There’s a story behind this fight scene from a YouTube guy named Craig H. I don’t know if it’s true but it sounds good: “Spencer Tracy‘s use of judo was actually suggested by Ernest Borgnine. The latter was talking to director John Sturges about how a one-armed man was going to defeat a strapping two-armed fighter. ‘What about judo?’ Borgnine asked, having learned the martial art in the Navy. So Sturges had Borgnine work out the scene with the stunt men and his double.
“During rehearsals the screen door was left open with Borgnine falling onto mattresses, but during the shooting Sturges locked it. Borgnine plowed into the door and fell to the ground. He was literally dizzy when his character got up and attempted to throw his last punch, which Tracy turned into a one-arm judo flip.” HE quibble: I don’t believe the “literally dizzy” part.
Bilge Ebiri has called Bad Day at Black Rock “one of the greatest films ever made.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely a solid stab at a ’50s-styled slow-burn melodrama. Stranger arrives, town sizes him up, hostility simmers, shit hits fan.
Posted on 2.8.17: “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.
“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 (ahem) ‘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.”
Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine 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.