mon 17/06/2024

DVD: Violent Saturday | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Violent Saturday

DVD: Violent Saturday

Audacious Fifties hybrid of bank-heist caper and melodrama

Order before chaos during the bank raid on a violent Saturday

Bradenville is on the way up. The town might only have one bank, but it does have a copper mine and a newly opened pyjama factory. In Arizona, it’s sufficiently isolated to seem the right target for a trio of bad guys looking to help themselves to what’s in that bank. Their plans culminate on a Saturday.

The 1955 film Violent Saturday is, potentially, standard film noir. A darkly drawn bank heist caper, it is also a Peyton Place-style melodrama examining the lives of townsfolk, their infelicities, insecurities and foibles. The two styles exist in parallel and meet head on the fateful Saturday. The identify of the criminals is relevant, but director Richard Fleischer has a greater interest in the inner lives of Bradenville’s residents.

This rich mix does take some getting used to

Fleischer, who died in 2006, made Violent Saturday after the Jules Verne adaptation 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He also directed films as varied as The Vikings, The Boston Strangler, Doctor Doolittle, Fantastic Voyage and Soylent Green in a long career. In marrying two styles – there are also nods towards the western in the setting and the film's violent ending – he made what was a one-off. There are also rich characterisations: Lee Marvin is a twitchy, Benzedrine-sniffing crook who stomps on a kid's hand, Ernest Borgnine is a most unlikely Amish famer and an uncharacteristically dynamic yet dependably leathery Victor Mature is the film’s hero. There are also adultery, a thieving librarian, and a peeping-tom bank manager.

This rich mix does take some getting used to. It also absorbs thanks to the fine use of wide-screen Cinerama. No space is wasted, yet no set-ups are fussy or over-stuffed with visual information. The image restoration is superb with bold colour and strong contrast. The extras include appreciations by directors William Friedkin and Nicolas Saada. Violent Saturday is not the masterpiece either paint it as, but its audaciousness can’t fail to impress.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Overleaf: watch a clip from the restored Violent Saturday


Watch a clip from the restored Violent Saturday

Lee Marvin is a twitchy, Benzedrine-sniffing crook who stomps on a kid's hand


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters