Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Movies: Violent Saturday

Small time, small town tragedies cheerfully unfold in this beautifully-colored 1955 film, in which a violent bank robbery solves every one's seething troubles: the wealthy but aimless alcoholic is freed from his cheating wife (when she's shot dead by the robbers), the shy, peeping-tom bank manager is able to clear the air with the nurse he's been lusting for (when she tends his gunshot wounds in the hospital), the old librarian in debt pays back her loan (with stolen money, but who cares?!), the father (a very orange Victor Mature) plays hero and gain his son's respect, and the Amish family (!) at the nearby farm only lose one of three children and their barn in exchange for the privilege of stabbing a bank robber to death in the back with a pitchfork.

I know I'm being rather nonchalant here, but the film glosses over this town equally as blithely, dipping into the ugliness of humanity with brilliant humorous touches (Lee Marvin, as one of the bank robbers, has an incessant sinus problem, and keeps sticking a white plastic inhaler into his nostrils and snorting). The nurse has an exceptionally pert bosom, which the camera clocks as carefully as every man in the film does. In the middle of the robbery, one of the robbers produces a handful of candy from his pocket and gives it to a kid standing under his mother's protective arm. The Amish man has a dreadfully stiff beard clearly glued to his face, and speaks without contractions.

It's all about as serious as any film could be in 1955, and as I've already said, the color is gorgeous and perfectly describes the dusty light of a western afternoon. The characters are fairly stock, but forgivably so, given the inhalers and the candies and the bosom. And you won't find more entertaining Amish families in any other movie of the decade.

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