Category Archives: Victor Mature

The Shanghai Gesture

Melbourne Cinematheque is currently screening a series of films by the legendary Viennese-born auteur Joseph von Sternberg. It’s as good an opportunity as any to post this great review of one of the strangest and most powerful film noirs I have seen, von Sternberg’s 1941 classic, The Shanghai Gesture, starring Gene Tierney, Victor Mature and Walter Huston.

Unfortunately, this is not one of the films being shown by Melbourne Cinematheque, although it’s not hard to get on DVD and it’s definitely worth it. I won’t spoil what follows by saying any more. This review originally appeared as Back Alley Noir’s Film Noir of the Week in September 2010. It was written Sheila O’Malley, whose excellent blog The Shelia Variations is well worth checking out. Thanks to Sheila for permission to reprint her work.

Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture, his last major picture, is characterized as a noir, but this is a film noir staggering through a cloud of opium smoke with fresh bruises on its hipbones. The film’s focus on an investigation into a nighttime world of corruption is one of the reasons for its noir status, not to mention the strong spider-woman in the lead, but in many respects the film eludes classification.

Based on a play by John Colton, the script of The Shanghai Gesture was problematic from the start, and von Sternberg was forced to make extensive cuts.… Read more

Violent Saturday

Over the weekend I managed to catch a film I’d been keen to see for a while, Richard Fleischer’s Violent Saturday. Made in 1955, it focuses on a bank robbery in small southern US town.

It’s not hard to see why it was so heavily criticised upon release. Apart from the violence there’s some pretty warts and all portrayals of the residents. The owner of the local copper mine, the town’s main business, is an alcoholic cuckold and the manager (Victor Mature) is ashamed because he never got to serve in WWII. The librarian’s a petty thief and the bank manager a peeping tom.

All this comes to a head when hoodlums (headed up by Stephen McNally and including a very young Lee Marvin) arrive in town to hit the local bank. They car jack Mature then take a local Amish family (Ernest Borgnine is the father) hostage so they can use their farm as a hide-out after the robbery.

As usual with Fleischer, a director who could walk and chew gum at the same time, it’s a good, solid effort. There’s gritty action and interesting, convincing characters.

Previously unavailable, Violent Saturday has been released by a new Melbourne outfit, Bounty Films. The DVD didn’t include any special features, just the movie.

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