Long Days of Vengeance Review
The only spaghetti western directed by Florestano Vancini, a respected film maker of the old school. He signed the movie as Stan Vance and asked his producers not to reveal his identity, but his name appeared in the credit sequence of the Spanish language version, and the film became one of the most discussed of its kind in Italy. Even today the movie provokes debate among critics, it is called one of the best films of the period by some (*1), but others have been far less enthusiastic about it. Marco Giusto calls it "interesting, but not satisfying, a bit overlong, a bit funny, a bit serious, and never really convincing" (*2). Outside Italy it has always been one of the lesser known Gemma movies, until Quentin Tarantino mentioned it as one of his favourite spaghetti westerns and used the title music, by Armando Trovajoli, in the anime sequence of Kill Bill Vol. 1.
Giuliano Gemma is Ted Barnett, a young man who was framed for a crime he did not commit. His escape from a labor camp alarms several inhabitants of Kartown, a community close to the Mexican border, among them his former fiancée Dolly, whose false testimony sent him to prison. In the meantime Dolly has married Douglas, the town's sheriff. Douglas was appointed by Cob, an arms dealer and a slave trader. Barret travels to Kartown to find out who really killed his father (and why), but when he has gathered all the information, he decides to play it by the book and inform the local judge (quite unusual for a spaghetti western hero!). But once again he is accused of a crime, and this time he literally risks his neck ...
Apart from a barroom brawl played for laughs, this is a rather bleak movie, more intense than most other Gemma westerns. In the first twenty minutes we never get a clear look at his face: he seems to wander through the movie, as a ghost coming back from the other side. His immense beard as well as the prison fortress are references to the original 18th Century French novel that served as inspiration for the script, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père. In an interview Ferdinando Di Leo admitted that had tried to evoke some of the rather typical atmosphere of the original story, a dark, haunting revenge tale about a young man, skilful but illiterate, who spends fourteen years in jail as a result of a treacherous conspiracy.
It's easy to understand why Tarantino likes this movie. The walk to the gallows, preceding the film's violent finale, has an almost ritualistic beauty, and there's a scene in a barber shop, in which one of the villains is forced to shave Gemma's beard, that could've easily been conceived and directed by Tarantino himself. It's also a key scene in the narrative, marking Gemma's transformation from the bearded half-dead who escapes from prison, into one of the most fashionable avengers in history of the spaghetti western, a worthy substitute for the Dumas' Count in a western setting. Those who dislike the film, do have some reason to complain. The slow pace leads to a certain longueur during the film's mid-section, and some of the more light-hearted moments, like the barroom brawl, seem completely out of place (but if you had Gemma in your movie in those days, you were supposed to offer some comic and romantic relief, even if the story didn't ask for it).
Conrado Sanmartin and Francisco Rabal (who throws his sheriff star like a Ninja!) are fine villains and - unusual for a spaghetti western - there are two strong female parts. Nieves Navarro is the elegant but treacherous Dolly, constantly double-crossing, but with a soft spot for her former boyfriend. Gabriella Giorgelli is the untamable wildcat Dulcy, of Indian descent, all eyes, nails and seductive curves. Vancini's direction is a bit laborious at times, and he made some odd directional choices: Gemma kills some arms smugglers off-stage, and an elaborate shootout between Cob's gang and the Mexicans, is filmed from a great distance, so we get only a vague impression what happens. But the final shootout is elegantly staged and graphically violent, with even some squibs used. The traditional scene in which the hero is beaten up, is rather bloody as well. The outdoor scenes were shot on location in Almeria and Villa Madrid (near Zaragoza), the western town of the Balcazar studios (near Barcelona) serving as 'Kartown' (3). Vancini chose to shoot as many scenes as possible in the blazing sun, which gives the film a very peculiar, often (literally) dazzling look; even when filming indoor scenes, he was looking for beams of sunlight to intersect the image. Trovajoli's score (his only for a spaghetti western) is reckoned by some among the great western scores of the period; the main theme is a beautiful trumpet, soaring over a menacing guitar, plaintive and tempting, worthy of a Morricone.
- (1) In: Wanted! I ricercati del western all'italiana, Manlio Gomarasca, Davide Pulici. The text was also used by Shendene for both their VHS and DVD release.
- (2) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiano.
- (3) The Balcazar western town was also used for the Ringo movies, and it's sometimes suggested that originally Duccio Tessari would direct the movie, but I have not been able to find any evidence for this.
Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Francisco Rabal, Conrado Sanmartin, Nieves Navarro, Gabriella Giorgelli, Pajarito, Franco Cobianchi D'Este, Ivan Scratuglia - Director: Florestano Vancini - Music: Armando Trovajoli
- The German X-rated Kult release, called Der Lange Tag der Rache is English friendly and contains both the uncut Italian version of 118 minutes and the cut Spanish version of 90 minutes, with a colour scheme that is closer to the director's original intentions. For a review of this DVD see: Der Lange Tag der Rache DVD Review (English)