Hidden Classics Blogathon – Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

The Spring Blogathon at the Classic Movie Blog Association is here and this year, our lovely hosts decided to go with Hidden Classics – movies not everybody has seen, but everybody should! And because I’m currently writing a Western feature screenplay, I’ve been binging a few of them lately and one of my very favorites is Bad Day at Black Rock (1955, dir. John Sturges), one of those psychological thriller Westerns that never go out of style.

In it, Spencer Tracy plays John J. Macreedy, a one-armed man who arrives in a small, practically deserted town looking for a man named Komoko. Upon hearing this, the locals become hostile… They slowly but surely antagonize Macreedy in increasingly aggressive ways until the truth about what happened to Komoko comes out…

Boasting a cast including, *takes deep breath*, Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan, Robert Ryan, Dean Jagger, Anne Francis and Lee Marvin, among others, everyone plays off each other extremely well, each character more vicious than the other in what is essentially a hodgepodge of mystery, intrigue, action and tension. So much tension. Right from the beginning, as the train carrying Macreedy comes into town, we understand that something is off. As it turns out, this is the first time the train has stopped in this town in four years… This wonderful bit of foreshadowing is only the start of Macreedy’s problems in Black Rock and as we slowly uncover the truth, the film takes a turn and becomes an allegory with its sad message piercing through our hearts and minds. This, not unlike High Noon (1952, dir. Fred Zinnemann), is a Western with a conscience, and Tracy’s Oscar-nominated performance is one of cinema’s finest interpretations of the now iconic trope of the Western man standing alone and fighting for what he believes in. An often overlooked gem that gets better every time you watch it.

14 thoughts on “Hidden Classics Blogathon – Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

  1. This is a personal favorite of mine. Thanks for sharing about it. I also just finished a very rough draft of a western script. Let me know if you would ever be interested in swapping. – Tynan @ 4 Star Films

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so not the kind of film I am attracted to, but because I was on a Spencer Tracy jag a few years back, I decided to give it a try. You are 100% correct in your assessment. It is truly exciting and that cast – well, you can only feel yourself bathed in amazement. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike Noonan

    Agree Carol. Very underrated and a great performance by Tracy. I wonder if they used westerns to discuss certain issues so as not to ruffle feathers. Just like the networks wouldn’t leb Rod Serling discuss racial issues so he did it through his Twilight zone episodes. Love you’re writing a western. Best of luck with it . Hope to see it one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Le Magalhaes

    This film is SO GOOD and so it’s your review. It certainly should be up there in the list of best westerns, like High Noon and The Ox-Bow Incident.

    Liked by 2 people

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