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Bad day at Black Rock


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In 1945, John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy), a one-armed man, steps off the Southern Pacific train at the minuscule desert hamlet of Black Rock while on his way to Los Angeles. It is the first time the train has stopped at Black Rock in four years; the little town has very few inhabitants and appears to be dying.
Macreedy is looking for a man named Komoko, but the residents are hostile. At town's dusty hotel, the young desk clerk, Pete Wirth (John Ericson), says all the rooms are full. The newcomer is none-too-subtly threatened by local tough Hector David (Lee Marvin). But Reno Smith (Robert Ryan), the town's leading citizen, tells Pete to give Macreedy a room. Smith also tells Macreedy that Komoko no longer lives in Black Rock; as a Japanese-American, he was sent off to a internment camp for World War II.
Certain something is wrong, Macreedy sees the town sheriff, Tim Horn (Dean Jagger), but the sheriff is an alcoholic, and clearly afraid of Smith. The town physician and undertaker, Doc Velie (Walter Brennan), tells Macreedy he would be better off getting out of town immediately. Macreedy speaks with Smith again, who lets slip that Komoko is dead. Smith suggests that Liz Wirth (Anne Francis), Pete's sister, may rent him a Jeep. Macreedy finds Liz to be the only civil person in town.


Spencer Tracy as John J. Macreedy.
Macreedy drives to nearby Adobe Flats, where Komoko lived. He finds the homestead burned to the ground. He drops a rock into the well, which has plenty of water, and finds a patch of wildflowers growing in the dust. Smith's flunky Coley Trimble (Ernest Borgnine) spies on Macreedy from an outcrop. When Macreedy starts back, Trimble attempts to run him off the road, but Macreedy is able to avoid crashing.
When, Macreedy returns the Jeep to Liz, Smith drives up and the two men talk. Smith learns that Macreedy lost his arm fighting in Italy. Macreedy tells him he found a grave at the Komoko place, which is why the wildflowers were growing there. He believes that Komoko is dead, and his body is in the unmarked grave, a statement which scares Smith. Macreedy discovers that Smith is a racist who tried to enlist the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor but was rejected. Smith virulently hates all Japanese.
Macreedy tries to telephone for the state police, but Pete refuses to put the call through, claiming all the lines are busy. Doc Velie admits that something terrible happened in the town four years ago, but Smith has everyone too terrified to speak up. Velie offers to drive Macreedy out of town in his hearse, but Hector walks up and rips the distributor cap and spark plug wires from the engine.
Macreedy heads for the train station, where he gives the nervous stationmaster a telegram to send to the state police. Then he lunches at the town cafe. Smith and Trimble walk in. Trimble picks a fight with Macreedy, but the one-armed man uses several Karate moves to knock Trimble out without being hit in return. Macreedy warns Smith that he knows Smith killed Komoko, but, he continues, Smith's mistake was being too cowardly to do it alone. He had to bring Hector, Pete and Coley Trimble into it. In time, Macreedy continues, one of the men will crack, and then Smith will be taken down.
Macreedy checks out and decides to spend the night sitting in the hotel lobby, hoping that Smith and his men won't attack him in such a public place. Smith and his henchmen are already there. The stationmaster brings in a telegram and attempts to give it to Smith, but Macreedy snatches it away. It is his own unsent telegram. Doc Velie accuses the stationmaster of having committed a federal crime for interfering with the wire service. He demands that Sheriff Horn do something. Horn, finding some backbone, tried to confront Smith, but Smith takes his badge and gives it to Hector. Hector tears up the telegram.
After Smith and Hector leave, Macreedy and Velie attempt to get Horn to enforce the law, but he refuses to become involved. Macreedy works on Pete, calling him a coward, and tells him that he's likely to be the first person killed when Smith starts to get rid of the eyewitnesses. Finally, Pete tells Macreedy what happened in 1941. Komoko leased some farmland from Smith, who knew that there was no water at Adobe Flats, but Komoko dug a well and found water, which only enraged Smith. Smith was unable to break the lease. After Smith was turned down for enlistment, he and the other men spent the day drinking, then decided to scare Komoko. When the old man heard them coming, he barricaded himself inside his home. The men set the place on fire. When the man fled, his clothes on fire, Smith shot him, much to Pete's surprise. The four then buried Komoko and intimidated the other townspeople into keeping silent.
Macreedy reveals that Komoko had a son who died trying to save Macreedy's life in combat. Macreedy was bringing the son's medal to his father. When Doc Velie presses Macreedy on why he was so stubborn about investigating Komoko's disappearance, Macreedy admits that he had given up on life. The loss of his arm had left him wallowing in self-pity and despair, and he was on his way to a boat to the South Pacific or South America — 'some place to get lost.' But the murder of Komoko enraged Macreedy, and he has a purpose in life again.
Pete calls his sister and tells her to bring the Jeep over. Pete then lures Hector into the hotel office, where Doc Velie knocks him unconscious with the metal nozzle of a fire hose. Liz drives Macreedy out of town.
But Macreedy has been betrayed: Liz stops the Jeep in a canyon. A car's headlights blind Macreedy. Up in the rocks, Smith begins firing at Macreedy, who hides behind the Jeep. Liz rushes to Smith's side, though Macreedy warns her to run away. Smith tells Liz that she has to die, along with the rest of Smith's accomplices. She turns and flees, but Smith shoots her in the back.
Macreedy finds a bottle by the side of the road. He scrambles under the Jeep, opens its fuel line and props the bottle under the opening, creating a Molotov cocktail. When Smith climbs down to get a better shot, Macreedy throws his bomb, splashing Smith with burning fuel. Smith drops his rifle and rolls on the ground to put out the flames.
As dawn breaks, Macreedy drives up to the town jail with the injured Smith and Liz's body. Doc Velie and Tim Horn rush out of the jail, shotgun at the ready. While Macreedy was gone, they mustered enough courage to jail Hector David and Coley Trimble. The state police are called in and Macreedy leaves on the train after Doc Velie asks him for the son's medal for the town.
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Hits: 2924
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Uploaded: Apr 29, 2008 - 10:38:48 PM
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2008 - 10:38:48 PM Last Played: Jun 15, 2019 - 04:43:48 PM
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Comments
Relic67 said 4096 days ago (April 29th, 2008)
Nice...
... Morricone-esque work.
I really like that guitar sound. I like the wind sounds too.
Great as is, but it would be neat to hear a version with less sound effects to highlight the music (I'd keep the wind though).
Thanks for posting!
Alec.
Check out my latest song called Dead Archive
Char said 2997 days ago (May 4th, 2011)
Wow.
That's pretty riveting. And, thanks for the story synopsis. I never heard of that movie. Thanks.
Check out my latest song called Bound, v2. w Music by Dirigent
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