Archive for May 19th, 2009

I have been obsessed with movies since I was a kid and I watch lots of films so it came as a surprise to me when I realised I had never seen Bad Day at Black Rock.  When I spotted the film was on TV (TCM I think) the same day that Ernest Borgnine was interviewed on my local radio station I had to watch it. 

black1Based on the short story Bad Day at Hondo by Howard Breslin the film is basically a western set in 1945.  It starts with some stunning shots of a train cutting through a desert landscape before stopping in the town of Black Rock.  We find that it is the first time the train has stopped at this town in four years.  Only one person gets of the train, one armed war veteran John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy).  You can tell immediately something is wrong with this town whose people are suspicious of strangers.  It gets worse when Macreedy mentions the name Komoko a local Japanese-American farmer who the locals claim not to have seen since he was sent to an internment camp at the start of the war.  

black3As the film unfolds Macreedy proves unflappable and you can just tell something is brewing under the surface.  Komoko’s fate is gradually revealed as the town’s people plot their next move but will some of them make a moral stand?  The film works as a moral fable the crux being what happens when people don’t stand up for what’s right but it is also about redemption.  The town and its people need to find redemption and Macreedy has to find something to live for following the loss of the use of his arm during the war.  There is also a strong message about intolerance that still rings true.  On a more basic level it is a taut and enjoyable thriller with a fantastic cast including Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis (probably best known for Forbidden Planet), Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin.  At approximately 80 minutes it is a relatively short film but well worth a look, it’s themes are still relevant more than fifty years on and are still used in modern films.  As a final note of trivia, according to IMDB it is one of the most frequently shown films in the screening room of The White House.

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