The modern-day western Bad Day at Black Rock (1954) is now itself a half century old & seems like an historical of the "old" west. Spencer Tracy as WWII vet John Macreedy gets off a train that wouldn't ordinarily even stop in the desert town. His is intent to bring a fallen soldier's Congressional medal of honor to his father, a Japanese American farmer.
The town is guiltily clamp-mouthed about what happened to the farmer, & Macreedy sets out to resolve a crime of racist passions in an environment completely cut off from civilization.
Robert Ryan is the vicious bullying Reno Smith, the one with the most to lose if the truth becomes known. Dean Jagger is the weak sheriff who wishes he could do the right thing, but can only drown himself in a bottle.
Anne Francis is Liz the gas station attendant & mechanic in quite an interesting role reflective of women's work during the war. Walter Brennan is the doctor who deplores his own town. Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine were a film or two away from becoming big stars in their own right, but as Reno's henchmen are already scene-stealing character actors.
But the heart of the film is Tracy who despite constant threat & intimidation refuses to be intimidated. Though he was not really young enough to be playing a vet in a film with an action-ending, he was a big star at the time, & a great actor; & this was an important film in its day.
Bad Day at Black Rock has aged somewhat but is still effective with a social awareness lending allegorical depth to what would otherwise be only a western mystery with desert action-climax.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl