Review: Day of Anger
Blu-ray: Day of Anger (1967)
By 1967 the ‘spaghetti western‘ (a subgenre of the traditional ‘Western’) was enjoying particular success with audiences worldwide. There seemed to be a pool of actors who kept appearing in sweaty close-up after sweaty close-up in every one of them; sometimes sat astride a horse before being shot, and other times sat drinking whisky in a saloon…before being shot. The spaghetti westerns took the genre to more extremes than the American movie studios had done in previous years. No longer did the hero ride into town and dispatch of the bad guy with a single shot that made him clasp his chest (to cover the fact that there was no blood) and then fall down; these movies had a barrage of gunfire, blood flying everywhere (albeit usually a slightly too vivid red) and more often than not the role of the ‘hero’ was not clearly defined and was more of an antihero.
Day of Anger (AKA Gunlaw) stars Lee Van Cleef (a veteran of many westerns dating back to the early 1950’s) as Frank Talby; a man with a fast gun and a bad reputation. He rides into the town of Clifton where we have already been introduced to Scott (Giuliano Gemma); the towns ‘dogsbody’ who sweeps the floors and empties the latrines. Although simple at heart, Scott yearns to be a respected gunslinger and keeps a wooden pistol in the barn so that he can practice in secret.
Talby offers Scott $1 to take his horse to the barn and meet him in the saloon for payment, but in the saloon Talby sees how the townsfolk treat Scott like dirt and he takes his side against them all. This leads to Scott following Talby out of town and becoming his protégé, before both return to Clifton and reclaim the town as their own. The balance of power between them can not be sustained and only one can emerge victorious. Scott has youth and a fast draw to his advantage, but will it be enough to overcome the experience and wiliness of Talby?
Stolen money, double crosses, corrupt bankers, unlawful judges and grizzled bounty hunters; all the classic western tropes are present and correct, and all presented beautifully across stark and barren terrains (some of which you may well recognise from other movies of the genre). Something that was brand new to me though involved a horseback duel using front loading single shot rifles…think a medieval joust but with a stetson and a gun!
Lee Van Cleef never fails to impress, and once again his ‘1000 yard stare’ and rich mellow voice portrays a character that you wouldn’t want to mess with. His physical presence and movement is like a coiled snake ready to attack; slow deliberate movements with no sign of fear. Giuliano Gemma gives a good performance too as he morphs from the bumbling town caretaker into a cocksure gunman with ambitions that may well be above his abilities.
There are twists and turns to the storyline that kept me thoroughly engaged throughout, and I emitted an audible gasp when first presented with the sight of the Colt 45 saloon; a structure the likes of which I’ve never seen in a western before…somebody please build it in my local village asap!
I’d never seen Day of Anger before and it certainly won’t be the last time that I watch it. Having Lee Van Cleef in a movie is always a positive for me, but the other performances, twisting storyline, superb cinematography and a music score by Riz Ortolani that will stick in your head for days afterwards, means that I would also heartily recommend it to everyone else too.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- Brand new restoration from the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of both versions of the film: the original Italian theatrical release, and the shortened version that was screened internationally
- Original uncompressed mono audio, with English or Italian soundtracks on the longer cut and an English soundtrack on the shorter one
- Newly translated English subtitles for Italian audio and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for English audio
- Brand new interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi – (A short but interesting chat with Ernesto)
- Brand new interview with Tonino Valerii’s biographer Roberto Curti – (Fascinating stories from Roberto about the movie and its filmmakers…I’m going to be searching out his books now!)
- Previously unreleased 2008 interview with Tonino Valerii – (Tonino tells the genesis of the storyline for the movie, it’s success at the box office and a tale about what happens when you drink 73% proof alcohol!)
- Deleted scene
- Theatrical trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Reinhard Kleist
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Howard Hughes (author of Spaghetti Westerns), illustrated with original poster designs
Review by Dave (Host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films.