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USA 1955
Directed by
Richard Fleischer
91 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Violent Saturday

Despite its tempting  title, some tasty ingredients and plenty of mid-1950s, mid-budget style Richard Fleischer manages to bungle this pulpy heist movie set in a bustling copper mining town in Arizona.

Fleischer spends a good portion of the movie which is shot in colour and Cinemascope introducing the various characters whose lives will intersect on the day named. Shelley Martin (Victor Mature) is a happily married mining manager who’s having trouble with his young son because he isn’t a war hero. Boyd Fairchild (Richard Egan) the son of the mine’s owner is a booze artist who can’t keep his wife (Margaret Hayes) in line. Bank manager Harry Reeves (Tommy Noonan) is a “peeping Tom” obsessed with a pretty nurse (Virginia Leith), and librarian Elsie Braden (Sylvia Sidney) can’t make her loan repayments and so steals a handbag. Meanwhile three crooks (Stephen McNally, J. Carrol Naish and Lee Marvin) arrive in town to hold up the bank. And oh, there’s a family of Amish farmers just outside of town whose paterfamilias is played by Ernest Borgnine.

The film initially looks to have much promise with vicious bad guys in suits and hats and all manner of moral degradation but Fleischer doesn't engages with his material sufficiently to imbue proceedings with credibility. In a typical ‘50s melodramatic style the wife does a remarkable volte-face and repents of her wicked ways, the bank manager gets forgiven, the mine manager gets to be a hero and the librarian is completely forgotten about as the narrative unfolds mechanically. Worst of all the staging of the robbery and the subsequent shoot-out at the Amish farm are both clumsily handled. In this respect one may also question the decision to cap off proceedings with the farmer's relatively unproblematic recourse to violence (so much for turning the other cheek!) and the repentant wife being neatly disposed of (glibly leaving the husband to bawl his eyes out and the nurse to make her move). It’s arguably all fatalistically noir but like everything else in the movie, too perfunctorily realized to have any bite.

The potential is there however and Violent Saturday is a film that deserves to be remade.

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