Bad Day at Black Rock

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Bad Day at Black Rock is a 1955 film, that combines elements of Westerns and film noir, about a one-armed stranger who comes to a small town. The town's inhabitants possess a terrible past they want to keep secret, by violent means if necessary.

Directed by John Sturges. Written by Don McGuire and Millard Kaufman, based on the story Bad Day at Hondo by Howard Breslin.
Suddenly you realize murder is at your elbow! - and there's no way out!

Doc T.R. Velie Jr.[edit]

  • I was just wondering what all you people are worrying about...Not that I have the slightest idea...I hold no truck with silence. I've got nothing to hide...It's just that you worry about the stranger only if you look at him from a certain aspect. From my perspective, I look upon him with the innocence of a fresh-laid egg.
  • Four years ago, something terrible happened here. We did nothing about it. Nothing! The whole town fell into a sort of settled melancholy, and all the people in it closed their eyes, and held their tongues, and failed the test with a whimper. And now something terrible's going to happen again. And, in a way, we're lucky because we've been given a second chance.

Dialogue[edit]

Conductor: Man, they look woebegone and far away.
Macreedy: Oh, I'll only be here twenty-four hours.
Conductor: In a place like this, it could be a lifetime.

Doc: He's no salesman, that's for sure. Unless he's peddlin' dynamite.
Sam: Maybe he's a cop or somethin'.
Doc: Ever see a cop with a stiff arm?
Sam: Maybe his arm's all right. Maybe he's just hangin' onto something tight in his pocket.
Doc: Like what? A pistol? A stick of TNT so he can blow up the whole mangy, miserable town.

Smith: I want to apologize for some of the people in town.
Macreedy: They act like they're sittin' on a keg.
Smith: A keg? Of what?
Macreedy: I don't know. Diamonds? Gunpowder?
Smith: Oh, it's nothing like that. We're suspicious of strangers is all. Hangover from the old days. The Old West.
Macreedy: I thought the tradition of the Old West was hospitality.
Smith: I'm trying to be hospitable, Mr. Macreedy. You going to be around long?
Macreedy: Could be.

Smith: You don't know anything about Komoko, now do you, Tim?
Sheriff: I do not. That's the point.
Smith: The point is, what you don't know won't hurt you.
Sheriff: Maybe there's something that I ought to know. Maybe there's something that I ought to ask you before the stranger comes back here and starts breathing down my neck.
Smith: Tim! You're just a lost ball in the high weeds. I told you a long time ago, nothing happened for you to worry about.
Sheriff: Thing is, I do worry. Maybe I ain't much else, but I'm sure a worrier. And I'm still the law.
Smith: Then do your job, Tim.
Sheriff: What is my job, Mr. Smith? Maybe I'd better find out before Macreedy does it for me.
Smith: Macreedy'll do nothing - and neither will you, Tim.
Sheriff: Suppose I decide to try?
Smith: That might be dangerous. Tim, you got the body of a hippo but the brain of a rabbit. Now don't overtax it.
Sheriff: [He lowers his eyes and looks away] Yes, Mr. Smith.

Coley: I think Macreedy's a nothin', a nobody...So there's nothin' to worry about...What can he find out? That Komoko...Suppose he finds out.
Smith: A nobody like Macreedy can raise a pretty big stink. The point is - who'd miss a nobody like Macreedy if he just, uh, say, disappeared? Who, Coley?...
Pete: Why don't we wait?...I mean, maybe he won't find anything. Maybe he'll just go away.
Smith: Not Macreedy. I know those maimed guys. Their minds get twisted. They put on hair-shirts and act like martyrs. All of 'em are do-gooders, freaks, troublemakers.
Pete: Let's wait and see. There's no danger yet.
Smith: No danger, he says. This guy's like a carrier of small pox. Since he's arrived, this town has a fever, an infection, and it's spreading.

Sheriff: Let Smith find himself a new boy. I can't take it another day. Four years ago, if I'd of done my job, if I'd of checked up and found out what happened. But I didn't! It was just like Smith figured...I didn't even try to find out. Don't you understand? You know, when you wear this badge, you're the Law. And when somebody does something against the Law, then you're supposed to do something about it. Me - I did nothin'. That's what's eatin' me. What kind of prescription you got for that?
Doc: I don't know. I haven't found one for myself. But there's one thing, Tim, don't quit.
Sheriff: Why not?
Doc: Because maybe this feller Macreedy's got the prescription.

Liz: Things change.
Macreedy: Sure do. And Smith is the kid who changes 'em, isn't he?...What's wrong with this town of yours, Miss Worth?...
Liz: I don't want to get involved.
Macreedy: Involved in what?
Liz: Whatever you're up to. Whatever happens, I've got to go on living in this town. These people are my neighbors, my friends.
Macreedy: All of 'em?
Liz: This is my town, Mr. Macreedy, like it or not.
Macreedy: Well, if you don't like it, why do you stick around?
Liz: My brother Pete, he'd never leave.
Macreedy: Didn't it ever occur to you that you might leave without him? You look like a pretty independent young lady. Your brother seems to me...
Liz: Weak. Yeah, I know. That's why I couldn't leave him.
Macreedy: What did your brother do?
Liz: What do you care? What do you care about Black Rock?
Macreedy: I don't care anything about Black Rock. Only it just seems to me that there aren't many towns like this in America. But one town like it is enough and because I think somethin' kind of bad happened here, Miss Worth, somethin' I can't quite seem to find the handle to.
Liz: You don't know what you're talking about.
Macreedy: Well, I know this much. The rule of law has left here and the gorillas have taken over.

Smith: Why would a man like you be looking for a lousy Jap farmer?...I believe a man is as big as what'll make him mad. Nobody around here seems big enough to get you mad.
Macreedy: What makes you mad, Mr. Smith?...The Japanese make you mad, don't they?
Smith: Well, that's different. After that sneak attack on Pearl Harbor...Bataan.
Macreedy: Komoko made you mad.
Smith: It's the same thing. 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? Look, Mr. Macreedy, there's a law in this county about shootin' dogs. But when I see a mad dog, I don't wait for him to bite me. I swear, you're beginning to make me mad.
Macreedy: All strangers do.
Smith: No they don't. Not all of 'em. Some do when they come around snooping.
Macreedy: Snooping for what?
Smith: I don't know. Outsiders coming in looking for something.
Macreedy: Looking for what?
Smith: I don't know. Somebody's always looking for something in this part of the West. To the historians, it's the "Old West." To the book writers, it's the "Wild West." To the businessman, it's the "Undeveloped West." They say we're all poor and backward and I guess we are. We don't even have enough water. But to us, this place is our West. And I wish they'd leave us alone.
Macreedy: Leave you alone to do what?
Smith: I don't know what you mean.
Macreedy: What happened to Komoko?
Smith: He went away, I told you. Shortly after he left, some kids went out there. They got foolin' around and burned his place down. That's how it was. You know how kids are.
[Macreedy laughs]
Macreedy: I don't believe you. There's somethin' buried up there....[He pulls the wildflowers from his pocket] That means a grave. I suppose you knew that. I saw a lot of it, you know, overseas. I figured it wasn't a human grave because it wasn't marked. Kind of a mystery, isn't it?

Doc: They're gonna kill you with no hard feelings.
Macreedy: And you're gonna sit there and let 'em do it.
Doc: I try to live right. I drink my milk every day. But mostly, I try to mind my own business - which is something I'd advise you to do.

Coley: I'm half-hoss, half-alligator. You mess with me and I'll kick a lung outta ya. Whaddya think of that?
Macreedy: No comment.
Coley: You know, talkin' to you is like pullin' teeth. You wear me out. You're a yellow-bellied Jap lover. Am I right or wrong?
Macreedy: You're not only wrong - you're wrong at the top of your voice.
Coley: You don't like my voice?
Macreedy: [To Smith] I think your friend is trying to start trouble.
Smith: Why ever would he want to do that?
Macreedy: Well, I don't know. Maybe he thinks that if he needles me enough, I might crack. I might even fight back. And then either he or your other ape sittin' over there could beat me to death and cop a plea of self-defense.
Smith: I don't think that'll be necessary. You're so scared now you'll probably drown in your own sweat.

Macreedy: Wouldn't it have been easier to wait until I turned my back? Or are there too many witnesses present?
Smith: You're still in trouble.
Macreedy: You're in trouble. Whatever happens, you're sunk.
Smith: You got things a big twisted.
Macreedy: You killed Komoko, Smith, and sooner or later you're gonna go up for it. Not because you killed him, because I think in a town like this, you can get away with it. But because you didn't have guts enough to do it alone. You put your trust in guys like this - and Hector here - not the most dependable of God's creatures. And one of these days, they're gonna catch on that you're playin' 'em for a sap. And then what are ya gonna do? Peel 'em off, one by one? And in the meantime, one of 'em's gonna crack and when they do, you're gonna go down - but hard. 'Cause they got somethin' on ya, Smith. Something to use when the goin' gets tough. And it's gettin' tougher every minute.

Pete: My memories are so pleasant as it is...
Macreedy: It's gonna take an awful lot of whiskey to wash out your guts. Go on, go on! Swill it! What is there left for you to do? You're as dead as Komoko and you don't know it....
Pete: You don't have to remind me. I've never forgotten.
Macreedy: Oh, isn't that noble of you. You haven't forgotten. And you're ashamed. That's really noble of you. I suppose four years from now, you'll be sittin' around here tellin' people you haven't forgotten me either. That's real progress. In the meantime, I'll be as dead as a - WHY DON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED? [To Doc] What happened?
Doc: Why did you come here, Mr. Macreedy?
Macreedy: Did Komoko have any other family besides his son Joe?
Doc: Son? Nobody around here ever knew he had a son.
Macreedy: Yes, he had a son. He's dead too. He's buried in Italy...Why, this Komoko boy died trying to save my life. They gave him a medal. I came here to give it to his old man. I figured the least I could do was give him one day out of my life.

Doc: Smith owned Adobe Flat. He leased it to Komoko. He figured he had cheated him because you gotta have water to raise anything. There never was any water on Adobe Flat. Komoko dug a well. He must have gone down sixty feet.
Pete: He got plenty of water. That made Smith pretty sore. He didn't like Japs anyway. The day after Pearl Harbor, Smith went to Sand City.
Macreedy: Yeah, he got turned down, trying to enlist.
Pete: Well, when he got back, he was pretty sore. Around ten o'clock, we all started drinking.
Macreedy: Ten in the morning.
Pete: Yeah. Smith, Coley, Sam, Hector, and me - we were all drunk. Patriotic drunk. We wanted to go out to scare the Jap a little and have a little fun. Well, when we got there, he heard us comin' and he locked the door. And then Smith started a fire. And the Jap - he came running out. His clothes were all burning. And then Smith shot him. I didn't even know he had a gun.
Macreedy: Then you got scared and buried him, and kept your mouths shut, hmm?
Pete: Yeah.
Macreedy: [He shoves the bottle toward Pete] Well, go ahead and have your drink now. You're gonna need it.

Liz: Help me up, Smitty.
Smith: You were gonna help me, Liz. I still need your help.
Liz: [confused] I did everything you said.
Smith: You two started out in a car and that's the way you're gonna end up. Over a cliff - burning. You can blame Macreedy for that. He said I had too many witnesses.
Liz: But why me? Why start with me?
Smith: I gotta start with somebody.

Doc: [about Joe Kokomo's Medal of Honor]] Maybe we need it. It would give us something to build on. This town's wrecked, just as though it was bombed out. Maybe it can come back.
Macreedy: Some towns do and some towns don't. It depends on the people.
Doc: That medal would help.

Conductor: What's all the excitement? What happened?
Macreedy: A shooting.
Conductor: Thought it was something. First time the Streamliner's stopped here in four years.
Macreedy: Second time.

Cast[edit]

External links[edit]

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