BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, 1955
The story of a mysterious stranger who arrives at a tiny isolated town in a desert of the southwest United States in search of a man rumored to be killed.
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Spencer Tracy stars in a ďwho done itĒ thriller mystery taken place in deserted town where the locals are suspicious of any new visitors, especially since they harbor a dark secret. When he arrives in town, it doesnít take long for Macreedy (Tracy) to know when heís not welcomed, but what he canít figure out, is why? Itís a small quiet town with not much development or infrastructure and everyone seems to want him gone, despite Macreedy being the only person to show up to town in years.
He arrives via train, which hasnít stopped in the town in four years, looking for a man named Komoko. The name however brings about hostility as everyone keeps mum about his whereabouts. The situation becomes more intense when the leading citizen, Smith (Ryan) whose presence causes tension among the inhabitants of the town keeps a close watch on Macreedy. Everyone, including the sheriff, is afraid of Smith and it becomes clear that he was involved in the current disappearance of Komoko.
The suspense and tension is palpable throughout the film. Director John Sturges does an excellent job conveying a looming uneasy feeling Tracy develops the longer he stays in town. At the same time, thereís a growing concern among the townspeople about the secret they do not want revealed and Sturges allows this to add to the tension.
Also worth noting is that Macreedy has no use of his right arm. The idea behind it came after the producers thought it would interest Tracy to take the role since most actors, at the time, were inclined to take characters with physical impairments. His disability did play a crucial role as it helped to establish the background between him and Komoko. During the war, Komokoís son saved his life in combat at the cost of his own. Macreedy decides to give Komoko his sonís medal, but after losing his arm Maccreedy became depressed and wallowed in self pity. However after learning the murder of Komoko, Macreedy suddenly had a sense of purpose.
John Sturges credits also include O.K. Corral and The Magnificent Seven which are western films, and that genre can also be seen in A Bad Day at Black Rock. It blends the western and film noir genre together elevating the story and the style of the film. The idea that a stranger shows up in a small town is akin to Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars where the Man with No Name arrives in a small town controlled by two warring factions. Yet the film noir comes from the mystery surrounding the murder of Komoko as the look of the film subtlety changes to fit the ominous mood.
A Bad Day at Black Rock is a great underrated film that is occasionally shown on TCM and I strongly recommend those who are fans of classic films to watch it. Spencer Tracy is at the top of his game and the supporting cast is excellent as well. The film received critical acclaim at the time of its release and for obvious reasons; itís great. Keep a look out on TCM.