Violent Saturday is a blistering thriller from director Richard Fleischer with an impressive cast and some stunning visuals.
Part melodrama, part tense noir thriller, Fleischer’s 1955 film follows the lives of the inhabitants of Bradenville, a sleepy American town where (on the surface) very little happens. Parallel to this a team of criminals (J. Carroll Naish, Lee Marvin, Stephen McNally) arrive in town to rob the local bank. These stories converge within the town’s bank on a Saturday – a violent Saturday.
Shot in Cinemascope, Violent Saturday packs a visual punch, but that doesn’t mean that Fleischer gives the characters the short-shrift. He builds a slow-burning tension, embedding the audience within the very day lives of the citizens of Bradenville. We learn that the manager of the soon-to-be-robbed bank (Tommy Noonan) is a peeping Tom, that Victor Mature’s hero is a disappointment to his son and that his boss (Richard Egan) has developed a drink problem following his wife’s (Margaret Hayes) philandering. We also have an Amish family (led by Ernest Borgnine) and a lonely librarian with money problems (Silvia Sydney). In a way Fleischer’s film is a prototype for the Irwin Allen-style disaster movie – we get to know these people before their lives are blown apart by a powerful and violent event.
The last act of Violent Saturday is were things come together – and it’s a great last act. Events culminate on an Amish farm as Victor Mature is outmanned and out-gunned as the villains descend on the barn where he is holed-up. It’s a powerful and tense piece of moviemaking and it must surely must have been an inspiration for Peter Weir’s Witness.
The sheer amount of movies made and released over the years means that many will be forgotten and overlooked. Violent Saturday is one of those films – but maybe it is the right time to dust it off and it some rightful praise.