Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Arrow Films Review: Day of Anger (1967, Tonino Valerii)

  Original title “I giorni dell'ira”

“Lee Van Cleef has been dirty, "ugly" and downright mean... now watch him get violent.”

Poor Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma,
The Leopard) just can't seem to catch a break. If he's not carrying out back breaking and menial work, he's constantly being treated appallingly by the townsfolk. Well, except for a local prostitute named Gwen (Christa Linder, Alien Terror). Things begin to change for the better when a mysterious stranger by the name of Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly) passes through the town on his horse. After hearing about Scott's mistreatment, Frank takes pity on him and invites him to the local saloon for a drink. Whilst ordering drinks, Frank witnesses first hand just how abhorrent the townsfolk really are towards Scott and in a moment of self defence, guns down a local thug. Naturally, Frank is pardoned on the basis of self defence and Scott feels the repercussions of the event. With nowhere else to turn, Scott pursues Frank and as a result Frank decides to take him under his wing and teaches him the way of the gunslinger. What starts out as an invaluable education in both skill and self-confidence soon turns to be a detriment to Scott's already soured reputation. Things become even more complicated when it turns out that Frank was more than just a mysterious stranger passing through...
  Day of Anger is a standout entry in to what is an overly-saturated genre. There are many reasons why it is so highly regarded as it is with cult cinema fans. One of the main reasons is down to a solidly written script from Valerni himself and Ernesto Gastaldi (My Name is Nobody) based on an initial idea by a young Renzo Genta (Jungle Holocaust). Although credited as an adaptation of Rolf Becker's Der tod Ritt Dienstags (Death Rode on Tuesdays), the film only uses a handful of scenes from the book, it was at the request of the German producers that the book be credited. Although the story is simple and somewhat familiar, it's handled well and contributes to a film that flows smoothly even with a runtime of around 114 minutes in its original theatrical form. Within that script are solidly forged and believable characters. Again, theses characters are familiar, but you don't care. Van Cleef's portrayal of Talby is not too dissimilar to Eastwood's portrayal of “The man with no name”. He's a mysterious rogue that stands up with the greatest of anti-heroes. To compliment him, we have the down on his luck-cum-confident hero character of Gemma's Scott Mary. The relationship of mentor and student plays out nicely and is again, believable. Both Gemma and Van Cleef handle the material nicely and put in great performances. Even minor characters such as the corrupt Judge Cutcher (Lukas Ammann, Mark of the Devil Part 2) and local bum Blind Bill (José Calvo, A Fistful of Dollars) are well acted. Everyone puts in a good performance.
  When it comes to violence, the film has some good shoot-outs and set pieces. It's not the most graphic of the genre, but it doesn't matter because the film is more of a character study. The scenes involving shoot-outs and blood work well within the context of the complete film. Naturally, these scenes, as well the film as a whole are shot beautifully. Director of photography for this outing is Enzo Serafin (Chronicle of a Love) with Silvio Fraschetti (Star Odyssey) operating the camera. This collaboration captures the action and the beautiful natural landscape of Almeria wonderfully. To compliment the beautiful aesthetics, there is the score from the ever-dependable Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust). Once again, Ortolani provides one of his best scores. For me, this in fact one of the genres best scores. It has those typical western guitar vibes, but has a somewhat jazzy edge. It's one of those scores you can listen to on its own. Those who may have not seen the actual film or heard the score itself may recognise Tarantino's use of the film's title track in Django: Unchained. All in all, Day of Anger is one of the best entries in to the genre. Thankfully, Arrow Films have done a great job with their release.
  First of all, there are two versions of the film included; the longer Italian theatrical version and the shorter international version. Out of the two, I prefer the longer cut. Both versions look and sound wonderful and the Italian version can be watched in either the English or Italian soundtrack. The subtitle track is also newly-translated. In terms of extras there are interviews with Tonino Valerii, Ernesto Gastaldi and the always insightful Roberto Curti (Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969). There's a deleted scene that appears in the international cut, bit the Italian cut, a selection of trailers and a booklet with new writings from Howard Hughes (Once Upon A Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers' Guide to Spaghetti Westerns). Of course, there's also some newly commissioned artwork, this time from Reinhard Kleist and reversible artwork. It's a great package for new and old fans a like. I can't see a better release of this film any time soon. The only thing I will say is that even though the previous Wild East release presented the film in the wrong format with an inferior transfer, there are some extras that are on that disc that would have been nice here, but that's not a detriment to Arrow themselves. Do yourself a favour and pick up this wonderful release.

Day of Anger is available as a DVD & Blu-Ray combo from Arrow Films.PDx