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Friday, January 24, 2014

Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)

At the end of WWII in 1945, a one armed stranger (Spencer Tracy) gets off the train at a whistle stop of a town in the Southwest. The town is strangely hostile because it is distrustful of strangers but when they find out the stranger is looking for a Japanese farmer, their hostility turns dangerous. Not surprising considering the dirty little secret they're trying to hide. This is a wonderful movie! It has a message but the director John Sturges (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), working from a first rate script by Millard Kaufman, avoids the Stanley Kramer preaching and gives us a corker of a mystery thriller. He knows you have to entertain us first otherwise its message, however well intentioned, would be wasted on us. Sturges amps up the suspense quotient, keeping us as off kilter as Tracy's character. With the exception of Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine who are saddled with the usual brainless thug roles, the cast gives us their very best. Though Tracy may be a tad too old for the part, his work here earned him the best actor award at the Cannes film festival as well as an Oscar nomination. William C. Mellor (GIANT) uses the CinemaScope frame superbly and Andre Previn provides an evocative underscore. With Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Dean Jagger and Russell Collins.

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