"Four years ago, something terrible happened here."
A classic 1955 film starring Spencer Tracy
, Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine
, and Lee Marvin
From the time one-armed veteran John J. Macreedy steps off the train in Black Rock, he feels a chill from the local residents. The town is only a speck on the map and few if any strangers ever come to the place. Macreedy himself is tight-lipped about the purpose of his trip and he finds that the hotel refuses him a room, the local garage refuses to rent him a car and the sheriff is a useless drunkard. It's apparent that the locals have something to hide but when he finally tells them that he is there to speak to a Japanese-American farmer named Komoko, he touches a nerve so sensitive that he will spend the next 24 hours fighting for his life.
Bad Day at Black Rock contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic: The Sheriff
- Anyone Can Die: Liz Wirth's death
- Armor-Piercing Question: "What happened to Komoko?"
- Car Chase
- City Slicker: Macreedy has shades of this, though he's too smart for them.
- Cool Train: The Southern Pacific "Black Widow" F7's during the opening sequence.
- Corrupt Hick: Reno Smith
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Spencer Tracy delivers an epic beatdown to a thug played by Ernest Borgnine.
- Diner Brawl: Macreedy wipes the floor with Ernest Borgnine despite having only one usable arm.
- The Drifter: Macready actually has a specific reason for coming to Black Rock, but once he is there, everything plays out typically for this trope.
- Extremely Short Timespan: Bad Day at Black Rock
- Faux Affably Evil: Reno is nice to Macreedy in the beginning.
- Frontier Doctor: Doc Velie
- Gold Fever: The Frontier Doctor tells a story about the prospectors 'round these parts in the old days.
- Handicapped Badass: John J. Macreedy
- Heel-Face Turn: Pete Wirth, along with a few others.
- Improvised Weapon: The fire hose and the Molotov Cocktail
- Molotov Cocktail: Macreedy makes one during the final fight, using his tie as the fuse.
- New Old West
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Pete the clerk at the hotel tries to tell Macreedy that because of the government compliance and the rooms being held for out-of-town cowboys, he can't rent him a room even though the hotel has plenty of vacancies. Macreedy's having none of that.
- Private Detective: Nick Gandi
- Police Are Useless
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Smith is notoriously racist toward Japanese in general, so it is no surprise that he was the one behind Komoko's murder.
Smith: Loyal Japanese-Americans, that's a laugh. They're all mad dogs. What about Corregidor, the death march?
Macreedy: What did Komoko have to do with Corregidor?
Smith: He was a Jap, wasn't he?
- Retired Badass: Macreedy
- Revenge by Proxy: This was part of Smith's motive for murdering Komoko, which was motivated by his racism toward Japanese in general. The other part was Smith's jealousy toward Komoko for making the farmland he sold the man prosper by digging a sixty-foot well.
- The Sheriff
- Stealth Insult: When he gets to the hotel, one of the cowboys says "You look like you need a hand." It's not lost on Macreedy.
- Twenty Minutes into the Past: For the time it was made, yes.
- Town with a Dark Secret: One of the Trope Codifiers.
- Undertaker: Doc Velie. Since he's one of the few townspeople to side with Macreedy, he's a rare instance of a heroic Western undertaker.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee
- Vehicular Sabotage: Hector rips the distributor cap and spark plug wires out of Velie's hearse to stop Macreedy leaving town.
- World War II: The film takes place in 1945, right after the war's end, and the secret Macreedy uncovers involves an incident that happened after the Pearl Harbor attack.