Day of Anger review by Pete R.
- Back to Day of Anger
In the late 1960s through to the early 1970s, the Italian Western, (affectionately referred to as "Spaghetti Westerns" by most) was a new and exciting take on the American westerns we had seen before. Spaghetti Westerns took the classic American Western stories/mythos and brought them into a different light. The atmospheres were just a little bit more strange, almost alien like. The characters were just a little bit more eccentric and over the top. The Italian Westerns took us to a more romanticized universe where often times, evil banditos and bounty killers were the heroes (or anti-heroes) of the stories being told. The most famous of these genre films were of course made by Il Maestro Sergio Leone. As many film geeks know, Leone directed The Dollars Trilogy ("A Fistful of Dollars", "For A Few Dollars More" and "The Good The Bad and The Ugly"). These films were really the cream of the crop as far as the Italian Westerns went. Although Leone was the King of the Spaghetti Westerns, there were other films which also has great stories and direction. Directors such as "The Other Sergio" Sergio Corbucci, Damiano Damiani, Tonino Valerii, Lucio Fulci and Duccio Tessari brought their own styles and visions to what Leone had started. Another aspect of these films was the big emphasis on music. Composers like Ennio Morricone, Riz Ortolani, Bruno Nicolai, Piero Piccioni, Luis Bacalov and Armando Travojoli created beautiful scores to accompany these films and their exciting, daring visuals. As Sergio Leone once stated "Music makes up 40% of the film".
One thing that will strike you as soon as the "Day of Anger" (1968) begins is its completely awesome opening credits sequence. Now, you may think its very Leone-esque, and it is, but I personally feel it's even cooler than the opening credits of "A Fistful of Dollars" or "The Good The Bad and The Ugly". It simply rules. It's more explosive and colorful. The score by Riz Ortolani is one of THE best Spaghetti Western scores next to any of Morricone's brilliant work. When you hear the music for "Day of Anger", you will hear why it is so important for a film. An interesting note about Director Tonino Valerii is that he actually was a protege of Sergio Leone. Valerii was the Assistant Director just a few years earlier on Leone's "For a Few Dollars More" (1965). After "Day of Anger", Valerii went on to direct another one of my favorite Spaghetti Westerns "Ny Name is Nobody" (1973) starring Henry Fonda and Terence Hill which had a slightly similar storyline to Day of Anger.
For Tonino Valerii's "I'Giorni Dell'Ira" aka "Day of Anger" aka "Days of Wrath", we get a familiar Old West storyline (the master and the pupil), but with a special spicy Italian twist. In the town of Clifton, Arizona we first meet the local townskeeper/piece of shit Scott (Giuliano Gemma). Scott is looked down by everyone in the town except his boss, the stablekeeper Murph (Walter Rilla) and the local whores, run by Gwen (Christa Linder), but even they don't like him hanging around too long. Scott has to walk around town with these big buckets and empty everyones spitoons and outhouses. We can see that Scott is a total schmuck, but he tries to be polite. For his entertainment, Scott goes back to the barn where he works and takes out his wooden gun and practices a little. His heroes are all the super fast gunslingers he's heard about growing up.
One day, Scott sees a man ride into town (I love how Riz Ortolani scored this scene). As the man gets closer, we hear these ominous stings. The man gets off his horse and Scott asks him if he needs anything. This man is Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef). Scott seems impressed by Talby's presence and can see this guy takes no shit from anyone. This is a personality trait Scott doesn't seem to have. Scott introduces himself to Talby as simply "Scott". Talby asks him if he has a last name and Scott replies he doesn't know because he never knew his mother or father. He is an illegitimate "bastard" as the townspeople call him. Scott knew his mothers name was Mary, thats it. Talby then shoots back with "Well then, call yourself Scott Mary". Scott sees this as a name that would be laughed at, but Talby tells him "So What?".
Talby relaxes at one of the bars where he sees Scott following along timidly. When Scott comes in and sits down, the other patrons immediately begin to complain, telling Talby Scott is a no good scumbag who isnt allowed to drink in the bar and has to drink in the kitchen. They treat Scott like he is a minority. Talby tells the men to back off and that Scott is going to drink with him and thats it. When one man refuses to back down, Talby whips out his gun and shoots him dead.
Unlike many Westerns made in Italy, in "Day of Anger" we actually see a trial for what Talby did. Usually in Italian Westerns, once a man is shot, no questions are asked and he's swiftly put in a pine box and dumped in a grave. This is one little detail that is changed in this film's storyline. After Talby stands trial and is released, he walks out like he owns the place. Scott meanwhile is slapped by one of the townsfolk who berates him for starting the trouble by going into the bar. Scott runs out of the town hall, bleeding and crying.
Talby takes off to meet an outlaw who owes him money and as he rides across the desert, Riz Ortolani's main theme kicks in and I just love it. The louder, the better! It has such a great rhythm and its infectious as hell! When Scott catches up to Talby he asks him he he can accompany him to his destination. Scott gives Talby some money, and then being the nice guy that he is, Talby slaps Scott to the ground like a bitch. This poor Scott guy gets beat down by everyone! Talby rides off leaving Scott on the ground.
When Talby arrives in Bowie, he goes to a local bar run by a bartender (actor Ricardo Palacias who was also the bartender in "For a Few Dollars More") where he's to meet a man named Wild Jack (Al Mulock, who was a character in both of Leone's "The Good The Bad and The Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in The West"). When Wild Jack arrives, Scott listens while Talby reminds Jack that he owes him money. Jack tells Talby that the reason he doesn't have it is because of the people in Clifton. Talby assures Jack that he will get revenge on the town of Clifton for Jack in exchange for the money he owes him. When Jack sees Scott listening to the conversation, he goes off and beats the crap out of him. Talby looks as if he's going to let Jack kill Scott, but at the last minute tells him to stop. Before Talby and Scott can leave they get in a scuffle and Talby winds up killing Wild Jack (shooting him between Scott's legs). Scott freaks out at this and we see he still is too much of a softy to be a stand up badass like Talby.
Talby's next stop is his old partner Farrell. When Talby goes to find Farrell, he arrives at his ranch and finds he has been hung and killed. Suddenly Talby realizes he's not alone. The three killers are there waiting for him too and he didn't even know it. They proceed to tie Talby up to the back of their horses and drag him around the hills. This is what we call the trademark "Spaghetti Western beating" sequence. In almost every Spaghetti Western there will be some sort of gang beating done to one of the main characters in the film. Talby is dragged around like a ragdoll but when the killers finally come to a stop, Scott whos hiding behind a wall, whistles loudly and gets Talby's attention. Scott tosses Talby his gun and he shoots the three men dead. A great save by Scott!! When Talby thanks Scott, he tells him he now owes him for saving his life. Scott tells Talby he only wants one thing: to ride along so he can learn from him. Talby agrees and Scott now becomes his official sidekick.
When Frank and Scott arrive back in town, Talby begins teaching Scott how to shoot and he even takes him to a local gun shop to get him a new gun to practice with. Scott and Frank begin to take over the town and noone can argue or they'll be shot dead. The one who sees the real danger in this is Murph. Murph tells Scott that he needs to break his partnership with Talby before things get really out of hand. Scott now has a new persona. He's become rebellious because he knows Frank is on his side. He doesn't bow down to anyone in the town instead telling them all to goto hell. He's getting his own personal revenge against all the townspeople who treated him like horsedung all his life. We can see Frank is proud of Scott and he tells one man who is now exclaiming Scott was just a "rabbit", "He was always a wolf, you just thought he was a rabbit".
Frank has his own problems when a gunfighter arrives in town looking for him. The gunfighter (this guy has one weird looking goatee) challenges Frank to a duel and so they venture out to the plains. This is no ordinary duel though. The trick of this game is that both men have to a) ride on horseback towards each other and b) load rifles at the same time THEN shoot. This isnt the bullet loading kind of rifles either, its the old fashioned gun powder and steel ball bearings type deal. Well the men get ready and they take off at each other, the main theme of the film kicks in once again and just heightens the excitement even more. The men load and fire, of course Frank Talby gets the first shot off killing the gunfighter.
When Talby gets back to town he explains to Scott, they need to remake the town the way they want and the first thing Talby does is burn down one of the hotels in town. Scott goes along with Talby because he feels empowered by him. Murph tells Scott that he mustn't let Talby change who he really is. Scott gets very angry at Murph and tells him to get off his back. Murph also notices something that Scott has overlooked. When Talby bought Scott his new gun, he bought him one with a 7-inch barrel. Murph explains that Talbys own gun is shorter (filed down) than Scott's and the hammer is specially made for rapid shooting with a persons thumbs instead of using the hands like Scott does. This means he can shoot faster than Scott. Scott understands, but he still doesn't believe Talby would turn on him after he saved his life. Murph tells Scott that the time may come when he may change his mind about Talby and if he does, he's left a box for him hidden in the stable. Scott tells Murph to forget it and storms off. Now that Scott is more respected, well, more feared, his longtime crush Eileen, (the daughter of the town's mayor) now wants to see him. Scott and the girl get together and we can see the future is changing for Scott.
After Talby kills one of the deputies in the town, Scott loses his respect for Talby very fast and realizes Murph was right after all. He goes to the barn and opens the box Murph left. Inside is a special object: The famous gunfighter Doc Holliday's own gun. Now Scott has a weapon that could take down anyone. Matched with his lightning fast gunfighting skills, theres no way he can lose. The day comes when Scott and Talby are to face off for real. The two both meet in the center of town and without hesitation Scott shoots Talby down. The student has become the teacher. --Pete R. 23:41, 16 March 2008 (CET)