Stunning. I thought this was great the first time i saw it (off a pan/scan VHS in a film studies class at UNSW), it was great again in a 4×3 letterboxed TV broadcast a few years later, and watching it again recently (this time from anamorphic widescreen DVD) was a good reminder of how good it is. It’s such a classic Western that it really is remarkable to keep being reminded that it’s set not in the old west but just after the end of World war 2. At just 81 minutes, too, it’s a terrific example of the compactness of storytelling Hollywood was capable of in those days; barely an ounce of fat on it. And it offers the simple but undeniable sheer pleasure of Spencer Tracy out-badassing Ernest Borgnine with just one hand. What did strike me this time, though, was the scene where Tracy describes himself as wallowing in self-pity; that took me aback cos I didn’t get that feeling from him watching the film to that point.
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)