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SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (director: Karel Reisz; screenwriter: Alan Sillitoe/based on the novel by Alan Sillitoe; cinematographer: Freddie Francis; editor: Seth Holt; music: John Dankworth; cast: Albert Finney (Arthur Seaton), Shirley Anne Field (Doreen), Rachel Roberts (Brenda), Hylda Baker (Aunt Ada), Norman Rossington (Bert), Bryan Pringle (Jack), Edna Morris (Mrs. Bull), Irene Richmond (Doreen’s mom), Robert Cawdron (Robboe, foreman), Frank Pettitt(Mr. Seaton), Elsie Wagstaff(Mrs. Seaton); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Tony Richardson/Harry Saltzman; Video Best; 1970-UK)

Albert Finney’s belligerent performance is simply smashing.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In his feature film directing debut, the Czech born Karel Reisz (“Night Must Fall”/”Isadora”/”Who’ll Stop the Rain?”)does a good job with this hard-hittingBritish New Wave film in keeping it absorbing. It’s one of those early “Angry Young Man” British films of the 1960s adapted from a literary work. “Saturday” is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Alan Sillitoe, who does the screenplay. It was a smash box-office hit in England, as its many youthful viewers identified with the hero’s rebellious saying of ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ Albert Finney’s belligerent performance is simply smashing. In his first starring film role Finney plays Arthur Seaton, the 22-year-old Nottingham factory worker who is discontented with his lot in life and rebels by looking only for a good time. The lad says “all the rest is propaganda.”

Arthur works hard all week at the lathe, and parties on weekends at the local pubs. The lad still lives with his lifeless telly watching working-class folks (Elsie Wagstaff & Frank Pettitt), who he says are ‘dead from the neck up’.

The lad finds some brief moments of joy in his Saturday night affair with Brenda (Rachel Roberts), who has a child and is married to the square Jack (Bryan Pringle). He’s a factory worker in the same plant as Albert.

Arthur picks up at the local pub Doreen (Anne Field), a pretty factory worker from another plant. To his disappointment Doreen won’t give him sex, as they go on conventional dates to the movies. Meanwhile Arthur learns he made Brenda pregnant. She at first wants an abortion, but when she spots him with Doreen she breaks off the relationship realizing it was just a hopeless one of convenience and decides to keep the child. When Jack discovers her infidelity, he has his tough soldier brother and soldier friend give Arthur a well-deserved beating and then takes Brenda back. The beating seems to have changed Arthur’s defiant attitude and he asks the superficial Doreen to marry him. The couple plan on moving into a new housing development, with him returning to his job after recouping for a week from his beating. It leaves off with Arthur ready to live a seemingly dull married conventional life like those he rails against and his last rebellious act is to throw a stone at one of the new houses in the development–indicating his resentment that life is cold, but that his boozing and party way of defying the system won’t change it.

It’s a grim post-war working-class drama, with not much to cheer about except that it gave the mass audience some thrills because its working-class hero was remembered for thumbing his nose at the authorities. This captured the mood of the times. The film is important because its success made it possible for real life dramas to follow that were without artificial happy Hollywood endings. Its feisty hero’s hedonistic individual rebellion had no traction to change things for the better for the working-class man, even if the rebel is sincere in his rebellion and that he became part of that country’s sexual revolution in the 1960s.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”