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Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma) is a lowly street cleaner that is relentlessly bullied by the people of the small town of Clifton. When legendarily ruthless master gunfighter Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) rides into town, Scott seizes the opportunity to lift himself out of the gutter and possibly even surpass Talby's own skills. But what is Talby doing in Clifton in the first place? (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

 Day of Anger
The two most influential movies in the worldwide proliferation of spaghetti westerns were Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966), but Leone’s second shot at an oater, For a Few Dollars More (1965), was an outrageous hit as well and it propelled Lee Van Cleef into an unlikely position as a superstar actor. Van Cleef had been hanging around Hollywood as a grizzled tough guy supporter since the ‘50s, including appearances in Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon (1952), Joseph H. Lewis’ The Big Combo (1955), and John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Audiences made his second Leone collaboration, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), the biggest hit of his career, but seemed to prefer his earlier turn as Clint Eastwood’s good-guy mentor, because he kept being cast in similar master/apprentice roles.

1967 saw the release of two Van Cleef as a mentor/father figure movies, Giulio Petroni’s Death Rides a Horse (aka: Da Uomo a Uomo, literally translated to As Man to Man), which paired him with American pretty boy, John Phillip Law, and Tonino Valerii’s Day of Anger (aka: I Giorni Dell'ira and Gunlaw), which paired him with Italian pretty boy, Giuliano Gemma. The two films have so much in common that they’re usually coupled in any kind of critical discussion on the subject and, because Petroni’s film is a shade better (not to mention more commonly seen, due to rights issues landing it in the public domain), Day of Anger has often been overlooked by scholarly and fan establishments.

 Day of Anger
The key distinction between the films is in the character motivations. In Death Rides a Horse, Van Cleef’s character helps Law’s refine his raw anger into more elegant revenge and helps himself to restitution in the process. Day of Anger (very, very loosely based on the novel of the same name by Ron Barker) begins as more of a Cinderella story. Or maybe Cinderella meets My Fair Lady. Scott ‘Mary,’ as he is dubbed, is a social outcast that is appointed to clean up everyone else’s waste (in some cases literal waste from used chamber pots) in exchange for living in their midst. Van Cleef’s Talby plays the story’s Professor Higgins-type, who immediately recognizes promise in Scott and builds him from a bullied janitor into an ace gunfighter. Except Talby’s intensions aren’t entirely honorable (he expertly murders everyone who stands against him without breaking any obvious laws) and Scott’s real test is whether or not he’ll remain loyal to a mentor who may be a blood-thirsty villain; a plot point recycled by David Goyer (knowingly or not) when he wrote Batman Begins.

Neither Death Rides a Horse or Day of Anger were particularly political, beyond the basic metaphors that could be gleaned from the corrupt officials playing power games. This set them more firmly in the pure pulp spaghetti arena. Day of Anger is particularly devoted to recalling older Hollywood western glory, minus the social conscious of the Zapata westerns and the hyper-stylized appearance of Leone’s work – though it does recycle many of Leone’s supporting actors and Almeria locations. What Valerii lacks in flashy technique, he makes up for with a steady hand and utilitarian skills. He was also one of the best action directors in the business at the time, arguably even better than Corbucci or Sollima. The horseback rifle duel is legitimately among the most thrilling and expertly-crafted action sequences in spaghetti history. Day of Anger was only his second shot at western conventions, following A Taste For Killing (aka: Per il Gusto di Uccidere, 1966). Later, he directed The Price of Power (1968), also starring Gemma, and A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (1972), an epic Civil War version of Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen starring Bud Spencer, Telly Savalas, and James Coburn. Both are ‘bigger’ than Day of Anger, but neither is as well-balanced. Valerii was eventually hired by Leone himself to co-direct My Name is Nobody in 1973.

 Day of Anger
Gemma’s spaghetti western success coincided with Van Cleef’s. He appeared in Duccio Tessari’s A Pistol for Ringo (aka: Una Pistola per Ringo) in 1965, a big hit that, like Corbucci’s Django and Gianfranco Parolini’s Sartana (1968), birthed a series of official and unofficial sequels, including The Return of Ringo, which re-paired Gemma and Tessari. He also appeared in Corbucci’s final western, The White, the Yellow, and the Black (aka: Il Bianco, il Giallo, il Nero and Shoot First... Ask Questions Later, 1974) alongside Eli Wallach and Tomas Milian (in yellow-face), Pasquale Squitieri’s Godfather cash-in Corleone (1978), Lucio Fulci’s underrated final western, Silver Saddle (aka: They Died with Their Boots On, 1978), and he is very well remembered as the ill-fated police inspector in Dario Argento’s Tenebre (aka: Unsane, 1982).

Arrow has included both the 95-minute international and 114-minute Italian versions, similar to what Blue Underground and Grindhouse Releasing have done with many of their spaghetti western Blu-rays. I definitely recommend the longer cut, though I don’t think the additional scenes add as much to the story or characters as they do for something like The Big Gundown or Bullet for the General.

 Day of Anger

Video


Day of Anger was made available on DVD via French and Japanese companies as well as small, bygone boutique label called Wild East Productions here in the states. Of these releases, only France’s Seven 7 release was anamorphic. The first available Blu-ray was from Japan’s TC Entertainment, but it was only 1080i and included the American cut in non-anamorphic SD. Arrow is releasing the first full 1080p, 2.35:1 Blu-ray simultaneously in the UK and US. Their transfer has been fully restored from 35mm Techniscope negatives and looks absolutely fantastic. Details are outrageously sharp from front to back without any notable edge enhancement or halo problems. The textures on the various Almeria sets and locations have never appeared richer or more complex. Grain levels seem natural and maintain consistency without clumping up too much during darker moments. Print damage artefacts are minor and I didn’t notice any of the DNR enhancements that have plagued other Italian genre releases over the past couple of years. The colour quality is vibrant and hues are well separated, but the overall palette (skin tones, specifically) might lean a tad too orange for some viewers. I’m not familiar enough with the original material to judge either way in this regard. The specs don’t specify if both the international and Italian versions were taken from original sources, but the image quality appears comparable, so I assume they put together a composite version. I was going to compare this disc to my Wild East DVD, but it was no contest.

Here is a single, zoomed-in side-by-side image to give you idea of the gulf between the releases:

 Day of Anger

Audio


Arrow has included the option to watch the longer cut in either Italian or English (apparently, there was a complete English dub of the Italian version). Both are presented in LPCM 24-bit 1.0 mono. The LPCM 1.0 mono English dub on the shorter international cut is more compressed at 16-bits. Like the vast majority of European westerns, Day of Anger was shot without sound. The international casts were often speaking their own languages at each other, but English is usually the default filming language. Indeed, Giuliano Gemma has said in interviews that they were speaking English (Valarii disputes that claim) and Van Cleef does dub himself, so the English language track is probably ideal. That said, the Italian track does have some advantages in terms of volume. Besides being notably louder than the English one, the incidental effects separation is slightly wider.

Riz Ortolani’s score has found new popularity, thanks to Tarantino using it in both Kill Bill Volume 1 and, more extensively, Django Unchained (it plays over Django’s training montage at the end of the first act). Ortolani’s career in spaghettis was eclipsed by Ennio Morricone’s. However, unlike most other composers working on westerns in a post- Fistful of Dollars world, he always did a good job differentiating his work from Morricone’s, while still maintaining a modern, pseudo rock ‘n roll feel. Day of Anger’s music is sort of a Latin jazz meets classic pulp cowboy mash-up and it sounds very nice on both tracks, though, again, the Italian track is louder.

 Day of Anger

Extras


  • Archival interviews with director Tonino Valerii (10:50, SD) – This laid back, 2008 interview appears to have been conducted in the director’s living room by his biographer, Roberto Curti. Valerii discusses the film’s themes, the money it made, how little it has in common with the novel, casting (Gemma was not his first choice, but he was popular), filming, and more.
  • Interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (13:00, HD) – A new discussion with the prolific writer that briefly covers some of his work with Leone, but generally sticks to Day of Anger. He talks about the basic plot, the lack of politics in this particular movie, and recalls a conversation between Leone and Steven Spielberg.
  • Money, Myths and Mortality (43:30, HD) – An interview/seminar with critic and Valerii biographer Roberto Curti, who starts with the director’s early life and eventually settles into discussing his westerns. The information is good (especially the stuff about Day of Anger’s Oedipal themes), but so much of the interview feels kind of like a college lecture with Curti speaking to camera, interspliced occasionally by still slides and a couple of scenes from Day of Anger.
  • Deleted scene (1:30, HD)
  • US trailer, international trailer, and TV spot


 Day of Anger

Overall


Day of Anger isn’t one of the transformative and ‘important’ spaghetti westerns that experts like to talk about, but it is an efficiently entertaining, yet not too fluffy example of the subgenre. The story is strong, the familiar cast is well-utilized, and the action scenes are spectacular. In fact, this is a good place for uninitiated, future fans to start once they’ve moved on from the Sergio Leone movies. Arrow’s Blu-ray looks even better than expected and is a massive upgrade on DVD versions in terms of video, audio, and extras.

 Day of Anger
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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