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Author Topic: Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)  (Read 8453 times)
Dust Devil
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« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2009, 11:07:22 PM »

Bad Day at Black Rock - 7-8/10 - Fairly mixed feelings about this one. Well-directed and a great cast, with some really great moments (I love Tracy kicking the crap out of Borgnine in the bar), but I have a lot of problems too. The whole story seemed rather contrived to me; anyone else feel that if Tracy had just explained his business in town things might have gone more smoothly? Are there only the ten people we see in the entire town? (Perhaps this is the sort of town that only exists in the movies.) I can sort of buy the town is guilty and wants to cover up the murder explanation but the movie doesn't execute it very well; it seems like an Idiot Plot to me. I liked it well-enough, and it's probably my favorite Sturges film to date, but not a masterpiece to me.

Do you have the same feelings for FaFDM and West? To answer the question, he probably would have been killed or attempted to be killed if he confronted the townsfolk. Tracy's character recognizes that there is something wrong with the town (which the lack of townsfolk only enhances) and he is treated terribly; it's perfectly natural for him to investigate the matter. How would this improve the movie, anyway? Are you going to criticize any film that features a lead whose motives aren't revealed until the third act?

There is nothing "dumb" about the plot, and the fact that there are only a dozen citizens is a nice departure from similar films which give  superfluous characters unnecessary screen time. BDaBR's tense atmosphere negates any potential plot problems, which,  I've never encountered any. I don't care if you don't like the movie, but I found your criticisms to be lacking.

I'm not saying the movie itself would be better. I'm merely complaining of it as a contrivance. Inasmuch as the townspeople want him dead pretty much right off the bat, it would be a moot point. What I meant was why didn't he say "I'm looking for so-and-so, to give him a medal his son had won in the war?" Nobody in the town is smart enough to show him the house, tell him what "happened" and let him be on his way? Granted they couldn't have guessed he was a tough-guy jujitsu master but on the other hand having another corpse turn up in their town isn't exactly a way to . I guess there wouldn't be a movie then.

Idiot Plot is an Ebert-coined term where the whole plot hinges on characters not saying the right thing. There wouldn't be a movie if Robert Ryan showed him the Komoko ranch, told him about his being sent to the camp, and sent him on his way. Instead they have to act like guilty assholes and immediately arouse his suspicions. That's pretty much the definition of the Idiot Plot.

I did like the movie, hence the rating. I guess I'm not allowed to level any criticism at a movie I like.

I'm not saying the movie itself would be better. I'm merely complaining of it as a contrivance. Inasmuch as the townspeople want him dead pretty much right off the bat, it would be a moot point. What I meant was why didn't he say "I'm looking for so-and-so, to give him a medal his son had won in the war?" Nobody in the town is smart enough to show him the house, tell him what "happened" and let him be on his way? Granted they couldn't have guessed he was a tough-guy jujitsu master but on the other hand having another corpse turn up in their town isn't exactly a way to . I guess there wouldn't be a movie then.

They want him out of the town, first and foremost. One of this film's many themes is guilt. To be blunt, it simply isn't that easy. If I were ever part of  a murder cover-up, I highly doubt that I would ever be collected enough to handle a mysterious man entering a desolate town. Their paranoia is a major catalyst for the plot to unfold.

Idiot Plot is an Ebert-coined term where the whole plot hinges on characters not saying the right thing. There wouldn't be a movie if Robert Ryan showed him the Komoko ranch, told him about his being sent to the camp, and sent him on his way. Instead they have to act like guilty assholes and immediately arouse his suspicions. That's pretty much the definition of the Idiot Plot.

This logic can be used for possibly thousands of movies.

Another thing to consider, if they lied to Tracy and sent him on his way, he'd dig deeper and eventually come back, and how can you criticize characters living in guilt and fear to not react to situations by striking fear into someone - seems natural to me.


I did like the movie, hence the rating. I guess I'm not allowed to level any criticism at a movie I like.

All I said that I found your criticisms to be lacking or unwarranted. I didn't mean to offend you or anything.


Nah, I'm not remotely offended.

I don't mind the plot to extent that it ruins the film, it just seems to me rather a contrived storyline. Great movies have been made on far slenderer bits of story though.

If I want to nit pick it, the final confrontation where Tracy throws the Molotov Cocktail doesn't seem right.  Gasoline doesn't burn that slow, there has got to be a secret to the real Molotov Cocktail, there is no way that a rag soaked in gas is not going go whoosh and immediately ignite the contents of the bottle, and there has to be a way to keep the flame lit while throwing the bottle.  In the film it looks like the flame and burn rate you get with diesel oil.  

BDaBR is a personal favorite but I agree that the final confronation, as a whole, could have been better executed. I find it entertaining but the movie deserved a better ending.

« Last Edit: July 23, 2009, 11:08:30 PM by Dust Devil » Logged



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« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2009, 11:08:03 PM »

Urban Dictionary info:
   
A Molotov cocktail (or petrol bomb) is a crude incendiary weapon which consists of a glass bottle semi-filled with flammable liquid, usually gasoline (petrol) or alcohol (generally methanol or ethanol), the mouth of the bottle is stoppered with a cork or other type of airtight bung (rubber, glass, or plastic), and a cloth rag fixed securely around the mouth. The weapon is used by first soaking the rag in a flammable liquid immediately prior to using it, lighting the rag and throwing the bottle at the target. The bottle shatters on impact, spilling the flammable liquid over the target which is then ignited by the burning rag.

Sometimes, if available, self-inflammatory materials (such as white phosphorus), could also be used to guarantee the bottle's explosion as it hits the target surface. Tar, palm oil or other thickening agents are often added to the composition in order to make the burning fluid stick to the target rather than run off. Finnish soldiers often used hand soap suds as their form of palm oil in their Molotov Cocktails. Modern variations of the Molotov cocktail also contain laundry detergent, liquid dish soap, or crushed up styrofoam cups. The Molotov cocktail is closely related to the same principle of Napalm bombs. Napalm is a contraction of the words naphtha (the flammable part of petrol) and palm oil. Sometimes acid is added to the mix to increase the damaging potential of the liquid, and to increase the chances for it to penetrate fire-resistant surfaces. Molotov cocktails are easy to make and are the standard weaponry of guerrilla warfare and violent rioters.

Despite the crudeness it is tricky for an amateur to make an effective Molotov cocktail. The main failure is in over-filling the bottle. A full bottle will not ignite quickly when it breaks on impact (but has a longer burning potential). For a device to explode rapidly on impact the bottle is only one half to two-thirds full of mixture. One difficulty of mention is not paying attention to carefully wiping the bottle down to remove all traces of the internal flammable liquid from the external parts of the bottle prior to lighting the rag. Another is to mistakenly use the ignition rag to stopper the bottle. Other difficulties come with the proper fixing of the stopper in the mouth of the bottle (it must be airtight to prevent fumes from escaping), the proper fixing of the rag (use metal wire to securely fasten it. Also, a short rag is better), the possibility of mishandling after the rag is ignited, and the use of inappropriate bottles, such as short-necked, wide-mouthed, too fragile or too tough.

The name "Molotov cocktail" is derived from Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, a Russian communist who was the Foreign Minister and Secretary of War of the Soviet Union during World War II. The soldiers of the Finnish Army successfully used Molotov cocktails against Red Army tanks in the two conflicts (Winter War and Continuation War) between Finland and the Soviet Union, and coined the term to mock Molotov (Soviet planes do not drop bombs but food to help starving Finnish people, he claimed in radio broadcasts).

Molotov cocktails were even mass-produced by the Finnish military, bundled with matches to light them. They had already been used in the Spanish Civil War, sometimes propelled by a sling.

These weapons saw widespread use by all sides in World War II. They were very effective against light tanks, and very bad for enemy morale. The following is a first-hand description of their effects, written during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943:

"The well-aimed bottles hit the tank. The flames spread quickly. The blast of the explosion is heard. The machine stands motionless. The crew is burned alive. The other two tanks turn around and withdraw. The Germans who took cover behind them withdraw in panic. We take leave of them with a few well-aimed shots and grenades. "
- Eyewitness Reporting for the ¯ydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization), 19 April 1943
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, members of the Israeli Kibbutz Dgania managed to stop a Syrian tank assault by using Molotov cocktails.

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« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2009, 07:15:38 AM »

I liked the ending of the movie, but I liked the similar scene in Dead Reckoning with Humphrey Bogart better.

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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2009, 01:10:09 PM »

Thanks, DD.  Afro

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« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2009, 05:23:57 AM »

Want to see it (and will), but so many movies waiting on my computer.

Still, my favourite tough guys together, and Robert Ryan can be more evil than Satan, so it must be great. And Ernest? Love it already for the actors.

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« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2017, 09:38:30 PM »

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047849/reference

Hateful subject given a master class telling.

Produced by Dore Schary out of MGM, Bad Day at Black Rock is directed by John Sturges and stars Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin.It's adapted by Don McGuire and Millard Kaufman from the story Bad Day at Hondo by Howard Breslin. It's shot on location in CinemaScope and Eastman Color at Lone Pine, Death Valley & Alabama Hills in California, with William C. Mellor on photography and André Previn scoring the music.

A classy production that combines elements of Westerns and film noir, Bad Day at Black Rock deals with racism and all the hate and bully tactics that come with such a vile subject. It tells the story of a mysterious one armed stranger, John J. Macreedy (Tracy), who arrives at a tiny isolated town in a desert of the Southwest United States in search of a Japanese-American man. From the moment he arrives he is met with hostility and mistrust. Over the course of the day Macreedy picks apart the town to uncover the secret the townsfolk had hoped had gone away.

From the opening sequence of a bright red train rushing towards us, it's evident that we are in the modern day West. It's just after World War II and the horse trails of the old West are now frequented by jeeps and cars. Yet the hallmarks of the old West exists and thrives because of the inhabitants of Black Rock. An ignorant group of people consisting of bullies, drunks and the head in the sand softy type. Yet even tho the film is set mostly in the blazing sun, in a barren one horse Western town that time forgot, the film exudes a film noir sensibility. Dark secrets from the past weigh heavy on the shoulders of the towns big players: And Tracy's High Noon like situation is moodily paced by the wily Sturges. In fact that a film with so little "gun play" action can be so tense is no mean feat, with him yet again directing an ensemble cast to great effect.

Tracy is at his best when he is as he is here, playing subdued. Here he is a thinking man's protagonist, calm and reflective in the face of constant hostility. That he is facing an impressive line up of heavies really brings home just how thoughtful a performance Tracy gives in the piece. Robert Ryan does yet another fine turn as a complicated villain whose rage is bubbling away under the surface. While Borgnine and Marvin are memorably vile as his right hand thugs. Dean Jagger as the drunken cowardly sheriff manages to pang the heart and Walter Brennan is his usual solid impacting self. Anne Francis adds the glamour but really it's a nondescript role that the film could easily have survived without.

Clocking in at just 81 minutes the film never outstays its welcome. It looks great on DVD, and for those interested in commentary tracks, this one comes with a very good one from Dana Polan. Anyone who has not seen this film should try and seek it out. It was considered controversial back on release but now can be viewed as a smart message movie about racial tolerance. Tight, taut and expertly directed and acted, Bad Day At Black Rock is an important film from the 50s that still rings bells even today. 8/10

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« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2017, 03:10:59 AM »

This film is Film Noir meets the Modern Western - Film Soleil

Film Soleil, those sun baked, filled with light, desert/tropical Noir/Neo Noirs.

"Change the darkened street to a dry, sun-beaten road. Convert the dark alley to a highway mercilessly cutting through a parched, sagebrush-filled desert. Give the woman cowboy boots and stick her in a speeding car, driven by a deranged man whose own biological drives lead him less often to sex than to fights over money. Institute these changes [to film noir] and you have film soleil." - DK Holm

In the city it's usually what you can't see that can kill you. In the desert everything you see can kill you.

I reviewed this (with screencaps) in the Off Topic - Film Noir/ Neo Noir section Wink

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« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2017, 09:10:10 PM »

Excellent film... A great modern western. I rank this a 8 out of 10...

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