Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)


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This powerfully tense, fast-paced suspense drama also yields a grim social message about racial prejudice. Spencer Tracy is John J. MacReedy, a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock one hot summer day in 1945, the first time the train has stopped there in years. He looks for both a hotel room and a local Japanese farmer named Komoko, but his inquiries are greeted at first with open hostility, then with blunt threats and harassment, and finally with escalating violence. MacReedy soon realizes that he will not be allowed to leave Black Rock; town boss Reno Smith (Robert Ryan), who had Komoko killed because of his hatred of the Japanese, has also marked MacReedy for death. MacReedy must battle town thugs, a treacherous local woman (Anne Francis), and finally Smith himself to stay alive. The entire cast is flawless, especially Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin as the mean-spirited town bullies, and the relentlessly paced action never eclipses the film's sobering themes.

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Spencer Tracy
as John J. Macreedy
Robert Ryan
as Reno Smith
Anne Francis
as Liz Worth
Dean Jagger
as Tim Horn
Walter Brennan
as Doc Velie
Ernest Borgnine
as Coley Trimble
Lee Marvin
as Hector David
John Ericson
as Pete Wirth
Russell Collins
as Mr. Hastings
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Critic Reviews for Bad Day at Black Rock

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (6)

John Sturges's macho B-picture is more brawn than brains...but what brawn!

May 19, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

An action film for people who don't like action films.

Mar 27, 2009 | Full Review…

Considerable excitement is whipped up in this suspense drama, and fans who go for tight action will find it entirely satisfactory.

Sep 9, 2008 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Nicely put together by Sturges, its suspense derives largely from the excellent performances and imaginative use of the 'Scope frame by cameraman William C Mellor.

Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Superb, if it weren't, as we said, for the too-obvious liberal teachings that interrupt the terrific ation.

Feb 17, 2005 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Slowly, through a process of guarded discourse, which Director John Sturges has built up by patient, methodical pacing of his almost completely mate cast, an eerie light begins to glimmer.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Bad Day at Black Rock

Racial bigotry is at the heart of this small town drama as a stranger comes to town looking for someone who isn't there. Tracy is his usual Rock-of-Gibraltar lead as the returning vet looking for the father of a fellow serviceman, but the supporting cast make this a full meal of anxious tension. There's a fight scene, too, that'll surprise you.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


A pretty good suspense movie with Tracy, it has it's good moments, but it also has boring moments.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

Great vehicle for Spencer Tracy that plays on post WWII anti-Japanese sentiment. Terrific cast includes Tracy, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Modern western about a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock in 1945 in search of a man. Immediately he is harassed by the townsfolk. But why are they so hostile? What dark secret lies at the heart of this seemingly nondescript town? The unsurprising answer was perhaps cutting-edge for 1954, but it's rather overused today. Self important message movie is tense and well acted, however. Oscar nominated for Best Actor, Director and Screenplay.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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