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 – BROKEN LANCE (1954)

Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, and Jean Peters in Broken Lance (1954)BROKEN LANCE (USA, 1954) ****
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: 20th Century Fox; Release Date: 29 July 1954 (USA), 11 November 1954 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 March 1954 –1 May 1954; Running Time: 96m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (35 mm optical prints) | 4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints) (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Edward Dmytryk; Writer: Richard Murphy (based on a story by Philip Yordan); Executive Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited); Producer: Sol C. Siegel; Director of Photography: Joseph MacDonald; Music Composer: Leigh Harline; Film Editor: Dorothy Spencer; Art Director: Maurice Ransford, Lyle R. Wheeler; Set Decorator: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Travilla; Make-up: Ben Nye, Helen Turpin; Sound: W.D. Flick, Roger Heman Sr.
      Cast: Spencer Tracy (Matt Devereaux), Robert Wagner (Joe Devereaux), Jean Peters (Barbara), Richard Widmark (Ben Devereaux), Katy Jurado (Señora Devereaux), Hugh O’Brian (Mike Devereaux), Eduard Franz (Two Moons), Earl Holliman (Denny Devereaux), E.G. Marshall (Horace – The Governor), Carl Benton Reid (Clem Lawton), Philip Ober (Van Cleve), Robert Burton (Mac Andrews).
      Synopsis: The saga of the Devereaux rancher family, set in 1880’s Arizona.
      Comment: A well-made Western that is buoyed by a strong cast and a story that, whilst a familiar tale of familial rivalry, remains absorbing throughout. Tracy is superb as the patriarch rancher tough on his sons and those who seek to profit from his land. Jurado gives a subtle supporting performance as his Indian wife, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Wagner and Widmark slug it out with gusto. It’s all captured in vivid cinemascope by MacDonald with a sympathetic score by Harline. Notable for its plot similarities to King Lear amongst other work. It is the second of three movies written by screenwriter Yordan (who won an Oscar here for Best Story), based on the novel, “I’ll Never Go Home Again,” by Jerome Weidman. The other two were HOUSE OF STRANGERS (1949), with Edward G. Robinson, and THE BIG SHOW(1961) with Esther Williams and Cliff Robertson.