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Thursday, March 16th, 2006

NARROW MARGIN and VIOLENT SATURDAY

To wet my appetite for the upcoming Noir Festival, I went to the Aero Theatre to see the Noir Double Feature.  Both films were directed by Richard Fleischer, who was an outstanding craftsmen.  First off was NARROW MARGIN (1952) starring Marie Windsor and Charles McGraw.  This was a delightfully nasty noir with great characters and dialogue.  Marie Windsor plays a gangster’s wife who is forced on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles to testify in a racket busting trial.  Charles McGraw plays the police officer who is assigned to protect her and to make sure she arrives safely.  Their characters despise each other and their constant verbal sparring is wickedly enjoyable.  There are many twists and turns in the script that constantly keep you guessing.  I won’t give away the ending because this film IS on DVD, but sufficed to say if you want to see a fantastic and tightly wound noir, this is it!


The next film was VIOLENT SATURDAY (1955) starring Victor Mature, Sylvia Sidney and Lee Marvin.  I was very excited to see this since it is not available on video.  Shot in lush color and CinemaScope, this film was a perfect big screen experience.  Based on the caper novel by W.B. Heath, VIOLENT SATURDAY weaves together the stories of several people in a small town whose lives converge during a violent bank heist.  What I loved about this film was how rich it was in character development.  The first 3/4 of the film was ALL back story on the lives of each character, going into their problems, conflicts and histories.  Some of the scenes and characters seemed to be taken right out of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, but the tone and manner in which it was all presented felt very right within the context of the film.  What made the film so powerful in my mind was that by the time the bank heist happens, I felt as though I had an emotional investment in each character.  As an audience member, I had spent time with them and gotten to know them so their violent fates seemed so much more tragic to me.  I guess my big complaint about most films (particularly modern ones) is that you NEVER get to have characters this rich or fleshed out.  If this film were made today, it would have started with the bank heist and never would have taken such a generous amount of time setting it up.  It is almost as if today people (generally speaking) don’t have the attention span to sit through things that aren’t edited in MTV fashion.  The problem with so many movies is that since you never get that character development, you don’t CARE about what happens to the characters.  I could rattle off so many expamples of movies that don’t work for that very reason. VIOLENT SATURDAY was so beautifully written that it should be shown in every screenwriting class.  I can’t praise this film enough.  I’m only sorry it is so hard to find. 


Perhaps I will adpot this film as one of my “pet projects.”  Allow me to explain….There are so many incredible old movies that aren’t on DVD.  I’ve taken a handful of my favorites and have taken it upon myself to gently lobby the appropriate studio to release them.  I’ve written to the Fox Home Video department (and the in house restoration expert) many times about NIGHTMARE ALLEY and BLOOD AND SAND both starring Tyrone Power.  Fortunately NIGHTMARE ALLEY is now on DVD!  I don’t take credit for that personally BUT I figure that my gentle prodding via e-mail is at least another brick in the wall and another reminder that there are still people out there who care about these films. 

Written by Karie (site owner) on 03/16 at 01:12 AM

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