Film Review – BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955)

52 Before 62 – # 2 Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) | The Last Blog Name On  EarthBAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955, USA) ****½
Crime, Drama, Western
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); d. John Sturges; w. Millard Kaufman, Don McGuire (based on a story “Bad Time at Hondo” by Howard Breslin); pr. Dore Schary; assoc pr. Herman Hoffman; ph. William C. Mellor (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. André Previn; ed. Newell P. Kimlin; ad. Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons; set d. Fred M. MacLean, Edwin B. Willis; m/up. John Truwe; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (35mm optical prints) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (35mm magnetic prints)); rel. 13 January 1955 (USA), 17 March 1955 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 81m.

cast: Spencer Tracy (John J. Macreedy), Robert Ryan (Reno Smith), Anne Francis (Liz Wirth), Dean Jagger (Tim Horn), Walter Brennan (Doc Velie), John Ericson (Pete Wirth), Ernest Borgnine (Coley Trimble), Lee Marvin (Hector David), Russell Collins (Mr. Hastings), Walter Sande (Sam).

John J. MacReedy (Tracy), is 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 (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 (Francis), and finally Smith himself to stay alive. The film has an excellent script that creates an air of mystery and intimidation, which Sturges maximises through his economic shooting. Tracy is superb as the mysterious visitor and is supported by an excellent cast that includes Ryan as the influential rancher; Borgnine and Marvin as Ryan’s muscle; Francis as the only girl in town whose brother played by Ericson proves to be their weak link; and Brennan and Jagger as the town doctor and drunken sheriff ashamed of their past. The confrontation between Tracy and the townsfolk grows as the story plays out to its inevitable and ironic conclusion. Whilst the ending may seem a little hurried and convenient, taken as a whole, the film is a textbook example of building suspense through character and dialogue.

AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy); Best Director (John Sturges); Best Writing, Screenplay (Millard Kaufman).

Film Review – FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956)

British Quad - Posterwire.comFORBIDDEN PLANET (1956, USA) ****½
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Toho Company; d. Fred M. Wilcox; w. Cyril Hume (based on a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler); pr. Nicholas Nayfack; ph. George J. Folsey (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. Bebe Barron, Louis Barron; ed. Ferris Webster; pd. Irving Block, Mentor Huebner (both uncredited); ad. Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan; set d. Hugh Hunt, Edwin B. Willis; cos. Walter Plunkett, Helen Rose; m/up. John Truwe, William Tuttle, Sydney Guilaroff; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (Perspecta Sound encoding) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (4 channels)); sfx. A. Arnold Gillespie, Joshua Meador, Warren Newcombe, Irving G. Ries; vfx. Bob Abrams, Max Fabian, Joshua Meador; rel. 23 March 1956 (USA), 8 June 1956 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Morbius), Anne Francis (Altaira Morbius), Leslie Nielsen (Commander Adams), Warren Stevens (Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow), Jack Kelly (Lt. Farman), Richard Anderson (Chief Quinn), Earl Holliman (Cook), George Wallace (Bosun), Robert Dix (Crewman Grey (as Bob Dix)), Jimmy Thompson (Crewman Youngerford), James Drury (Crewman Strong), Harry Harvey Jr. (Crewman Randall), Roger McGee (Crewman Lindstrom), Peter Miller (Crewman Moran), Morgan Jones (Crewman Nichols), Richard Grant (Crewman Silvers), Robby the Robot (Robby the Robot), James Best (Crewman (uncredited)), William Boyett (Crewman (uncredited)), Frankie Darro (Robby the Robot (uncredited)), Marvin Miller (Robby the Robot (uncredited) (voice)), Les Tremayne (Narrator (uncredited) (voice)).

When Captain J.J. Adams (Neilsen) and his crew are sent to investigate the silence from a planet inhabited by scientists, he finds all but two have died. Dr. Morbius (Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Francis) have somehow survived a hideous monster which roams the planet. Unknown to Adams, Morbius has made a discovery, and has no intention of sharing it with anyone. This was a highly influential sci-fi adventure and significantly ahead of its time. Its reach can be seen most clearly in the TV series Star Trek that followed eight years later. The script is full of intelligent and challenging concepts and Pidgeon exudes both charm and menace as the stranded scientist whose obsessions turn in on themselves. Nielsen, making his film debut, plays the rescue ship captain who becomes involved with Pidgeon’s daughter Francis leading to her loyalty and trust in her father slowly evaporating. Stunning visuals for the period, notably in the exploration of the Krell city. Robby the Robot is a great creation and would become a star in his own right. The only downsides are the sometimes creaky dialogue and the dated and condescending attitude of the crew to Francis, otherwise this is a classic of the genre. It was the first mainstream film to have the music performed entirely by electronic instruments. The eerie score contributes greatly to the otherworldly environment the production team created. Those thinking that story elements have some familiarity are not without justification, with the story loosely based on “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare.