Monday, October 29, 2007

Essential Cinema - 10

Bad Day At Black Rock

Spencer Tracy
Robert Ryan
Anne Francis
Dean Jagger
Walter Brennan
John Ericson
Ernest Borgnine
Lee Marvin

John Sturges

Don McGuire
Millard Kaufman

William C. Mellor

A disabled WWII veteran goes looking for the father of the soldier that saved his life in combat. In a remote Arizona town he finds the father and a dark secret the townspeople share.

Morality in post WWII America. It shows that in the end, compassion triumphs over hatred. We fought the war overseas for principles that we had yet to apply at home. This is the updated American western. The one that the films like "Stagecoach", "The Searchers" and "High Noon" inevitably led us to. In a remote town, cut off from society, you can get away with almost anything, until someone comes looking for the truth.

The highlights of this film are the cast and the scenery. This is a troupe of seasoned actors that know their craft and can deliver their dialog with ease. The remote Arizona location is breath-taking. You can tell this film wasn't shot on a sound stage. The best part of the film may be the opening credits which show the Southern Pacific Streamliner racing across the open desert. It throws you back to a time when the west was truly remote and when there were still places that you couldn't get to by air travel.

While the film is competent and entertaining, I would not classify it as a great picture. The plot is simple and direct. The uncovering of the mystery happens slowly and methodically. You can't see the ending coming but you somehow know that McCready (Spencer Tracy) will come out of it OK in the end. A competent film that illustrates the craft of making a good cinema experience. Probably the last great western that Hollywood made.


This completes the first 10 film reviews in the Essential Cinema saga. For those of you that missed the first 9 installments, here are the links to them:

9 - L'Avventura
8 - The Ice Harvest
7 - Diary of a French Priest
6 - Ice Station Zebra
5 - The Satan Bug
4 - Out Of The Past
3 - Underwater!
2 - The Night of the Generals
1 - Fail-Safe

In case no one noticed, the title to each blog links to the International Movie Database (IMDB) listing for the film in question. The database contains extensive information on the film as well as numerous reviews (the Essential Cinema Review is included).

There are many more films that I will be reviewing over the next several years. Stay tuned for more interesting takes on theater in the coming months.

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