REVIEW: VIOLENT SATURDAY / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: RICHARD FLEISCHER / SCREENPLAY: SYDNEY BOEHM / STARRING: VICTOR MATURE, RICHARD EGAN, STEPHEN MCNALLY, LEE MARVIN, ERNEST BORGNINE / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 28TH
Fleischer’s 1955 effort is a tangled web of wonder with a bank heist at its centre. Set in the small mining town of Bradenville, Violent Saturday is often played up as a heist movie, although there’s a whole lot more going on. Just as important as the three criminals who turn up with the intention of looting the town’s only bank, there’s a quiet clerk who spends his night as a peeping tom, there’s an alcoholic in a troubled marriage, there’s a prim and proper librarian who becomes a thief, there’s an Amish father who’s having to face up to the very real threat of violence, and there’s a father who’s looking to reinstate his son’s faith in him. All of these plot points intertwine to deliver a film that is quite the impressive piece of work.
Given that it's often cited by Quentin Tarantino as a direct influence on Reservoir Dogs, some may expect this to be full of blood, bad language and even badder attitudes. Remember, this film was made in 1955. There are most definitely some bad attitudes at play in this movie, but don’t expect much in terms of gore and vulgarity, although the violence, when it comes, often catches you unaware. Violent Saturday is just as much a dramatic soap opera as it is a noir heist movie. With cutting dialogue and some wonderful performances holding it together, combined with some lavishly elegant camera work, it’s often a joy to watch.
In terms of the better performances, Richard Egan’s drunk is one of the stars of the show, whilst Victor Mature as a father who has to give reason to his young son as to why he didn’t serve in the war is beautifully delivered with a warm hue that only films of a certain period seem capable of producing. Lee Marvin is at his menacing best as one of the bank robbers, and Ernest Borgnine brings a calming presence as the head of an Amish family, complete with false beard. The rest of the performances generally tick all of the right boxes, although it’s Egan and Mature who really grab the attention.
Violent Saturday is a sharp, rich movie that, whilst very much of its time, still has a lot to offer to new audiences. Part heist, part family drama, part soap opera, the film manages to wear many hats and juggle many plates, with generally pleasing results. There is a sense of a few loose ends by the movie’s close, but none that really alter the overall picture.
When all is said and done, Violent Saturday is a very deliberate, well-constructed movie that was ahead of its time in many ways, with its influence clearly visible in many later efforts across many genres.
Extras: 32-page booklet / Interview with William Friedkin / Interview with Nicolas Saada