Violent Saturday is a sundazzled Southwestern film noir about a bank job in 1950s Small Town, America. Quibblers may question if true noir can occur in the booming noonday sun, but there is no need for rain-slicked streets and Venetian blinds to explore the darkness of the criminal soul, and once the heist kicks into gear the skeptics will forget such pedantry and enjoy the ride. Director Richard Fleischer does a great job orchestrating the plot and keeps the story snapping with suspense and twists and turns. The crux of a heist movie has always been quirky character actors, and here you have a cool ensemble that includes Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, J. Carrol Naish, Victor Mature, and Richard Egan. True to the code, the bad guys are bad and so are the good guys, or at least they're not the upstanding citizens they want you to believe. The bank manager is a peeping Tom, the librarian is larcenous, and there is a tightly coiled Amish elder itching for trouble. In Violent Saturday, American small town life is lifted like a rock to uncover its squirming creepiness beneath--decades before David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino made it their signature move.
"PACKED WITH TWISTS AND SURPRISES. Marvin proves most unsettling as a hard guy who’s always snorting from an inhaler (it’s psychosomatic: he once had a wife with a perpetual cold). Mature, with his stricken manliness, reminds you of why James Agee thought he would be perfect as Diomed in Troilus and Cressida."
– Michael Sragow, The New Yorker
"FLEISCHER'S PIVOTAL FILM... He turns the centrifugal storytelling into the motor for any number of tracking and sliding sequence shots, concentric circles turning within each other. Violent Saturday is a remodeling operation, a modernizing, abstracting, and reshaping of noir- and not only through its lengthened horizon. It is not drenched in shadows, but they are a significant and visually defining feature- from the band of shade under the brim of Marvin's hat that obscures his face, to the shadows that give weight and depth to space when the crooks case the town. The film's 'Bradenville'- part Bisbee, part studio set-is stylized but not stereotyped, with a depth and compositional care one could call painterly. Think of Edward Hopper. Violent Saturday is an artifical reality transfixed and transformed by light."
– Richard Combs, Film Comment