Blu-ray review: Day of Anger

Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Guiliano Gemma
Director: Tonino Valerii

day-of-angerDespite its director being a protégé of Sergio Leone, Day of Anger (1967) owes more to the tough psychological westerns of Anthony Mann than it does to Leone’s swaggering horse operas. It’s a tale of innocence corrupted as lowly Scott Mary (Guiliano Gemma), a kid who works as a dustman (in the old-fashioned sense of collecting people’s faeces), falls in with Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef), an ageing gunman who teaches him the tricks of his deadly trade, forewarning him, “Don’t get your hopes up too high, because it’s a dirty life.” With Scott tagging along, Frank starts to take over the small town where Scott was once the lowest of the low, squeezing its sanctimonious citizens with a combination of blackmail and threats.

From the moment he rides into view, Van Cleef shines as the smart, dapper Frank, a clever, alert character who knows how to stay just on the right side of the law. As corrupting influences go, he’s pretty likeable – Mephistophelean, yes, but also capable of a disarming honesty and charm. Aside from Van Cleef’s controlled performance, the film’s key distinguishing feature is its visual slickness. It was shot mainly in Italy, and there’s an Italian flair and prettiness to its ‘Scope cinematography and production design, culminating in the sequence where Frank brings Art Nouveau to the Wild West with The 45, a sparkling new saloon that boasts gold and silver murals in the style of Alphonse Mucha and an entranceway flanked by giant gilded Colt pistols. Recommended to admirers of Van Cleef’s performances opposite Clint Eastwood, and to anyone intrigued by the thought of a classically shot western with a European twist. 7/10

A lovely transfer of a good-looking film. No grain, and a warm, airy glow to the panoramas of the town. The velvets and satins of Frank’s saloon have a luxe sheen, the town cathouse is a riot of bright dresses, the sweating close-ups have a vibrant presence, and there’s plenty of depth and detail in the ‘Scope long shots. 8/10

As well as the original 1 hr, 55 min Italian version of the film, there’s an international version which trims 30 minutes from the second hour. A 10-min interview with the director, in 4:3 aspect ratio, with talk about the Oedipal content of the story, the origins of the script and the shooting schedule (2 weeks in Spain, 8 weeks in Italy). Co-scriptwriter Ernesto Galstaldi gives a nice, chatty 13-min interview, discussing his long collaboration and close personal friendship with the director. 43-min talking head piece with critic Roberto Curti – lots of info about Tonino Valerii’s career and his relationship with Sergio Leone. 7/10


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