DVD: Violent Saturday | reviews, news & interviews
DVD: Violent Saturday
DVD: Violent Saturday
Audacious Fifties hybrid of bank-heist caper and melodrama
Bradenville is on the way up. The town might only have one bank, but it does have a copper mine and a newly opened pyjama factory. In Arizona, it’s sufficiently isolated to seem the right target for a trio of bad guys looking to help themselves to what’s in that bank. Their plans culminate on a Saturday.
The 1955 film Violent Saturday is, potentially, standard film noir. A darkly drawn bank heist caper, it is also a Peyton Place-style melodrama examining the lives of townsfolk, their infelicities, insecurities and foibles. The two styles exist in parallel and meet head on the fateful Saturday. The identify of the criminals is relevant, but director Richard Fleischer has a greater interest in the inner lives of Bradenville’s residents.
This rich mix does take some getting used to
Fleischer, who died in 2006, made Violent Saturday after the Jules Verne adaptation 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He also directed films as varied as The Vikings, The Boston Strangler, Doctor Doolittle, Fantastic Voyage and Soylent Green in a long career. In marrying two styles – there are also nods towards the western in the setting and the film's violent ending – he made what was a one-off. There are also rich characterisations: Lee Marvin is a twitchy, Benzedrine-sniffing crook who stomps on a kid's hand, Ernest Borgnine is a most unlikely Amish famer and an uncharacteristically dynamic yet dependably leathery Victor Mature is the film’s hero. There are also adultery, a thieving librarian, and a peeping-tom bank manager.
This rich mix does take some getting used to. It also absorbs thanks to the fine use of wide-screen Cinerama. No space is wasted, yet no set-ups are fussy or over-stuffed with visual information. The image restoration is superb with bold colour and strong contrast. The extras include appreciations by directors William Friedkin and Nicolas Saada. Violent Saturday is not the masterpiece either paint it as, but its audaciousness can’t fail to impress.
Overleaf: watch a clip from the restored Violent Saturday
Watch a clip from the restored Violent Saturday
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