Sunday 5 November 2023

Movie Review: Violent Saturday (1955)

Genre: Small Town Crime Drama
Director: Richard Fleisher
Starring: Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Stephen McNally, Ernest Borgnine,Virginia Leith
Running Time: 90 minutes

Synopsis: Suave bank robber Harper (Stephen McNally) arrives in the small Arizona desert town of Bradenville with two associates, the brutal Dill (Lee Marvin) and bookish Chapman (J. Carrol Naish). They case the town in preparation for robbing the bank. Notable residents include copper mine manager Shelley (Victor Mature) and his young family, alcoholic mine owner Fairchild (Richard Egan) and his straying wife (Margaret Hayes), nerdy bank manager Reeves (Tommy Noonan), new-in-town nurse Linda (Virginia Leith), an indebted and desperate librarian (Sylvia Sidney), and Amish farmer Stadt (Ernest Borgnine). On the day of the robbery, a seemingly simple job turns violent.

What Works Well: A surprisingly effective combination of life-in-a-small-town with deadly serious caper thrills. Writer Sydney Boehm adapts William L. Heath's book and makes every scene count, packing a remarkable amount of content into 90 minutes. Director Richard Fleisher maintains admirable control, alternating the town's rhythms with heist planning dynamics. Fleischer also leverages the CinemaScope format and a colourful palette by ensuring something interesting - and relevant - is always occupying the background. The third act elegantly ties together the plot threads, and the violence builds to a well-executed exclamation point.

What Does Not Work As Well: Some of the domestic scenes flirt with corny territory.

Conclusion: The quiet-behind-the-storm achieves genre-fusing success.

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