Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) (Blu-ray Review)

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: John Sturges
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis
Rated: UR/Region A/2:55/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from Warner Archive Collection

Folks in Black Rock have their own way of welcoming mysterious, one-armed stranger John J. Macreedy. He’s welcome to leave. Or they’ll make sure he leaves in a pine box. Two-time Academy Award winner* Spencer Tracy (a 1955 Best Actor Oscar nominee for this film) plays World War II veteran Macreedy, who keeps his own counsel about why he’s come to Black Rock and who keeps his wits about him when confronted with threats and violence. Director John Sturges (The Great Escape) ramps up the tension while revealing Macreedy’s mission and the town’s grim secret. Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin are among the town’s thugs and lap dogs. “I’m half horse, half alligator,” one says. They’ll find Macreedy is even tougher stuff.

I hate to sound like a broken record and use the same example I’ve already used with a review this week, but in some ways, the movie here has a vibe to it that makes it feel like something you’d see on the Twilight Zone. Bad Day at Black Rock is what I’d call a very suspenseful thriller. It comes with a very nice cast and packs well-acted performances. Spencer Tracy is a standout in the role of John J. MacReedy. He’s in Black Rock to take a medal to the father of one of his wartime friends. That apparently doesn’t sit well with a number of the local residents like a few named Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. They all come across as very effective bad guys. Things get pushed to a certain point and then they get pushed even more in this one and it makes for a fun watch and has some tense moments. The cast also packs such names as Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson and Russell Collins. For my money, I don’t think you can find a bad performance in the bunch.

Warner brings this film to Blu-ray with a great transfer that I feel look just great. The film might be just a little bit dated but I think the overall quality shines through. It might be a movie that not everyone who sees it will love, but I found it to be a fun watch and I like how the tension and vibe of the film seem to build up until the finale. I think it has a very good final act and that is what really seals the deal and sells it to me. You might get a bit more character development than outright action but the characters blend well and make for some very cool interaction on the screen. We’re not on a Quentin Tarantino level but you might find a few quotable things to come out of this one. All in all, I had heard of this movie and I was excited to check it out from Warner Brothers. If you like just overall solid films then you’ll be happy to pick this one up and give it a watch.


– Audio Commentary by Film Historian Dana Polan
– Theatrical Trailer

Quality of Transfer: 95%