This powerfully tense, fast-paced suspense drama also yields a grim social message about racial prejudice. Spencer Tracy is John J. MacReedy, a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock one hot summer day in 1945, the first time the train has stopped there in years.
He looks for both a hotel room and a local Japanese farmer named Komoko, but his inquiries are greeted at first with open hostility, then with blunt threats and harassment, and finally with escalating violence.
MacReedy soon realizes that he will not be allowed to leave Black Rock; town boss Reno Smith (Robert Ryan), who had Komoko killed because of his hatred of the Japanese, has also marked MacReedy for death. MacReedy must battle town thugs, a treacherous local woman (Anne Francis), and finally Smith himself to stay alive.