BR: Day of Anger / Day of Wrath / Gunlaw / I giorni dell’ira (1967)

June 14, 2015 | By

 

DayOfAnger1967_BRFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Excellent

Label: Arrow Video USA / MVD Visual

Region: A, B

Released:  March 31, 2015

Genre:  Spaghetti Western

Synopsis: A bastard youth earns respect and fear among abusive townspeople after apprenticing under a ruthless gunslinger.

Special Features:  Extras: 114 min. Italian version with English and Italian audio + English Subtitles / 96 min. American version with English audio + English subtitles / Deleted Scene from American version (2 mins.) / 3 interviews: director Tonino Valerii (11 mins.) + screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (14 mins.) + Italian film historian Roberto Curti (44 mins) / 3 Theatrical Trailers / booklet with essay by spaghetti western expert Howard Hughes / Reversible Sleeve Artwork / DVD editions of Italian and American cuts.

 

 


 

Review:

Tonino Valerii’s spaghetti western was previously released on DVD in 2003 by Wild East, but this new Blu-ray combo edition from Arrow Video offers the film in a sparkling HD transfer with a new bath of extras.

Considered a protégé of genre pioneer Sergio Leone, Valerii had already proved he could direct in his debut Taste of Killing (1966), and what was initially designed to be a B-level production suddenly became more high-profile when popular actor Giuliano Gemma wanted to tackle the role of a bastard child whose hunger for respect is rewarded the day he saves the life of a cool yet vicious gunslinger.

Gemma had already made a pair of Ringo films, but the role of Scott Mary was admittedly quite young for the then-30 year old actor with a background in gymnastics. In spite of his evident age, Gemma managed to give the emotionally abused boy the right balance of humility, hunger, and a state of morality in flux in Valerii’s intriguing genre entry.

Day of Anger isn’t exactly original, and at nearly 2 hours there are scenes which tend to unfold at a measure pace (hence American distributor National General hacking the film down to 95 mins.), but it is a really well directed work with gorgeous visuals and some highly memorable sequences. The production’s also buoyed by a solid talent pool which includes prolific screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, composer Riz Ortolani (Mondo Cane, The 7th Dawn), cinematographer Enzo Serafin, editor Franco Fraticelli (Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Opera), supporting actors Walter Rilla (The Devil Came from Akasava), and Andrea Bosic (Arizona Colt, Hornet’s Nest).

In the American trailers, Gemma isn’t even given screen credit, whereas in the international campaign he’s put on equal footing with Lee Van Cleef, freshly cast from Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), whose subdued performance again reveals the actor’s knack for playing characters with a large grey zone of questionable morals. He recognizes virtue in Scott, if not a bit of his younger self, and accepts the boy as a protégé, teaching him a series of lessons which ultimately doom the teacher when Scott’s former mentor from his (literal shit-shoveling days is murdered.

What makes Van Cleef’s Frank Talby so likeable is his firm code – ‘Don’t cross me, and you’ll live’ – and his ability to balance measured patience with fast action, quickly recognizing a dangerous hostile situation and snuffing out deadly elements before he’s removed from his perch.

In the bonus interviews, Gastaldi explains Day of Anger is really rooted in an idea by Renzo Genta (Jungle HolocaustThe Concorde Affair) which the former crafted into an original script. The only elements drawn from the credited literary source – Ron Barker’s novel Der tod Ritt Dienstag – are closing scenes in the town where Talby assumes the role as a kind of emperor. The scenes do flow within the film’s narrative, but they do present Talby as an emerging despot, which runs contrary to the character’s drifter code of collecting what’s available rather than what’s ultimately achievable.

Barker’s material was worked into the script to appease the film’s German co-production partners and their financing requirements, and it’s to Gastaldi’s credit that portents of Talby’s shift are seeded early enough to avoid a sudden twist of character behaviour.

Valerii composes scenes in a classical Leone style – use of elegant widescreen compositions that emphasize the striking terrain of the Spanish locations, close-ups galore, and brutal action that’s pushed to the front of the screen in rather grotesque framing – and Ortolani’s music is part spaghetti western with electric guitar, echoey taps, and galloping rhythms. Unlike genre pioneer Ennio Morricone, Ortolani isn’t one for elaborate variation, hence the heavy repetition of his ear-worm theme which tends to restart within each cue’s structure.

There’s a great gentle theme for Scott when he’s in turmoil, but the main theme is much more bawdy than anything Morricone would’ve concocted, with a massive brass section redolent of a large jazz lounge orchestra. The score’s most potent moment occurs when Talby agrees to a duel with a hired gun, and has both rivals galloping like jousting knights at full speed, loading their flintlocks with haste and readying for a fatal shot. (The other exceptional use of music – and the theme’s most blatantly bawdy iteration – underscores Scott’s tracking of Talby through grey valleys, with some nice jazzy improv on electric guitar and a hint of organ.)

As with many genre entries, the women in Day of Anger are décor or objects over which petty fights erupt into grand arguments, and in Valerii’s film they’re either duplicituous, or pretty wenches. German content hottie Christa Linder (Kommissar X – Drei grüne Hunde) plays Gwen, a genial prostitute who has some compassion for Scott, but the script treats her as décor, literally placing her on a weirdly situated bandstand where she croons a lyrically moronic saloon tune that everyone seems to enjoy (perhaps due to ongoing boozing).

Whereas Leone’s prior films had the look of authenticity – crumbling towns, abandoned churches, muddy main streets, classically styled saloons – there’s a bit of whimsy within Day of Anger, best illustrated in the crazy design of Talby’s new saloon, which literally has giant carved, gold painted revolvers instead of plain support beams holding up the porch roof. (If not whimsy, then it’s a clever symbol of Talby’s ego gone rampant, declaring to the town that he is its ultimate power in its economy, its social activities, and rogue justice, with Scott deputized as his second-in-command.)

Valerii’s film proved successful at the box office and is credited with showcasing Gemma as a credible actor after honing his skills in more action-oriented films. Gemma’s performance is very subtle, yet he provides enough energy to contrast Scott as an eager student to Talby’s aging gunslinger, and awakening Talby’s need to pass on the knowledge of achieving perfect kills. There are many subtleties within Valerii’s film, and although some could be branded as ambiguous, in hindsight one could argue Talby teaches Scott because the best way to die isn’t at the hands of an amateur killer nor the noose of justice, but an equal, capable of a respectful clean kill.

Arrow’s Blu-ray / DVD combo set features a deleted scene that’s unique to the American cut in which Scott has a short exchange with his first mentor, Murph (Walter Rilla). The set offers both the longer Italian cut with English dub track and Italian audio plus optional English subtitles, and the shorter U.S. edit with optional English subs. (Unique to the Wild East disc is the integration of the deleted scene in the Italian edit, although WE’s DVD features just the English dub track for their non-anamorphic widescreen transfer.)

To contextualize the film, Arrow’s wrangled a new interview with screenwriter Gastaldi and a 2008 director Valerii, two men who studied film together and whose careers and social lives extended to several films and vacations with their families. Although details of the film’s casting and production are covered in both featurettes and a lengthy interview with genre historian Roberto Curti, there’s a decisive effort to put on record Valerii’s auteurship as a genre filmmaker who had the chops to transfer his skills on rare opportunities to other genres – the giallo My Dear Killer (1972), the crime film Go Gorilla Go (1975) – and establish his own style in spite of being known as a Sergio Leone protégé.

Leone’s shadow has been a bit of a curse for Valerii, and Gastaldi and Curti reiterate the circumstances that led to Valerii being hired to direct My Name is Nobody (1973), his biggest box office success. The ‘common knowledge’ story is producer Leone directing scenes and imposing his style on the film, but screenwriter and historian clarify Leone as having directed two second unit sequences, and later building up his involvement in the production when critics began to presume portions of the film’s artistry were directly attributed to Leone.

It’s a controversial topic that doesn’t take away from the overall scope of Arrow’s interviews, as this is very much a release designed to introduce a forgotten craftsman to cineastes, and perhaps launch further beautifully restored works from his canon. Curti is especially defensive, and closes his 43 min. interview with some sadness for the director, who became trapped in the western genre and wasn’t able to migrate as often to other genres, ultimately settling for TV productions.

DayOfAnger1967_DVDUnique to the Wild East DVD is a 2002 interview (17:08) with still-dashing co-star Gemma who discusses his own career in period epics (Ben-Hur) and later many western films, doing all of his own stunts, working with Lee Van Cleef, and further collaborations with Valerii, which include Day of Anger (1967), A Bullet for the President (1969), the TV series Caccia al ladro d’autore (1985), and Un bel di vedremo (1997), the last the director’s career swan song.

Other extras include filmographies, trailers, an alternate version of the film’s crazy, giant-head obsessed Main Title sequence, a photo gallery, and a neat montage (3:07) of stills of the small Spanish town of Almeria where Talby hunts down a killer holding knowledge of a major stash of cash. There’s also an isolated mono music track featuring Ortolani’s score which was ultimately released in an expanded stereo CD by GDM Music in 2006.

 

 

© 2015 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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