Wednesday, October 03, 2007
It's funny how your memory can play tricks on you. I remembered seeing "Bad Day at Black Rock" on TV when I was a youngster, and being impressed by it. But it took a second viewing to really bring home the strength of this movie.
It starts with a great cast. Spencer Tracy leads the way with his Oscar-nominated performance as a one-armed war vet whose appearance sets the town on edge. He's tough and taciturn, but not so tough that you can't detect his character's anxiety as he realizes he's in imminent danger. Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin are perfect heavies, and Robert Ryan as the local boss is smooth, yet on edge -- fearing what secrets Tracey's character may reveal. Walter Brennan is capable as always, as a conflicted undertaker who finds the courage to resist the local toughs and speak out in the town of Black Rock's dirty little secret.
The screenwriting is taut, and the cinematography captures the isolation and loneliness of the high-desert setting in glorious Cinemascope color. It's film noir set in the sun-bleached sunshine.
And my memory playing tricks on me? Well, I thought the movie was filmed in black and white, not color. But then again, in the late 1960s, when I first saw this on TV, all we had was a black-and-white set. It goes to show how good performances are the key to a good movie. But if you've got a 16:9 TV be sure to check out this classic in all it's color widescreen goodness.