Sunday, February 05, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

This seems to be John Sturges weekend here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings!

I previously reviewed the director's classic THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), and today I enjoyed revisiting his BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955), now available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.

The cast of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK is as storied in its own way as that of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. The movie stars five Oscar winners: Spencer Tracy, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Dean Jagger, and Lee Marvin, plus an Oscar nominee, Robert Ryan; it's hard to believe Ryan never won an Oscar in his long career!

The film also stars Anne Francis and her future HONEY WEST TV costar, John Ericson.

It's 1945, and the townspeople of Black Rock are stunned when the train actually stops in their town. It had been four years since the last time the train stopped! A one-armed veteran named John Macreedy (Tracy) gets off the train, and no one in town is happy to see him, especially when he starts asking questions about someone named Komoko.

Black Rock is a very strange little town, and the citizens clearly have something to hide. It's up to Macreedy to discover what it is.

It had been over half a decade since I first saw this film, and it was a pleasure returning to it. It's a good, absorbing mystery with an outstanding cast.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the film again given my increasing familiarity with Lone Pine, California; the movie was shot on a set built outside of town. The film also utilizes the nearby Alabama Hills. There are great shots of the area, and I especially love that MGM paid Southern Pacific Railway to send a train out to the location! The train is part of a dazzling opening credits sequence.

As I noted back in 2011, the 81-minute movie could have stood a few more minutes to flesh out the characters, especially the one played by Francis. Otherwise, it's quite an entertaining movie, with a fantastic widescreen look. The great-looking CinemaScope photography was by William C. Mellor. The film also has an excellent score by Andre Previn.

It's interesting to note that early on there was buzz about Joel McCrea appearing in the film, rather than Tracy; it's quite interesting to imagine what the film would have been like with McCrea in the lead.

As I mentioned in my review of TORTILLA FLAT (1940), I'm not a particular fan of Tracy's, yet time and again I find myself watching his movies because of the excellent casts, such as the superb ensemble in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. That said, this is one of the Tracy performances I like the most, along with his work on a trio of Clark Gable films. I especially like the fact that despite a handicap, his character is both unflappable and unstoppable.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray looks terrific, with a crisp widescreen picture it's a pleasure to watch. The disc includes a pair of extras which were part of the previous DVD release, a trailer and a commentary track by Dana Polan.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great movie. Great cast. Love your description of Tracy's character - "unflappable and unstoppable."! Will we ever forget the look on Ernest Borgnine's face when Tracy fells him with one well placed blow!

12:45 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Yep! John at Greenbriar Picture Shows mentioned that the project was originally
going to be developed over at Allied Artists with McCrea and Don Siegel directing.
I agree that the Warners Blu Ray is sensational as always-I wish that they would
release more classic titles in that format.
I would love to see Stutges'THE LAW AND JAKE WADE on Blu Ray another great
widescreen MGM Western.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Over here (UK), for many years a tough day at work or looking harassed would bring out the question "Bad day at Black Rock??". This stunning film was that well-known by the population.
I am guessing the saying was just as common over there (the US).

2:30 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, so true about Borgnine! That was a great moment. Delighted you enjoyed my description!

John, Don Siegel would have been an interesting choice! THE LAW AND JAKE WADE is one I need to revisit. I was only so-so about it the first time I saw it but I adore the leads and feel I should give it another shot. Would love to do it via a beautiful Blu-ray.

Jerry, that's a great saying! Love it. I'll have to remember that for the future LOL.

Best wishes,

4:33 PM  

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