Cast & Crew
Harper, a bank robber who is posing as a costume jewelry salesman, checks into a hotel in Bradenville, a small town adjacent to a mine. Harper's associates, Chapman and Dill, soon arrive aboard the train and surreptitiously observe the bank's daily procedures. At the Bradenville library, librarian Elsie Braden steals a pocketbook after receiving a notice from banker Harry Reeves that her loan payments are past due. At the same time, mine manager Shelley Martin rescues his son Steve from a fistfight. Later at work, Shelley finds that the mine owner's son, Boyd Fairchild, is too obsessed with his wife Emily's infidelity and his own sense of failure to do any work. That night at home, Shelley and his wife discover that Steve has been fighting because he is jealous that his best friend's father fought at the front, while Shelley was enlisted by the government to increase his copper production during the war. Harper, meanwhile, discovers a small Amish farm outside town, and realizes that the hospitable farmer, Stadt, has no phone or other means of modern communication or transportation. That night, Boyd gets drunk and becomes friendly with Linda Sherman, a new nurse in town. Linda is sympathetic to Boyd and helps him home, although she resists his advances because he is married. When Emily arrives home, Linda warns her to stop humiliating Boyd, or she will accept his offer to run away with him. At her own apartment, Linda is unaware that Harry is lurking in an alley and watching her undress through the window. Harry then catches Elsie throwing away the stolen purse, but she threatens to expose him as a voyeur if he tries to implicate her. Just before dawn, Emily awakens Boyd, and after a heartfelt discussion, they decide to renew their love and take a vacation together. In the morning, Chapman and Dill kidnap Shelley and take him to the farm. There they imprison him and Stadt's family in the barn's hayloft, while they take Shelley's car to town. After Chapman calls in a false traffic accident to distract the police, they rob the bank. Harry attempts to shoot the robbers, but is killed by Dill, who also shoots Emily. The robbers escape to the farm, where Shelley has managed to free himself, Stadt and his family. Stadt refuses to help Shelley defend them because the Amish are avowed pacifists. Shelley initially refuses to turn over the keys to a truck, but decides to relent out of respect for Stadt. However, after Chapman rams Shelley's car through the barn door, Shelley shoots and kills him. Harper sets the car on fire, and Shelley and the family push it outside to prevent the barn from burning. When one of the children is wounded by Harper's gunfire, Shelley kills Harper and is shot in the leg by Dill. As Dill reloads his gun, Stadt stabs him to death with a pitchfork, then asks God's forgiveness. Later in the hospital, Harry confesses to Linda that he has watched her, and she forgives him. Linda then consoles Boyd about Emily's death, but he sends her away when he starts to cry. Now that his father is a hero, Steve's faith in him is renewed.
J. Carrol Naish
Boyd Red Morgan
Charles G. Clarke
George W. Davis
Harry M. Leonard
Edward B. Powell
Joseph E. Rickards
Walter M. Scott
E. Clayton Ward
Violent Saturday - Victor Mature, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine & Richard Egan in VIOLENT SATURDAY on DVD
While the Saturday of this film indeed erupts into violence, the direction is more slow fuse than flash powder. Violent Saturday opens with a bang--a dynamite blast in the copper mine outside of a small Arizona town, building expectations for an explosive film--but settles into a mood of anxiety and anticipation in the long lead-up to the robbery, a mix of heist film deliberation and soap opera melodrama in what it essentially a provincial company town in the shadow of the mines.
Stephen McNally, the leader of the criminal crew, cases the place as his cohorts arrive: Lee Marvin, all tough-guy sass but for his addiction to a nasal inhaler, and J. Carrol Naish, a more cautious veteran who keeps the talkative Marvin in line. (Even Naish can't stop the surly sadist from bullying a little kid who bumps into him on the sidewalk; Marvin's most memorable moment is stepping on the kid's hand.) Meanwhile the civilians inevitably to be caught in the crossfire of the robbery are introduced: a self-pitying drunk (Richard Egan) married to a shamelessly unfaithful wife (Margaret Hayes); a nebbish (and married) bank manager (Tommy Noonan) essentially stalking a beautiful single woman (Virginia Leith); a struggling librarian (Sylvia Sidney) behind on her bank payments; and a loving, hard-working husband and father (Victor Mature) trying to be the hero his son wants him to be. Ernest Borgnine co-stars as an Amish farmer whose out-of-town spread is chosen by the robbers as a rendezvous point and Brad Dexter, famed as one of The Magnificent Seven but much busier as one of Hollywood's reliably oily womanizers, is the other man in a country club affair. The stalwart and stiff Mature feels miscast amidst this rogues gallery of killers, corrupt citizens and compromised characters. He never offers the human dimension the rest of the cast so effortlessly reveals in their failings, but his physicality serves the climactic conflict very well.
The slow-burn melodrama, teased out in the long lead-up to the robbery, threatens to veer into a soap opera but for Fleischer's steely, sober direction and the sassy pleasure of the juicier lines in the script by Sidney Boehm (The Big Heat): "We can't change. You're an alcoholic and I'm a tramp." "Better latch onto him, honey. Drunk or sober, he's the kind of guy I've dreamed about owning all my life." "Stick these in your kisser, son [handing a child a fistful of candy], and go back down and suck on 'em."
Fleischer, directing his first film for Fox, fills the widescreen with strong, handsome compositions and fluidly paces the overlapping stories, sending the characters criss-crossing through scenes and panning across the vast canvas to pick out threads of others stories. The sets have the color and detail and open space of Fox melodramas but Fleischer, a veteran of gritty, low-budget crime thrillers, puts an edge to the stories that play out in the glossy spaces. His direction is measured and meticulous and the performances subdued and, as the robbery nears, his pacing is nearly flawless as he weaves their stories tighter together until they converge, criminals and bystanders all, at the high noon heist.
While Fleischer's direction tends to the understated, he delivers a few notably dynamic shots: the gang staggered across the widescreen as they march up to the bank, a force of pure threat; the Amish hostages, trussed and taped and lined up like dolls in the barn loft; bank patrons doubling up and crumpling to the floor, victims of gunshots from trigger-happy robbers. There are no melodramatic fireworks here; the dramatic dynamism is reserved for the violent robbery and an even more brutal battle with the robbers. The desperate stand against the brutal bank robbers brings a particularly dramatic turnabout that, while not necessarily surprising, is startlingly effective in its savage directness: an act of violence befitting a rural noir.
Unlike The Kremlin Letter, the debut disc from fledgling boutique DVD label Twilight Time, the CinemaScope production Violent Saturday is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, which means it loses sharpness and clarity when blown-up to fill widescreen sets. Twilight Time is restricted by the masters provided by 20th Century Fox and co-founder Brian Jamieson explained that they chose to release this title despite the fact that only a 4x3 master existed because: "Both Nick [Redman, Jamieson's Twilight Time partner] and I have a real penchant for this film and we figure there were a lot of other folk out there who would agree. So this was a limitation, but we figured better to have it this way than not at all."
Those limitations aside, it is an excellent master, with strong color and clarity, and it holds up when zoomed out to fill a widescreen monitor. The stereo soundtrack is good and there is the option to listen to Hugo Freidhofer's isolated score (Twilight Time plans to release all discs with an isolated score). Also features an illustrated 8-page booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo.
For more information about Violent Saturday, visit Twilight Time Video.
by Sean Axmaker
Violent Saturday - Victor Mature, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine & Richard Egan in VIOLENT SATURDAY on DVD
Screenwriter Sydney Boehm (The Big Heat , Shock Treatment ) based his screenplay on a story by William L. Heath, which appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in February 1955. The film was shot in the town of Bisbee, Arizona, an old copper mining town, and at the Tucson Country Club.
Failing to consider the impact of the sensational content of their film, Twentieth Century-Fox planned to premiere Violent Saturday in the Amish community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But after reading the original story Lancaster's mayor nixed the idea, calling the film "too violent and sexy." The film was the first at Twentieth Century-Fox produced by Buddy Adler, who replaced the noted head of production Darryl F. Zanuck and pegged Yale-grad Richard Fleischer (The Narrow Margin , Fantastic Voyage , Soylent Green ) to direct. Recalled Fleischer in his autobiography Just Tell Me When to Cry, "Adler was the new fair-haired boy, the screenplay showed promise, and Fox was the place I wanted to be. I accepted the offer and the inevitable long-term contract that went with it. For the next fifteen years I worked mostly for Fox." But even with Adler now in charge, the legend of Zanuck still held sway.
"The influence of Zanuck was pervasive," recalled Fleischer. "You could feel it in the air. In the commissary was a huge Art Deco mural, the centerpiece of which was the face of Darryl Zanuck wearing an expression that was a mixture of Clive of India and Genghis Khan. Even while you ate, his influence poured over your food." Fleischer's autobiography provided many examples of Zanuck's eccentric, autocratic style but an often uncanny ability to craft great films. Fleischer was especially delighted and awed by the fact that Buddy Adler had cast Sylvia Sidney in the film. Fleischer was beside himself, "The aura of her stardom still overpowered me. I couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams ever being permitted to direct Sylvia Sidney. I'd already worked with some pretty fair names: Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, James Mason. But this was Sylvia Sidney for God's sakes." In his autobiography, Fleischer recalled how Sidney sat and knit in her movie trailer while he explained in excruciating detail, her character's psychology and motivation. At the end of his soliloquy she told him "when we get on the set, you just tell me where to stand."
"Oh, and by the way. Whenever you need tears...just tell me when to cry."
Though some critics found the film's violence gratuitous, others found moral complexity in its treatment of a crucial murder at the film's conclusion. One reviewer observed "the morality of violence is brought vividly into question, and the question has seldom been answered with more pith and natural majesty." Others were not so forgiving. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times said the film "appears to have no other purpose than to titillate and thrill on the level of melodrama and guarded pornography." Crowther was especially struck by Lee Marvin who he called "the Number 1 sadist of the screen."
Marvin was less pleased with his turn in Violent Saturday. His wife Pamela Marvin recounted in Lee: A Romance, "Lee said he spent most of the time trying to hide behind his own hand, turning his back or anything else he could do to disappear, he felt the movie was so bad." Ernest Borgnine claimed in his autobiography Ernie, that "I almost killed one of my best friends making this movie," during a pivotal scene where he was supposed to stab bad guy Lee Marvin in the back with a pitchfork. To get the proper gesture of rage, Borgnine said "I caught sight of myself in the beard and overalls and I imagined I was John Brown-a fellow Connecticut native, as it happens-at Harpers Ferry fighting off the soldiers of Robert E. Lee."
Other members of the Violent Saturday cast were less inclined to give it their all for the film. Borgnine recounted that Victor Mature had a very "me vs. them" attitude about movie studios and wasn't inclined to do anything dangerous after he broke his leg doing a stunt for Columbia and was never compensated for his injury. Fleischer had asked Mature to dive under a car for Violent Saturday but Mature refused. Borgnine recalled, "Lee and I thought he was being a little prissy about it. I mean this was a different situation for a different director and not really that dangerous. It's part of what an actor is supposed to do. But Victor had his own view, and I guess he was entitled to it."
Vastly underrated at the time of its release, Violent Saturday is enjoying a much better critical reassessment now, thanks to the release of a new 35mm print that has been playing high profile repertory cinemas like New York City's Film Forum. In reviewing the film, Village Voice critic Nick Pinkerton wrote, "The reigning king of Southwestern noir until, say . . . Charley Varrick?... the opening coda, combining the gouged orange dirt of the copper mines and a Neolithic credit font, suggests something primal-one of the major themes is paternal protectiveness, underlined by a startling amount of violence toward children. Director Richard Fleischer, an ace with the long frame, composes scrolling studies in horizontality, grabbing one of the most ravishing train shots in cinema. Everything keeps swirling inexorably toward the zero-hour heist, thanks to scriptwriter Sydney Boehm, who gets in some of his gristliest lines ("She looked awful, didn't she? Like she'd never been alive")."
Director: Richard Fleischer
Producer: Buddy Adler
Screenplay: Sydney Boehm from a novel by William L. Heath
Cinematography: Charles G. Clarke
Production Design: Lyle R. Wheeler, George W. Davis
Music: Hugo Friedhofer
Cast: Victor Mature (Shelley Martin), Richard Egan (Boyd Fairchild), Stephen McNally (Harper), Virginia Leith (Linda Sherman), Tommy Noonan (Harry Reeves), Lee Marvin (Dill), Margaret Hayes (Mrs. Emily Fairchild), J. Carrol Naish (Chapman), Sylvia Sidney (Elsie Braden), Ernest Borgnine (Stadt).
by Felicia Feaster
William L. Heath's novel, which appeared in Cosmopolitan in February 1955 as one of their "complete mystery novel" features, was published in conjunction with the release of the film. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the film was shot on location in Bisbee and at the Tucson Country Club in Tucson, AZ. In addition, some exteriors were shot at the Twentieth Century-Fox ranch in Malibu, CA. Although Hollywood Reporter news items include Wilbur Mack and Tom Tully in the cast, their appearance in the completed film has not been determined. Milton Krasner filled in for director of photography Charles G. Clarke in late December 1954 when Clark was ill, according to a December 31, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item.
According to news items, Twentieth Century-Fox originally planned to have the film's premiere in Lancaster, PA, an Amish community. However, after the town's mayor, Kendig Bare, read the original story, he refused to permit the screening because he deemed the film "too violent and sexy." No information about subsequent premieres has been found.
The Time reviewer noted that in the scene in which "Stadt" murders the robber, "the morality of violence is brought vividly into question, and the question has seldom been answered with more pith and natural majesty." The New York Times reviewer commented that "Ernest Borgnine as the Amish farmer is a joke. In flat black hat and chin whiskers, he acts as though he's just off the Ark." In another New York Times article about violence in films, the same writer declared that the violence in Violent Saturday "has no moral purpose or point" and "the fact that the farmer, by his nature and religion, deeply abhors violence is the only remotely philosophical-and then defeatist-point in the film." According to the Hollywood Reporter review, the picture was "one of the lowest-budgeted films ever shot in CinemaScope and De Luxe color." Violent Saturday marked the first Twentieth Century-Fox film produced by Buddy Adler, who replaced Darryl F. Zanuck as the studio's head of production in 1956.
Released in United States Spring April 1955
Released in United States Spring April 1955