Bad Day at Black Rock Trailer (1955)

The time is 1945, just after the end of World War II. The great railroad train Streamliner stops at the town of Black Rock Arizona. The train discharges a single passenger with only one arm named John J. Macreedy.The conductor comments that this is the first time in four years that the train has stopped there. Macreedy replies that he is only staying for one day, and the conductor comments that "in a place like this a day can be a lifetime." The train departs. Macreedy is confronted by the stationmaster who complains that he had not been informed that the Streamliner was stopping, to which Macreedy replies "Maybe they didn't think it was important." Macreedy asks the stationmaster if he can get a cab to Adobe Flat. The stationmaster replies "no cab." Macreedy then asks if the hotel is open, and the stationmaster nods. Macreedy walks into town. When the townsfolk learn that Macreedy wants to visit nearby Adobe Flat, they react with extreme suspicion and hostility. Pete Wirth, the hotel keeper, tries using a bogus excuse about war restrictions to deny renting a room even though it is obvious the hotel has vacancies. After persistence, Macreedy rents a room, only to be harassed by a cowboy named Hector for no apparent reason. Macreedy's attempts to rent a car create further hostility, prompting another local, Reno Smith, to have a private detective he knows in Los Angeles check out Macreedy's background. Macreedy then visits the sheriff's office only to find that the sheriff, Tim Horn, is an ineffectual drunken sot. Macreedy mentions that he is trying to locate a farmer named Kumoko at Adobe Flat and Horn becomes as hostile as the rest of town. Smith then accosts Macreedy feigning friendliness. Macreedy asks about Kumoko, and Smith tells him that Kumoko was sent to an internment camp after the start of the war. Pete's sister Liz drives up in her jeep and rents it to Macreedy, who drives off to Adobe Flat. Despite Liz's assurance that Macreedy will find nothing and Horn's feeble attempts to assert his authority, Smith, after hearing from the private eye that there are no records on Macreedy, orders another local, Coley Trimble, to get rid of Macreedy, despite protests from Pete and the town doctor, Doc Velie. At Adobe Flat, Macreedy finds only a burned out house, a deep well and wildflowers growing in the dirt. Returning to town, Trimble rams Macreedy off the road, then harasses him for being a "road hog." Macreedy decides to leave but is unable to get transportation to the next town and finds that the train will not come until the next morning. After enduring comments of racial bigotry relating to Kumoko, Macreedy is convinced that Smith is trying to kill him and attempts to telephone the police, but Pete will not help him. The doc offers Macreedy his hearse for escape, but it has been tampered with and will not start. After trying to telegraph the police, Macreedy visits the café, where Coley goads him with more bigoted slurs. Macreedy downs Coley with judo, then accuses Smith of murdering Kumoko; he is convinced that the wildflowers hide something buried at Adobe Flat. Macreedy reveals that Kumoko's son Joe died as a result of saving his life in Italy during the war, earning a medal that Macreedy is bringing to his father. Doc and Pete then confess that Kumoko leased Adobe Flat from Smith under false pretenses of available water. Kumoko, despite being cheated, dug the deep well, enraging Smith. Smith is further angered after being turned down by the Marines and after getting drunk, decides to "scare the Jap" along with Coley, Pete, Hector and Sam, the café owner. The incident gets out of hand and Kumoko is killed. Pete then calls Liz and asks her help in getting Macreedy out of town. Liz drives him out of town into the hands of Smith. Smith shoots Liz to silence her, then turns the rifle on Macreedy. Macreedy creates a Molotov cocktail with jeep gas, his necktie and a glass bottle. He hurls the bottle at Smith, catching him on fire. Returning to town with Smith, Macreedy finds the other four witnesses locked up in a cell. The next morning, the police escort the prisoners away as the Streamliner pulls in. Macreedy, after hearing pleas from Doc, gives him the medal awarded to Kumoko's son Joe. The conductor comments that the excitement must be the reason that the train stopped here for the first time in four years. Macreedy comments "second," then boards the train.

2 min 2 sec


Posted On
November 18, 2009
John Sturges

Howard Breslin


January 7, 1955
Spencer Tracy
Robert Ryan
Anne Francis
Dean Jagger
Walter Brennan
Trailer Tracks
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