Hardly any movie needs to break the two hour barrier.  But bigger budgets and bigger spectacles mean we are increasingly subjected to bigger ass aches as we are trapped in cinema seats for ever increasing amounts of time per movie.  But I have proof that you don’t always need a lot of time to fit in a lot of awesome.  You can have a compelling story, great acting, high drama, thrilling tension and a big payoff.  And you can have it all in 81 minutes, including credits, with Bad Day at Back Rock.

Returned WWII veteran John Macreedy (Spencer Tracey) gets off a train in the one street, possibly no horse, town of Black Rock.  The train hasn’t had a reason to stop there in a long time, and it’s almost immediately clear that the town prefers things that way.  From local thugs played by Ernest Borgnine and Lee Mervin, to the squirrelly hotel desk clerk played by John Ericson, to local big shot Reno Smith (Robert Ryan), no one in Black Rock is happy about Mcreedy’s arrival.

They only become more unhappy when Mcreedy begins asking after a local Japanese farmer, Komoko, who he learns was apparently sent to an internment camp during the war.  After hiring a jeep from seemingly the only woman in town (Anne Francis as Liz), Mcreedy pays a visit to Komoko’s farm where only find more questions.

Bad 2

Bad Day at Black Rock is maybe two minutes in, and the town, its resident and the general feeling of unease is already totally established.  Bad Day at Black Rock is maybe 10 minutes in, and the clear lines are already drawn between Mcreedy and his antagonists. Within half an hour, the mystery of Komoko is totally engrossing and the table is set of a climactic showdown soon after.  There’s no extraneous exposition to hand feed the audience or force stakes onto the story by overly explaining who these characters are.  We don’t need any of them to say anything to define who they are, their actions take care of that in no time.

And as if that wasn’t enough, you get to see Spencer Tracey the tough guy.  Based on the few movies of his I’ve seen, I love Spencer Tracey.  But he’s always had a bit of a man of reason, man of words, man of contemplation vibe about him.  In Bad Day at Black Rock, he arrives with ass kickin’ on his mind, and it is asses that he will kick.

Bad Day at Black Rock
Directed By – John Sturges
Written By – Millard Kaufman

4 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW| Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

  1. I’m not sure what I’m more excited about. The fact that you have just reviewed a Sturges film or the fact that B&D is back reviewing fullstop. Great to have quality content back on the www.

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