Hollywood Elsewhere has long been bothered by illogical elements in classic films. One is the whopping absurdity of 19th Century settlers living in the barren wilderness of John Ford‘s Monument Valley (no grass for cattle, no rich soil, no river, no nearby forest). Another is the natives of Skull Island having built a huge wall to prevent King Kong and the dinosaurs from invading their village, and yet having also constructed a super-sized gate that could only have been built to allow a beast invasion.
To these I’m adding a third head-scratcher: what the hell are the residents of Black Rock, California — the tiny hole-in-the-wall ghost town in John Sturges‘ Bad Day at Black Rock — doing there in the first place? No soil, no industry, no oil, no trees, no gold mine, not much groundwater except for the well that the late Kimoko discovered, no lake, no tourists — nothing but rocks and heat and nothing to do except sit around, play cards and scowl.
Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin are too dumb to realize what a blessing and godsend Spencer Tracy is because at least he’s given them something to do — i.e., prevent Tracy from learning what happened to poor Komoko. Without Tracy poking around their lives would revert to the usual paralyzing nothingness.
What are Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan and the rest doing there? Are they all…what, living on government relief checks? Why is there a hotel in Black Rock? Who the hell would ever visit?
Another issue: Are you telling me that in the middle of this parched desert moonscape that Francis’s Liz, the 20something sister of John Ericson‘s Pete, isn’t married or “seeing” anyone in town? In a town this dead you know that someone would have stepped up and wooed his way in, and yet Liz could have been played by Thelma Ritter or Mildred Dunnock for all the action she’s getting.
I’m sorry but these questions were getting in the way of my enjoyment when the Warner Archive Bluray arrived three weeks ago. Excellent transfer, good color, nice detail, original 2.55:1 aspect ratio….all good.