Monday, November 15, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Violent Saturday (1955) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

One of my favorite new-to-me films seen at this year's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival was VIOLENT SATURDAY (1955), starring longtime favorite Victor Mature.

Mature's daughter Victoria was in the audience to watch the film with us, and Mark Fleischer, son of director Richard Fleischer (THE NARROW MARGIN) was interviewed after the screening by festival host Alan K. Rode (photo below).

There was wonderful old-fashioned showmanship at the Camelot Theatre, which closed the movie screen curtains before the film started. As the 20th Century-Fox fanfare began, followed by the CinemaScope extension theme, the curtains parted to reveal the dazzling wide picture on the Camelot's huge screen. A goosebumps moment!

Mature plays Shelley Martin, who lives in the desert town of Bradenville and works in management at a local copper mine. He's happily married to Helen (Dorothy Patrick), with two boys (Billy Chapin and Donald Gamble) and a baby girl.

Mine manager Boyd Fairchild (Richard Egan) loves his wife (Margaret Hayes), but they're having a rough time of it, and he's attracted to nurse Linda Sherman (Virginia Leith, A KISS BEFORE DYING), though they don't act on it.

Into Bradenville come three men who are up to no good: Harper (Stephen McNally), posing as a traveling salesman, and his associates Dill (Lee Marvin) and Chapman (J. Carrol Naish). Their goal: Robbing the Bradenville bank.

The planning of the heist is juxtaposed against the goings-on among the lives of several townspeople. Many of them will be impacted in one way or another by the robbery, along with Stadt (Ernest Borgnine), an Amish farmer who lives outside of town with his wife (Ann Morrison) and three children (Donna, Noreen, and Kevin Corcoran).

The movie was described by Rode as along the lines of PEYTON PLACE meets crime film, which seemed an apt description. It's an absorbing film which covers a lot of territory in just 90 minutes. Sydney Boehm's script was based on a novel by William L. Heath.

Mature, Egan, and Borgnine are always worth watching, and although I prefer McNally as a hero, he's always good as a villain (i.e., WINCHESTER '73). Dorothy Patrick (seen here with Mature) is a longtime favorite I was glad to see in this, even in a relatively small role. Leith also has a good turn as the sympathetic nurse.

There are a couple discordant notes; Sylvia Sidney as a librarian driven to stealing by financial desperation is a small and fairly pointless role, other than to perhaps show that even "good" people do bad things.

Tommy Noonan is plain icky as the bank manager, who's a peeping Tom stalking Linda in his off hours. His character is just kind of gross, with no consequences other than a slap on the hand. Indeed, Linda is very casual about the whole thing when she learns what he's been doing.

The movie was evocatively filmed by Charles G. Clarke in Bisbee, Arizona, a fascinating setting with the town built on multiple levels, nestled against foothills. I visited Google, as I wanted to know more about the town's unusual layout, and learned that in recent years Bisbee has hosted a 4.5-mile run over nine staircases which dot the town.

VIOLENT SATURDAY was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Twilight Time.


Blogger dfordoom said...

Victor Mature is incredibly underrated as an actor. I liked VIOLENT SATURDAY.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I agree with that assessment of Victor Mature - very underrated.
"VIOLENT SATURDAY" is a terrific heist movie with that unusual and attractive setting, good cast and explosive action. To have been able to see the movie emerge from behind those curtains on a big screen must have been fantastic. I am most envious, Laura!

11:22 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Scenes from this movie stayed with me from childhood, long after I had forgotten the title. I caught up with it again a couple of years ago and it still packed a punch.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, good write-up of VIOLENT SATURDAY(filmed 1954-55, released 1955). Like Paddy Lee(Caftan Woman), I first viewed this movie as a youngster. I first saw it on the WMCT Channel 5 Memphis MOVIE BONANZA in 1966. VIOLENT SATURDAY is appropriately named, because it was a violent movie for it's day. I agree with Paddy Lee, in that, this movie still packs a punch today. Although, the movie is considered tame today, but looking through 1955 eyes it was quite a violent lurid crime melodrama filmed in broad daylight. Also, talk about the definition of hooligan, Lee Marvin is the one.

Like Jerry, I'm envious of you in getting to view this movie in all its CinemaScope Deluxe colored glory. I think VIOLENT SATURDAY is well worth viewing.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to know so many of you have appreciated both this film and the underrated Mature. Thank you all so much for sharing your comments, I hope everyone's thoughts here will help encourage others to check out this movie. Interesting that Walter and Paddy have such vivid memories of seeing this as a child.

Lee Marvin is definitely memorable in this!

The CinemaScope print was one of my favorite things about the recent noir festival. Just gorgeous.

Best wishes,

11:28 AM  
Blogger Elliot James said...

I found it interesting that Sylvester Stallone approached Victor Mature to play his father in a film. I can see why from a physical resemblance point of view. Mature, a far better actor, declined.

Violent Saturday does feel like a blend of a heist movie and a colorful soap opera. Eagan is also very good in it.

5:12 PM  

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