Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bad Day at Black Rock

John Sturges, 1955 (8.8*)
In one of the more bizarre crime films ever, Spencer Tracy plays a one-armed stranger who arrives one day in the near ghost town of Bad Rock, somewhere in the desert southwest. He is not the only Oscar® winner in this incredible cast - others in the town include Oscar winners Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan, and Lee Marvin, and also features Robert Ryan (in one of his best performances), Russell Collins, Anne Francis, and Dean Jagger. Ryan, Borgnine, and Marvin all shine here as despicable bad guys; Tracy, in his dark suit and white shirt, is an open contrast to everyone else's languid casualness and bored apathy.

Tracy is mysterious about his visit, and the locals are all tight-lipped, unfriendly, and act very suspicious, especially when he names the man he is looking for, who is apparently long absent. As the story develops, the narrative evolves from mystery to thriller to crime. This is a short, fact, sparse film, without much dialogue or wasted footage. (Perhaps the real mystery of this film is why anyone would choose to live here in the first place)

This was one of the first films to openly deal with racism towards Asian-Americans, and as such it demands a place in the history of american cinema. It forces the viewer to witness those who take a moral stand vs. those who don't, much like a classic western. As such, it really is an updating of westerns, placing people in the same setting but a century later. The desert setting, and the resulting heat, work as metaphors for the type of ethical vacuum these characters live in.

The entire movie was shot in the Alabama Hills section of the Sierra foothills, near Lone Pine, California in the Owens Valley, east of the Sierras, with a view of Mt. Whitney in the background - it's a famous destination for campers and backpackers (I've been there many times myself - the sun setting on the Inyo Mountains, then rising on the eastern face of the Sierras makes the trip there a lifetime experience).

Nominated for three Oscars®, actor (Tracy, who won best actor at Cannes), director, and screenplay (Millard Kaufman), nominated for a BAFTA for best film, a director's guild award for Sturges. This film has only 7k ratings at IMDB, which is dreadfully low for a classic American movie. Ernest Borgnine won the Oscar® that year (55) for his performance in best picture winner Marty. Awards page at IMDB


About Me

My photo
Artist, photographer, composer, author, blogger, metaphysician, herbalist

About This Blog

This is our new template: ProBlogger.

These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

Author at EZines

  © Blogger templates ProBlogger Template by 2008

Back to TOP