A one-armed man arrives at a town with a population around twenty to find that he is not welcome. In fact, it is not the man whom the town is opposed to but rather what the man is looking for. The longer he stays, the more danger he is in. As he continues his forbidden search, the out-of-towner uncovers a crime that has been kept secret by the townspeople for four years. Now he must escape the isolated community before he is killed.
This is the story which John Sturges paints on a colorful Cinemascope canvas. Its sets are detailed and realistic and its characters are equally complex and memorable. The script brings into play some wonderful dialogue as well as some intriguing moments of suspense.
Sturges, primarily a director of Westerns, made Bad Day at Black Rock well enough for today’s audiences to still find it enjoyable. Spencer Tracy heads up a good cast as the crippled stranger, appearing tough and determined but still generally friendly. The film takes its time to tell its story, nevertheless, I would not watch it again just to view the unfolding of events.
What makes Black Rock so entertaining and captivating is the sharp conversations, the deep characterization, and the masterful cinematography. The story may be nothing new to us, but few movies today make such good use of the sun’s light as this one. The way those bright beams of light reflect off the barren plains surrounding the town not only makes this drama thriller attractive, but totally immersive and worth-while.