Days of Violence Film Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
Near the end of the Civil War the southern state of Missouri has become occupied territory. Johs (Peter Lee Lawrence) lives and works on the Evans ranch with his brother Clell and sister in law Lizzy (*1). He's also in love with Evans' daughter Christine. When the ranch is visited by Union troops led by the uncompromising Captain Clifford, Clell and Lizzy are killed. The two brothers had always tried to stay away from the war hostilities, but now Johs joins a group of armed citizens led by a man called Butch from Springfield (Nello Pazzafini). After the South has surrendered, the Springfielders refuse to lay down their arms and their once patriotic actions soon turn into banditry...
The movie is more plot-driven than most Italian westerns. A typical revenge story is mixed with a love triangle and set against the background of the Civil War and its aftermath. In post-war Missouri Johs is still looking for the murderers of his brother, but he has also become a wanted man for shooting a person during a hold-up. The well-to-do Captain Clifford, on the other hand, has quickly become a respected citizen in the post-war society; he has also settled his differences with Mr. Evans and become infatuated with Christine. When Johs abducts his former sweetheart, the events lead to a violent climax ...
The Civil War was more often used by Italian directors and many of them showed a tendency to equate it with the situation back home during WWII and its aftermath. Because Italy had been on the losing side, most directors had more affinity with the South, that was often presented as a region fighting for its independence against the oppressor from the North. That's also the case here, but director Brescia shows some understanding for the other side as well. Captain Clifford may be a hard-liner, but he is not entirely devoid of decency. The massacre on the Evans ranch, was in fact caused by a southern 'collaborator', who had an eye on beautiful Lizzy (Rosalba Neri) and had told Clifford that Evans was hiding renegades.
Shot on familiar locations around Rome, Missouri doesn't really look like Missouri, but the film is beautifully shot, in warm and rich colors. The protracted manhunt near the end of the movie, was shot - if I'm not mistaken - on one single location, filmed from different angles. The main theme of Bruno Nicolai's score reminded me a little of Nini Rosso's Il Silenzio, which had been an enormous hit in many countries shortly before (*2). Peter Lee Lawrence is okay as the pacifist turned avenger, but the movie belongs to the supporting actors: Lucio Rosato is fine as a treacherous piece of vermin, Luigi Vannucchi even better as the gentleman-captain-villain and Pazzafini a true delight as the man from Springfield, a friend who becomes a foe after the war. No doubt Pazzafini would've preferred to perform that fistfight with his buddy Giuliano Gemma (and in real-life he would have knocked out Peter Lee with a single punch!). The action scenes vary a little, but the Leone-style final duel is intriguing: a match is used in the way Leone used chimes in For a few Dollars More: Try to shoot me when the chimes end becoming try to shoot me when the match stops burning ...
- (1) They obviously misspelled the name Josh. The 'h' in names more often caused problems to Italian screenwriters and directors from the period who didn't speak English: the h is silent in Italian, it does not represent a sound but influences the pronunciation of other letters in certain combinations (for instance: h + a vowel). They must have thought that the h was written to influence the pronunciation of the o
- (2) Compare:
Dir: Alfonso Brescia - Cast: Peter Lee Lawrence, Beba Loncar, Luigi Vannucchi, Nello Pazzafini, Rosalba Neri, Lucio Rosato, Andrea Bosic, Romano Puppo, Claudio Ruffini - Music: Bruno Nicolai