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"Four years ago, something terrible happened here."
From the time one-armed veteran John J. Macreedy steps off the train in Black Rock, he feels a chill from the local residents. The town is only a speck on the map and few if any strangers ever come to the place. Macreedy himself is tight-lipped about the purpose of his trip and he finds that the hotel refuses him a room, the local garage refuses to rent him a car and the sheriff is a useless drunkard. It's apparent that the locals have something to hide but when he finally tells them that he is there to speak to a Japanese-American farmer named Kamako, he touches a nerve so sensitive that he will spend the next 24 hours fighting for his life.
Bad Day at Black Rock contains exaples of:
- The Alcoholic: The Sheriff
- Car Chase
- City Slicker: Macreedy has shades of this, though he's too smart for them.
- Corrupt Hick: Reno Smith
- Diner Brawl
- The Drifter: Macready actually has a specific reason for coming to Black Rock, but once he is there, everything plays out typically for this trope.
- Extremely Short Timespan: Bad Day at Black Rock
- Faux Affably Evil: Reno is nice to Macreedy in the beginning.
- Frontier Doctor: Doc Velie
- Gold Fever: The Frontier Doctor tells a story about the prospectors 'round these parts in the old days.
- Handicapped Badass: John J. Macreedy
- Heel Face Turn: Pete Wirth
- Improvised Weapon: The fire hose and the Molotov Cocktail
- Molotov Cocktail: Macreedy makes one during the final fight, using his tie as the fuse.
- New Old West
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The clerk at the hotel tries to tell Macreedy that because of the government compliance and the rooms being held for out-of-town cowboys, he can't rent him a room even though the hotel has plenty of vacancies. Macreedy's having none of that.
- Private Detective: Nick Gandi
- Police Are Useless
- Politically-Incorrect Villain: "Loyal Japanese-Americans, that's a laugh."
- Retired Badass: Macreedy
- Revenge by Proxy:
Macreedy: What did Kamako have to do with Karigador?
Smith: He was a Jap, wasn't he?
- The Sheriff
- Stealth Insult: When he gets to the hotel, one of the cowboys says "You look like you need a hand." It's not lost on Macreedy.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Past: For the time it was made, yes.
- Town with a Dark Secret: One of the Trope Codifiers.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee
- Vehicular Sabotage: Hector rips the distributor cap and spark plug wires out of Velie's hearse to stop Macreedy leaving town.
- World War II: The film takes place in 1945, right after the war's end, and the secret Macreedy uncovers involves an incident that happened after the Pearl Harbor attack.