On the Guardien’s list of “1000 films to see before you die,” there are two movies directed by John Struges. I have seen The Magnificent Seven many times in the past. (Sidenote: “When he met with Akira Kurosawa, Kurosawa told Sturges that he loved The Magnificent Seven. Sturges always maintained that this was the single proudest moment of his life.”) I might have seen some of Sturges’ many westerns as a child. But I am certain have never seen “Bad day at black rock.” It is not exactly a western, because it is set in a later period, when phone communication already exists and steam engine trains are dropped in favor of diesel (as the opening and closing scene prolonged view clearly shows.) But it is a western in the sense that a lone hero arrives to a town and does justice despite that most of the locals are ready to stop and even kill him. We learn only at the very end why the one-armed hero really came to this small town –which on the long shot seems to consist only of 8 houses–in search of a Japanese man. That’s when we can connect the dots.
There are plenty aspects to enjoy in this movie beyond the suspense. Spencer Tracy as the physically and emotionally restrained war hero. The visuals of a desperately corrupt dusty desert city. The misc-en-scenes of men standing around at various locations and trying to figure out the shifts in power dynamics. The lazy fight scene in the deli. It also had a few surprise, like who ends up betraying and who supporting the hero. I enjoyed this excursion out of my favorite genres.