John J. Macreedy doesnt know it, but when he steps off the train at the jerkwater town of Black Rock, he will soon find himself the object of fear, hatred, and even a murder plot! The altruistic Macreedy came to Black Rock to hand over a posthumous military award to a local man whose son had died gallantly in the Second World War. What Macreedy couldnt know when he stepped off of that train was that the town had a shameful secret, one that must be kept at all costs.
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If you like big-cast westerns with lots of shooting, this movie is notfor you. What a relief there is neither a bustling saloon nor anintrusive score ! Black Rock is just a whistle-stop where the trainflies through. When it DOES stop and "John Mcreedy" (Spencer Tracy)gets off the train in a black suit, all of the dozen-or-so residents -except the sheriff (Dean Jagger) - know right away there is going to betrouble in their dried-up little town. No one seems to have a job,except to kowtow to "Reno Smith" (Robert Ryan), who owns the wholeshebang. Although Black Rock is in the middle of nowhere, it has it'ssecrets which become big-time problems when........"Mcreedy" checks-in at the hotel (surprise !) and asks about adeceased, Japanese resident, who has disappeared. The only resident whomoves more than a couple of inches at a time is bully-boy "ColeyTrimble" (Ernest Borgnine).....main tough-guy and enforcer for dictatorSmith. Lanky "Hector David" (Lee Marvin) sits-around looking sinister;telegrapher "Mr. Hasings" (Russell Collins) delivers all messagescoming-in and going-out to "Smith"; the sheriff sleeps-off a constantdrunk in his own jail; "Pete Wirth" (John Ericson, hotel clerk, Ithink, and operates the town's single telephone-switchboard); "LizWirth" (Anne Francis) who runs the "filling-station" for "Smith" (herbrother) DOES keep busy. Doc-coroner "Velie" (Walter Brennan) is theonly resident who is civil to "Mcreedy" and eventually is his savior.Don't get the idea nothing happens with all of the above: one-armed"Mcreedy" is a war-veteran who licks toughy "Coley" and is determinedto discover what became of the Japanese resident. When he does, severalof the toughies are incapacitated ("Smith" is dead", and the trainmakes another stop to pick-up "Mcreedy".Director John Sturges packs intrigue in this short movie with intensityand great acting by all. Too bad all the other commentaries tell thefull tale - "Bad Day" is a good watch for the entire family, with amuch-needed message of tolerance and bravery for small-town folk. I'dlike to own it......
Believe it or not, I had never seen BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK beforediscovering it this past Saturday on Reel 13. I had seen several otherJohn Sturges films and even suggested in the blog for THE MAGNIFICENTSEVEN (1/26/08) that he was primarily an action director, but seemed tostruggle when it came to character development (this is a label thatfollowed Spielberg around for many years as well, until he made thelikes of SCHINDLER'S LIST and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN). BAD DAY AT BLACKROCK, however, can be called nothing short of a masterpiece. It isnearly perfect on every level Â from cinematography to direction toperformance to editing to story. I absolutely loved experiencing thisfilm.Sturges and co. don't waste any time Â there is a sense of urgencyright away, driven by Andre Previn's score that follows a speedingtrain toward a completely desolate area in the middle of Arizona. Oneof the first comments uttered in the film is Spencer Tracy telling thetrain conductor that he will only be in Black Rock for 24 hours. Fromthat point on, the clock is ticking and the tension doesn't let up forthe entire 100 minutes that the film rolls. I can't remember a filmthat was so consistently interesting GONE BABY GONE came pretty close.The question then becomes what is different about BLACK ROCK incomparison to Sturges' other work that makes it so compelling. Well,for starters, he is working with great source material. The script,written by Millard Kaufman as based on a story by Howard Breslin, isair-tight. Its mystery isn't overly complex. The magic is all in how itis unraveled Â suspensefully without ever seeming contrived or forced.Secondly, Spencer Tracy Â not known for doing action movies or westernsÂ is outstanding as the stoic John Macreedy. His able and proved screenpresence is powerful enough to give Sturges the kind of anchor he needsto rest his narrative upon. The story doesn't provide much back storyfor his character, but it isn't necessary because Tracy manages to makeyou feel the character's history, all without the use of his left arm(the character had a war injury).As far as Sturges himself goes, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK is the mostbeautiful of his films. Each frame is carefully composed and lit Â somany stills within the film could be paintings hanging in the Met. Theproduction design is detailed and is in complete concert with both thestory and the lighting scheme. Additionally, Sturges wisely avoids toomany close-ups, not that I wholly advocate letting all the action playout in masters, but the atmosphere of the town and the characters'surroundings play such a pivotal role in creating the sense ofdesolation, desperation and tension. Close-ups would have interruptedand interfered with those goals.In short, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK is one of the smartest, most completefilms I've seen in a long time. It is one of two real "discoveries"I've made (RAGE IN PLACID LAKE is the other) during this Reel 13process and stands as an example of what this series should be puttingforth and representing.(For more information on this or any other Reel 13 film, check outtheir website at www.reel13.org)
Spencer Tracy heads a great cast in this much-admired drama that takes placein the west. It's a rare treat to see Tracy and Robert Ryan in the samefilm, with scenes together. Two truly top-notch veterans, with exemplarycareer acting achievements.The tight script, solid directing (by John Sturges), a powerful score (byAndre Previn) and outstanding Cinemascope photography combine to elevate"Bad Day at Black Rock" to a place among the great films.One really cannot fully apprecitate this film on a regular size pan-and-scanscreen, and even the letterboxed version doesn't adequately convey theimpact of its original Cinemascope moviehouse presentation. One only cantry today to imagine the original. Yet, a fine film can overcome format,and "Bad Day" still packs a whopper punch.
Fine, well crafted script from Don McGuire, weaves interesting story ofonearmed stranger in tiny midwest USA town. Spencer Tracy leads a fineensemblecast, with some catchy performances, particularly from Lee Marvin andErnestBorgnine. It eventually boils down to a morality play, of survival forTracy's character versus the silence of people with blood on their hands.That message of morality, still speaks as relevant today, as it did in1955.A good film, and well recommended.
A nattily dressed one-armed man arrives in a small southwestern town and brings to light a dark, dirty secret the townspeople thought they had buried years ago. The man is John Macreedy (Spencer Tracy), and what he's doing in Black Rock is slowly - very slowly - revealed. That presents a challenge for someone trying to write about the movie for someone who hasn't seen it. If ever a movie should be watched with an empty bucket of information it's BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. Suffice it to say that many of the townspeople are less than thrilled to see the man-in-black stranger, and his soon-to-be chief nemesis, Reno Smith (Robert Ryan) makes it his business to see that the town's dirty past stays buried, by whatever means possible. There's a lot more character interaction than straight out action in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. If Ryan's Reno represents an absolute evil, he's abetted by the corrupt (Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin, in particular), the apathetic (town doc Walter Brennan), and the used-up (town sheriff Dean Jagger.) Things change, though, and the ground upon which personal relationships are based tends to shift. Those who could abide the town's evil secret find their position less tenable the longer Macreedy sticks around, and BAD DAY takes great delight in chronicling the changes. As usual, Ryan is just right as the thoughtful bad guy. It's hard to find a movie Ryan was ever miscast in. The Macreedy role plays to Tracy's strength - in particular his ability to project moral righteousness without sermonizing. Besides a trailer, the dvd carries a commentary track by film historian Dana Polan. I jotted down three of his comments, more or less at random: "This movie asks the question `what is the western in the modern age?'" "The movie shows that towns are tight knit communities that contain secrets," and "This movie is about fallen characters who are learning how to find redemption." Polan's approach isn't among my favorites for a commentary track. Tying themes and motifs in a particular movie to major trends in films in general is a legitimate way to go about things, but it gets a little wearying after a while. Overall, though, a strong recommendation for this one.
One of the best suspense films ever, tension builds from very first scene. The inimitable Spence is backed by sterling support from Walter Brennan, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Dean Jagger, and a young Lee Marvin. Don't miss that fight in the diner.
In his last film in 1966 Spencer Tracy tried to tackle (with KatherineHepburn and Sidney Poitier) the problems of African-American acceptancein the United States in the issue of mixed marriage. Whatever theviewers feeling of the resulting film GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER thatis the theme. It was not the first time Tracy dealt with issues ofbigotry in his films. In KEEPERS OF THE FLAME he and Hepburn revealed afascist conspiracy in the U.S. led by a "Lindbergh" type figure. InSTATE OF THE UNION, as Tracy approaches sweeping the RepublicanPresidential nomination he is sickened by dealing with an unsavory typeof "patriotic" woman who has a list of suspect minorities. His Mayor,Frank Skeffington in THE LAST HURRAH, has a broad view of his politicalmachine, including in it a Jew (Ricardo Cortez), and he has a reallylow opinion of one political enemy (John Carridine) who is a knownmember of the K.K.K. (even Carridine's erstwhile ally Basil Rathbonethrows that into Carridine's face at one point).But of all these films of Tracy's only one really deals with the uglybottom line of bigotry prior to GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER - and in amore realistic view of the issue. It is BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. In thisfilm it is not African-Americans, or Jews, or European minorities whoare the target but Japanese - Americans.As I said when reviewing GO FOR BROKE, this film is the naturalfollow-up movie. GO FOR BROKE showed how the Nisei - Americansvolunteered for service (despite the cruelty of the deportation campsof the Japanese on the west coast) and fought well for the country thattreated their families so badly. GO FOR BROKE, except for a small bitat the end showing Truman honoring the 442nd Regiment, reallyconcentrates on the training and fighting of the Nisei troops. Some ofthe dialog mentions the unfair treatment these men are aware are beingdished out in the states to their families, but we never see the camps.One can say BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK is the day after events to PresidentTruman honoring those soldiers. One John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy)gets off the super-liner going west at the dead end town of Black Rock.Nobody has left the train there for five years. The telegraph operator(Russell Collins) notices Macreedy and tips off two local goons (ErnestBorgnine and Lee Marvin). Soon word reaches the real boss of the town,Reno Smith (Robert Ryan). He goes to the local hotel to feel out thisstranger and find out what caused him to come to Black Rock.We see very few other people in this town. There is the owner of thehotel and cafÃ©, Pete Wirth (John Ericson) and his sister Liz (AnneFrancis). There is the local doctor (Walter Brennan) and the so-calledlaw of the town, the sheriff (an ineffectual Dean Jagger). Macreedy is not a gabby man, but he willingly explains that he is thereto drop off some possession connected to a local resident, Nokomo Smith- a Nisei farmer. It is a brief visit, and once it is done he'll be onhis way. But Reno Smith and his cohorts (especially bully boys Borgnineand Marvin) are more and more aware that Macreedy is a real threat tothem. For they share a guilty secret - one hinted at in a scene in GOFOR BROKE, where a character reads what happened to his brother whenthey tried to get some work picking crops (they were beaten up). Thishappened more frequently than we like to admit.Macreedy eventually discovers that after Pearl Harbor Smith got drunkand led the others to Komoko's farm, killed Komoko and burned the farmbuildings down. For five years Smith and his two pug-ugly haveterrorized most of the town (Brennan and Jagger in particular) intosilence - and have willing accomplices in Francis (who thinks Smith issexually attracted to her), Erickson (a weak reed, as he is not sure ifhe should look the other way about the crime), and Collins (who seemswilling to violate Federal law to keep Smith aware of developments).The system was perfect - until Macready showed up.So we watch while a battle of wills between Macreedy and Smith occurs.It seems Macreedy served in the military with Kokomo's son in World WarII. He wants to give the old man the medal of honor that the sonearned. But now he finds he is facing a murderous bunch of bigots whowill kill anyone who stumbles on their secret. Since Macreedy onlyshows one hand when he walks around Smith and his two thugs feel theycan easily take him. But (in a memorable) sequence he mangles Borgninewith some judo and some karate that Macreedy has learned - possiblyfrom his dead army friend. Still, even with a wounded Borgnine, thedanger is not finished. And the film heads for a final showdown betweenMacreedy and Smith.Stark and bleak in it's photography of a Western backwater, BAD DAY ATBLACK ROCK is a pessimistic film from the start. But the performancesof the eight leads is flawless (Marvin demonstrating his own ability tobe violent by ripping the transmission out of a car that Tracy wasgoing to borrow). Heading for a savage conclusion, the film shows thatacts of violence just breed future acts of violence, and a day ofreckoning may very well come out of it all. But in the end Macreedydoes his duty to his war buddy, and gives the lie that bigots likeSmith always can get away with their crimes in this polyglot land ofours.
This review is from: Bad Day at Black Rock (DVD) They just don't make them like this anymore. The re-conditioning of the movie make the desert seem more realistic, and the characters more real. I recommend this movie, and thought it was Spencer Tracy's best role. ( and he said it was his favorite also)
Spencer Tracy is the one-armed man who gets off a train one day in Black Rock, a flea-bitten desert town, to deliver a medal of heroism to the Japanese father of the man who saved his life during the war, and died doing it. From the minute he gets off the train everyone in the town - Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Robert Ryan in particular - treats him with suspicion and abhorrence. Obviously they're afraid he will uncover their crime: killing the Japanese man Tracy is looking for just after Pearl Harbor and then covering it up. Eventually Tracy does uncover it. Tracy is excellent as the subdued John MacReedy caught in a web of hate and fear. The film has the tautness of HIGH NOON - and many other similarities as well: the concise time frame (one day), the doomed man standing alone against adversity, even the western desert setting. The script sizzles, and it's a mighty diatribe against racial prejudice and ignorance. The photography, in color, of the American desert is absolutely stunning. A classic, and definitely worth a watch.
It's a hybrid between the Western and the paranoid film noir thriller.It's a hybrid between the social problem film and the sensationalisticexploitation film. It's also a hybrid between bare-bones action cinemaand existential psychological drama. Each scene reaches a kind ofsynergy between two distinctly different genres at any given time. Atthe same time it's a sponge of earlier influences, it signals thegroundwork for The Way of the Gun, Philip Baker Hall's Sydney characterin Hard Eight and other similar contemporary works.A stranger emerges from a high-speed steam train at an incongruouslyantiquated California desert settlement. The local characters look athim with distrust and behave toward him with forbidding antagonism.They're not comfortable with strangers in this desolate, dilapidatedhamlet: The streamliner hasn't stopped here in four years. Mainly arethey suspicious of this visitor when they learn that he's interested ina particular Japanese farmer who they tell him left town some time ago.They wonder if he's a detective, seeing how he pokes around. And he, inturn, wonders mysteriously why everyone is so unreceptive of him. Bitby bit, through a progression of circumspect dialogue, which directorJohn Sturges swells by serene, disciplined rhythm of his almostentirely mate cast, a sinister truth starts to surface. And the threatof these brash, petty oppressors is sneaky and bitter. And the fightthat Tracy puts up is vividly terse.Yet another reversal of another common American cultural theme is thecorruption of the city and the innocence of the bucolic countryside.Here, it's the rural Western landscape that's corrupt, and it's theurban figure who is the force of enlightenment. He steps off themechanism of modernity into this wilderness bringing knowledge, a wisedisposition, might and virtue to this decayed, junkyard land. It's asif the West has died, and the only thing that can save it is thesophisticated acumen of the city figure.Entirely as attention-grabbing as the drama, which is neverthelessredolent of being manufactured, are the sorts of macho beasts flauntedin this movie. Tracy is strapping and to the point as a war vet with abum arm. Ryan is raw-boned and cruel as the edgy linchpin of the town,and Walter Brennan is cryptic and scathing as the local undertaker witha helpful trace of backbone. Ernest Borgnine's vivid little performanceas a barrel-shaped bully, Dean Jagger as a rum-gulping sheriff, LeeMarvin as a dim but, as always, formidable intimidator, John Ericson asan uneasy young hotel clerk and Russell Collins as a station agent areall plausible and enjoyable, as well. The sole female in the movie isAnne Francis. She's more eye-catching than fortuitous in this milieu.Primarily, the graphic, humid sensation of a cottonmouth-and-splintersdesert town, exposed under the sun and a craggy backdrop.Every word and motion is precise and sparing, cinematographer WilliamC. Mellor employs CinemaScope and color with sharp attention. Thecompositions look matter-of-fact, whittled down, but their charm is inan overstated straightforwardness. In some measure owing to this, whenthe brutality explodes, it's actually surprising. The comparable kindof scenario that triumphed indelibly in the superb High Noon is evidentin Bad Day at Black Rock. And a similar affection for personal courageand social responsibily is entrenched in this Metro CinemaScope film,maybe even more directly.
Tracy portrays a one-armed man who arrived in a small town onlyto discover it is hiding things. Led by Robert Ryan he is stonewalled in discovering the truth but eventually does. Thisfilm also features Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine in supportingroles. This is a perfect film to watch Tracy. He appears to bedoing nothing but is absolutely wonderful. Anne Francis is verygood also. This is one of Tracy's finest efforts and the dvdrelease is most welcome.
This movie isn't quite on a par with Inherit the Wind -- one of the finest movies ever made -- but it does have the legendary Spencer Tracy giving another outstanding performance. This time Tracy plays a one-armed war veteran trying to deliver a military award to someone in a town which is hiding a guilty secret. The relentless persistence of Tracy's character in attempting to carry out his mission incurs such opposition that he is persistently threatened and nearly killed. No Spencer Tracy fan -- or fan of outstanding movies -- should miss this superb thriller.
does his best and the mood and theme of this men dominated movie are terrific. I just had trouble believing an obviously overweight one armed Tracy was much of a physical threat. But if you buy into that the movie would be very good.
This is an absolutely first class production in every way. It has a cast which includes Spencer Tracy,Robert Ryan, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, and Lee Marvin.The story takes place in the early post WW2 American southwest in a whistlestop settlement served by the Southern Pacific.Mr. McCready played by Tracy, steps off the train in a quest to find a Japanese -American named Kumoko.No one wants to speak of Kumoko and the mystery and suspense gradually build to a violent confrontationwith the local thugs who have been guarding the town's grim secret. One of my very favorites!
an interesting take on small-town paranoia, as an entire community is subsumed by the attempt to cover up an old murder in the mistaken belief that they are about to be found out. spencer tracy plays the unwitting investigator, with robert ryan his principal antagonist and dean jagger, walter brennan, lee marvin, and ernest borgnine among a cast of familiar faces either proactively or tacitly hiding the truth. sad to say, director john sturges (whose work on films like "great escape" or "gunfight at the ok corral" i admire) was not up to the themes involved here, and what could have been a great political thriller instead is merely a good adventure pic -- but hey, thats not bad either ...
Do you believe that to qualify as a film noir, a movie has to be a B production, filled with B actors, filmed in black and white and set mostly at night? But here's the exception to all those rules, MGM's 1955 production of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine, in widescreen color, taking place mostly during one very long day.One bright morning in 1945 just after the end of World War II, a mysterious stranger (Tracy) makes the train execute a flag stop (itself an unusual event) at a very strange little desert hamlet, which seems to consist entirely of a depot, hotel, bar, cafe, grocery store, jail, combination physician and undertaker's office, and garage (even a church is conspicuously missing). The townspeople (all male at this point) eye him suspiciously; the hotel clerk almost refuses to rent him a room in the empty hostelry. Working toward the edge of town, and much needing help, Tracy encounters the only female in the cast (Ann Francis of FORBIDDEN PLANET) who only grudgingly (and temporarily) rents him a Jeep, in which he is nearly killed by a heavyset lackey (Ernest Borgnine) who tries to run him off the road. The atmosphere of lurking danger and conspiracy only intensifies under the clear desert sky, but Tracy refuses to back down on his mission -- which itself is a little murky at the beginning. The imperturbable Tracy deals with threats both physical and verbal by responding both physically and verbally. He will not be cowed.Not to spoil the plot, but it develops that BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK is not only a noir, but also a neo-Western and a message movie, produced by MGM's studio head and message maven, Dore Schary. While there is only a slight amount of "action" in this film (if by "action" we mean violence), the lingering threat of violence and gathering psychological tension keep the viewer more than engaged. The first-rate cast is abetted by first-rate supporting players, including Walter Brennan and Dean Jagger. This is a wonderful movie to own or rent and the viewers may well find they want to see it multiple times. I personally had a mixed reaction to the Commentary track by a USC film historian. He does quite well with thematic concerns, and talks a little about cinematographic issues (particularly how well, in his opinion, the wide CinemaScope screen is suited to the placement of characters inside the hotel lobby [another term for this is "mise en scene"]). However, I wish I had heard something about the film's production values, especially whether the exterior set consisted of a real hamlet, a ghost town, or was something rigged up by the studio. Overall, though, a good package and a well-above-average film.Comparison imdb ratings:THE DESPERATE HOURS 7.6KISS ME DEADLY 7.7BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK 7.8
Directed by the late great John Sturges, Bad Day at Black Rock is a tense action, drama and Western blend. Beautiful cinematography showcases the sweeping desert vistas in California and veteran actor Spencer Tracy demonstrates his top-notch acting talents. A multifaceted tale of revenge, redemption and stirring courage, Bad Day at Black Rock was a good day for cinema.John Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) arrives by train to the small town of Black Rock, and is immediately met with antipathy. Mysterious, yet straightforward, he is in search of an old acquaintance, a Japanese man named Komoko who lived nearby in Adobe Flat. The town of Black Rock holds a dark secret, however, and leader Reno Smith (Robert Ryan) will stop at nothing to prevent Macreedy from discovering the whereabouts of Komoko and what happened years ago to force the town into hostility and silence toward all outsiders.Perhaps the most unique aspect of the film is its cinematography. Director John Sturges uses plenty of wide shots that allow the audience to see the grand mountainscapes and the bright blue sky in the background. An expert eye for scenery and framing, the camera is also almost completely devoid of close-ups. We see from the hat to the boot on every character, in nearly every scene, and we definitely feel voyeuristic and as much of an outsider to Black Rock as Tracy must feel receiving the cold shoulder from the townsfolk. These widescreen views make the town even more isolated from the world around it.The film follows a very Western feel, with a rugged cowboy look complete with dust, sand and deserts. But it is oddly modernized with the use of cars instead of horses, set right after World War II. In a particularly exciting scene, Macreedy is chased through a forlorn and dusty road by the henchman Coley (Ernest Borgnine). Intense and explosive, this is not your standard car chase; it feels like an Old West chase on horseback with mechanical beasts substituting the standard Western animals.Macreedy is a unique character, magnificently portrayed by Spencer Tracy. Maimed in the war, he keeps one hand in his pocket at all times, giving him a harmless appearance. However, he has a confident, stern gaze, and while he gives in at times to avoid unnecessary battles, he's seemingly unafraid of anything. Though he uses his intelligence to avoid physical fighting, in an unavoidable confrontation, he is surprisingly able to coolly defend himself one-handed with skillful combat expertise. He chooses most often to use his wits over brute force, but he clearly has control over both. Almost single-handedly cleaning up the fearful town, he uses guilt and conscience to persuade the town to do the right thing, despite the stranglehold Reno Smith has over all of them.Bad Day at Black Rock has plenty of suspense, but at times almost drags out too long. Carefully but perhaps too slowly, it fills the audience in on the town's dark secret. Early on it is fairly obvious as to what has happened - so all the anticipation that is built up overshadows the actual revealing of truths. It's enough for us to witness Macreedy's survival and his brandishing justice.A noirish Western with suspense and drama, Bad Day at Black Rock is very much a classic, with careful character studies, an exemplary lead protagonist and excellent action. Nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Director, Screenplay and Actor, this is Spencer Tracy at his best.- Mike Massie
Spencer Tracy as a one armed WW II veteran up against a town with something to hide. By the way the town consists of Robert Ryan, Ann Francis, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Dean Jagger and Walter Brennan. Need I say more?
Bad Day at Black Rock is an exceptionally well-made movie that somehowhasn't received all that much attention. When watching biographies orcompilations of Spencer Tracy's work, seldom is there much mention ofthis little gem. Part of this may be Tracy's character--who is VERYunlike any other he'd previously played. Tracy is a one-armed man whocomes to a small town looking for some answers. All he finds is silenceand hostility. It seems the town is run by rich thug and no one seemswilling to break the wall of silence. This is when you see SpencerTracy act very un-Spencer Tracy-ish, as he proceeds to kick butt bigtime! I sure didn't see that coming! I thought he'd just talk out theproblem like most of his previous characters. Nope--kick butt anddemand answers. If it had starred Robert Mitchum, for example, youwould have seen all this coming--and it would have been far lessinteresting.One other great things about this film is the menacing character playedby one of the best unsung actors of this era, Robert Ryan. He couldplay so many roles well and here he is in his element as a nasty manwho controls the town. Now you'd never expect Tracy to be more than amatch for the very large and tough Ryan--and the way John Sturges isable to make this ridiculous match-up seem possible is why I reallyadmire this film. Well worth seeing and exciting throughout.
Almost from the first moment, the underlying tension and prospect of violence is palpable. A stranger (Spencer Tracy) gets off the train to find the father of his world war II Japanese-American `comrade in arms'. The war has ended. The stranger's war wound becomes significant. The sneering reactions from the male townsfolk suggest hostility towards the Japanese because of the attack on Pearl Harbour. The central protagonist in the town (a suitably sinister Robert Ryan) does his best to thwart the stranger's search for his friend's father. Violence does erupt. It is understated; pure in execution and result. The film moves to a suitable climax. As with `A History of Violence', less is more! Modern film makers might heed the lesson!Ian Hunter. Author of `e-Love' and `e-Dreams'.