Violent Saturday (1955)

Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Stephen McNally, Virginia Leith
Three men case a small town very carefully, with plans to rob the bank on the upcoming Saturday, which turns violent and deadly.
  • 20th Century Fox Company:
  • N/A Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 01 Apr 1955 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
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  • Sydney Boehm (screenplay), William L. Heath (novel Writer:
  • Richard Fleischer Director:
  • N/A Website:
Soapish/noirish melodrama has moments but ultimately fails6/10

The same Richard Fleischer who gave us the tight, expert "The Narrow Margin" offers this kaleidoscopic slice-of-life under the guise of a heist movie. It had possibilities: the lives of several inhabitants of a small city, circa mid-century, (the kind of town which today is picturesque but impoverished and forgotten) are traced as events lead up to a bank robbery to occur at noon on Saturday. Some of the threads are 99.44-hundredths pure soap opera (the crumbling marriage), some implausible (the mousey stalker), and most of another makes little sense: it's the one about Sylvia Sydney as a librarian come upon hard times (her last name is the name of the town) -- and its coherence and point seem to have fallen to the cutting room floor. But Victor Mature as the solid (what else?) police officer gets to confront a gang of nasty villains (the young Lee Marvin among them) with the help of an Amish farmer, improbably cast by Ernest Borgnine. As in "Friendly Persuasion" and "Witness," this film gingerly accepts (if marginalizes) a minority religion only to ratify it wholeheartedly when Borgnine proves his red-blooded American manhood by abandoning his pacifist creed lock, stock and double-barrel (Hollywood's broad-mindedness only extends so far). Though ultimately episodic and unsatisfying, Violent Saturday opens a window into a mid-1950s lifestyle and mindset that makes it more interesting now than it probably was upon release.
An excellent little picture, smart and menacing...5/10

This is a gem, an excellent little picture, smart and menacing. If you're a
fan of '50's pictures, particularly crime melodramas then this is a must-see. The plot is simple. A small town is visited by three hoods (Stephen McNally,Lee Marvin,J.Carroll Naish) intent on holding up the bank. The film revolves around their plans and folowing the lives of the townsfolk, who, oblivious to the villains in their midst, go about their mundane, everyday problematic lives until the saturday the two worlds collide. Richard Fleischer made an excellent job of this potboiler,which manages to sustain the tension managed in more celebrated films(High Noon) as the villains arrange their plot to rob the town. There's a stellar cast on display, McNally, Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Sylvia Sidney and even the normally lifeless performances given by the film's principal, Victor Mature, doesn't happen in this case. It's shot in terrific colour and has a genuine air of small town claustrophobia and menace. Check it out.
Mediocre Noir They Forgot To Make In The Forties!4/10
20th Century Fox's "Violent Saturday"(1955) is exactly the kind of movie they were so good at producing in the forties when they came up with such noir gems as "Cry Of The City", Kiss Of Death", "Where The Sidewalks Ends" etc. and all in glorious Black & White too. But here, it must be said, this 1955 production, elaborately but mistakingly filmed in Cinemascope and DeLuxe colour, never achieves the atmosphere required to maintain a credible noirish look or feel. Besides the garish colour and the totally needless use of Cinemascope its main fault as a movie is the inclusion also of little vignettes of stories concerning individuals of a small town who will become effected in some way by the arrival of three crooks with a plan to rob the local bank. Firstly there is the voyeuristic bank manager (the irritating Tommy Noonan) who has the hots for local nurse (Virginia Leith), is awestruck every time he sees her and gets his jollys from watching her undress through her window at night. There is engineer Richard Egan trying desperately to save his rickety marriage to (the awful) Maggie Hayes who is having an affair with Brad Dexter (who must have been hard up for some work) and there is library employee (the totally forgotten) Silvia Sydney pilfering from her place of work to pay off her mounting debts. These minor subplots, about totally uninteresting people (who are not particularly well written or played either) are quite mundane really and only serve as so much padding until we get to the actual robbery and its fairly exciting aftermath. Deriving from a novel By William L.Heath it was produced for the studio by Buddy Adler and was dryly directed by the estimable Richard Fleischer whose name is usually stamped on much classier efforts than this. The rambling screenplay came from Sidney Boehm and the wasted Cinemascope cinematography was by Charles G. Clarke.

Three crooks (Stephen McNally, Lee Marvin, and J.Carroll Naish) come into the town of Bradenville to rob the bank. After pulling off the heist they force hapless engineer (Victor Mature) to drive them out of town to a prearranged rendezvous at an isolated farm run by an Amish farmer (Ernest Borgnine) his wife and young family. Tied up and blindfolded in the barn Mature manages to undo his bonds, free the family and with the crooked guard's shotgun take on the gang in a well devised and exciting shootout. The acting is just about OK! Mature turns in his usual workmanlike performance (he once famously declared "I'm no actor and I've got a scrapbook at home full of reviews to prove it"). Also reasonably good are the three baddies but Richard Egan is wasted in a nothing role and subsequently it is hard really to empathize with anyone in it who are all by and large uninteresting cardboard characters. Borgnine is about the best in it! In an unusual sympathetic role as a pacifist anti-violence Amish farmer forced to abandon his faith when a member of his family is wounded. Another plus for the film is the fine noirish score provided by the great Hugo Friedhofer. His sweeping music over the credits pointing up the multi-faceted drama that is to follow.

No, not a great picture by any means but perhaps worth a look if only for the final 30 minutes.
Beneath The Surface7/10
Three hoodlums plot to rob a bank in a small town. But the town has secrets of its own: The bank president is a Peeping Tom. The librarian is a petty thief. The son of the strip-mine owner is an alcoholic; his wife is openly carrying on an affair with the local golf pro. The son of the strip-mine foreman is ashamed of him because he didn't fight in Word War II. The strip-mine nurse is the object of several men's sexual fantasies.

With a great tough guy turn by Lee Marvin as one of the bank robbers, alternately sniffing an inhaler and stomping on kids' fingers, and Ernest Borgnine as an Amish farmer (!) who isn't completely pacifistic. (Inspiration for WITNESS?) The strip-mining is a wonderful metaphor for the secrets that lurk just underneath the surface of a seemingly placid small town. Would be good on a double bill with BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.
Great Cinematography8/10
The wide-screen format was at most only two years old when this film was made. Yet, Charles G. Clarke's shot composition in the new wide-screen format is beautiful. This alone makes the film worth watching.

This is a good example of a color film noir; perhaps not as good as Niagara (1953) or Leave her to Heaven (1945), which were made by the same studio by the way (20th Century Fox), but still a good example from the noir cycle in color.

One way to understand film noir is that it is simply violent melodrama. Look at The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) for example. Violent Saturday (1955) is steeped in melodrama, but there is also some extraordinary violence. And the violence here--in typical noir fashion--is the resolution--however bleak--to some of the melodramatic conflict.

The film has a profound cynicism grinding beneath the surface of the beautiful color photography. And this cynicism remains at the end of the film.

If you haven't seen this film and you are interested in film noir or film of this period, then I would highly recommend the Violent Saturday.