Bad Day At Black Rock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image held up pretty well over the last 60-plus years.
For the most part, sharpness worked fine. A few slightly soft shots emerged – a factor exacerbated by some process photography – but overall delineation seemed positive. I saw no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. I also witnessed no print flaws, though a couple of moments suffered from excessive grain.
Given the desert setting, I expected an arid palette, and that’s mainly what the film provided. Despite the sandy orientation, the movie came with a reasonable array of tones, and it displayed these pretty well. Skin tones could veer toward the brown side, but the hues still looked fine most of the time.
Blacks showed good depth, with a nice sense of darkness. Shadows also offered pleasing clarity and range. Largely due to aspects of the aging source, the image could be a little spotty, but I felt happy with it as a whole.
In addition, the DTS-HD MA stereo soundtrack of Bad Day seemed quite good, especially given the film’s vintage. Apparently the original four-track audio got lost over the years, but the stereo representation worked well.
Music showed nice breadth across the channels, and effects offered some useful information. A few active scenes – trains, cars – moved across the speakers in a suitable manner, and some general effects provided appropriate placement. Localized speech occasionally seemed iffy, but the lines usually landed where they needed to be.
Audio quality appeared positive. Music fared best, as the score was vivid and full. Effects varied but usually seemed concise and accurate enough, while dialogue came across with reasonable clarity. All in all, the mix satisfied.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc includes an audio commentary from film historian Dana Polan. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, themes and interpretation, motifs and genre issues, and related topics.
Polan tells us little about the production itself, which I view as a disappointment. While I enjoy film interpretation of the sort he provides, I prefer commentaries that throw in movie-making facts as well. Though Polan offers a fairly interesting chat, it lacks a lot of scope.
A combination of Western and thriller, Bad Day At Black Rock delivers a compelling experience. The movie boasts solid acting and pacing, as it moves well to create a vivid tale. The Blu-ray brings us pretty good picture and audio as well as a generally interesting commentary. Bad Day functions as a lively film.