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Violent Saturday

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    Ian Jane
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  • Violent Saturday



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: July, 2014.
    Director: Richard Fleischer
    Cast: Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Stephen McNally, Tommy Noonan, Lee Marvin
    Year: 1955
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Originally released by Twilight Time on DVD only in 2011 (now out of print), Richard Fleischer's excellent thriller Violent Saturday lives again and receives, through this reissue, a very nice high definition upgrade.

    Set in the era in which it was made, mid-fifties America, the film takes place in the town of Bradenville. There's an obvious division between the haves and the have-nots in this town, but for the most part it's a peaceful place. As far as the haves are concerned, we've got Shelley Martin (Victor Mature), a man who runs a copper mining operation with the hard drinking Boyd Fairchild (Richard Egan), a man who hits the bottle as often as he does because he's having issues with his wife, Emily (Margaret Hayes). The have-nots? Elsie Braden (Sylvia Sidney), the librarian in town. She doesn't have enough money to pay the rent and has just been served with an eviction notice. Everyone here is a little damaged and has a skeleton or two in his or her closet it seems.

    At any rate, things get hectic in the town when a group of hardened criminals come into town. The gang leader, Harper (Stephen McNally), poses as a travelling salesman sets himself up in the town's hotel while his two partners, Dill (Lee Marvin) and Chapman (J. Carroll Naish) arrive on a train. They start checking out the town because they mean to rob the bank managed by Harry Reeves (Tommy Noonan). As they go about their business, their lives become intertwined with those of the various townsfolk. When the big day comes, they pull of their heist and then a carjacking, forcing the driver to bring them out into Amish country where they intend to switch vehicles at a remote farm owned by a man named Stadt (Ernest Borgnine) and make their getaway. Of course, things don't always go as planned.

    There's a really interesting sense of small town paranoia that works its way into the story that Violent Saturday tells. While, yes, this is very much a heist film with a whole lot of film noir elements, there's more to this than just the set up and execution and some moody cinematography and shifty characters. There's an almost voyeuristic aspect to everyday life in Bradenville, the very seedy sense that everyone in town is being watched by everyone else in town. It's not necessarily a sexual thing, even if in some cases it most certainly is, but it's there. As such, we wind up with a story in which you don't know who you can trust and even if it makes quite clear who the literal bank robbers are, we don't know for most of the running time if there are any characters here that would qualify as 'good guys.' Everyone's morals are questionable.

    Through this build up, the movie manages to deliver some solid suspense and it comes to a pretty riveting climax before it's all over with. The way in which the Amish characters are introduced is an unusual plot device but it's integrated into the outcome very effectively and the almost episodic nature in which all of this unfolds is somehow completely fitting.

    The movie is anchored by some very strong performances. Victor Mature is excellent in the film, creating an interesting character with the right mix of arrogance and pathos to him. When his son tells him that he can't be proud of him the way the other boys are because he didn't serve in the war, we feel for him. Sylvia Sidney also crafts an interesting character as the down on her luck librarian. Her desperate times will no doubt call for desperate measures. Of course, Stephen McNally, J. Carroll Naish and the great Lee Marvin are all perfect as the bank robbers to be, with Marvin in particular playing his drug addicted hood with plenty of quirky personality. Throw in memorable supporting parts from Ernest Borgnine and Tommy Noonan and, yeah, the cast definitely excels.

    Fleischer builds the movie at a deliberate pace and as such, it takes a little while before it really gets going but once it does, the early, slower scenes wind up paying off. The beautiful widescreen cinematography does an excellent job of capturing the town and the natural scenery that surrounds it while still helping to build tension as it all comes to a head. At times this is more a character piece than a traditional crime film but the movie is no less impressive for it. Those looking for a typical heist picture might not necessarily appreciate what the filmmakers were going for here but pay attention to the way things play out and how the different characters react to their situations and this turns out to be a rewarding mix of social commentary and crime film conventions unique in the annals of the genre.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Violent Saturday looks great on Blu-ray in this AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.55.1. Colors are reproduced very nicely and manage to appear bold and well defined without ever feeling artificially boosted or oversaturated. The blues in the outdoor scenes that take place under open skies really impress while black levels are rock solid. There are no noticeable issues with compression issues here to quibble over nor are there any problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Aside from a very pleasing, natural looking amount of film grain there are no problems with actual print damage, the image is fairly pristine, quite film like. Detail and texture impress from start to finish and all in all, the movie looks fantastic on this disc.

    A DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is provided in the movie's original English language. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. While it would have been nice to get the original mix here, the 5.1 track does at least provide some decent directional effects and put a bit more power behind both the score and the sound effects in the film. There are some spots where dialogue sounds a little thin and a bit too spread out but aside from that, this is a solid track. Levels are generally pretty well balanced and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.

    The main extra is a commentary track from Twilight Time's Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo that does a fine job of offering up a wealth of background information on the picture as well as providing some interesting context in terms of who did what in the film. There's a good bit of talk about Fleischer's style and so too is there a lot of discussion as to the merits of the different performers that make up the cast.

    Outside of that, we get the always welcome isolated score option, once again in DTS-HD Mono format, some static menus and chapter selection. Julie Kirgo contributes a solid set of liners notes included in the insert booklet that offer up some background information on the film and contain some nice archival images.

    The Final Word:

    Violent Saturday holds up well, it's a tense and really well made thriller that takes a little bit of time to get going but which ultimately brings everything to a satisfying conclusion. The film benefits from an excellent cast, a solid score and some really impressive cinematography that the new high definition transfer really does a fine job of showing off. A very nice release over all.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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