Day of Anger (1967)
Day of Anger (1967)

Genre: Spaghetti Western Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Release Date: December 21st, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Tonino Valerii Actors: Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma, Walter Rilla, Christa Linder, Ennio Balbo, Lukas Ammann, Anna Orso, Andrea Bosic

 


 

I

n the town of Clifton, Arizona, lowly Scott (Giuliano Gemma) collects raw sewage, sweeps porches, runs all sorts of menial errands, and takes insults from citizens who look down on his upbringing as a bastard at the local whorehouse. His only friend is stableman Murph (Walter Rilla), who taught him how to draw his gun – but not how to fire it. Scott attempts to stand up for one-eyed bum Bill (Pepe Calvo), but is unable to command any respect from the unfriendly townsfolk who tote big firearms and enjoy slapping around the illegitimate young man. He’s similarly shooed off by the madam Vivien (Yvonne Sanson) for greeting working girl Gwen (Christa Linder), and threatened by Judge Cutchell (Lukas Ammann) for complimenting his daughter Eileen (Anna Orso).

“The weapon that’s going to kill me hasn’t been invented yet.” When stranger Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) rides into town, trouble brews. A man in the saloon makes the mistake of provoking Talby’s considerable skills with a pistol, and is shot dead for his error. A court hearing determines that Talby acted in self-defense, allowing the gunslinger to stroll away untouched. His refusal to let anyone bully him inspires Scott to follow after him as a pupil and potential partner, and also for Scott to use his mother’s name, Mary, as his surname – despite the likelihood of being mocked for using a female moniker. In the neighboring town of Bowie, Talby’s name precedes him, with fear piercing the hearts of everyone who hears it.

Unfortunately for Scotty, Frank has a long, long series of lessons to teach him – all of the essential motifs of Spaghetti Westerns. Mary sees the good in everyone, so it’s up to the intimidating sharpshooter to inform him of the widespread corruption, distrustfulness, and evils that plague the inhabitants of Old West desert towns. Humiliation, torture, bloody fistfights, and destructive shootouts are all part of the formula for stylized, violent adventure. Wild Jack (Al Mulock), Bill Farrow, Abel Murray the driver (Andrea Bosic), Turner the banker (Ennio Balbo), Owen the hitman (Benito Stefanelli), Corbitt the barber (Hans Otto Alberty), and Nigel the sheriff (Nino Nini) form just the beginning of an extensive list of men in need of swift dispatching at the hands of a merciless avenger. And fortunately for Scotty, he’s a natural with a gun – a killer who never knew he had it in him.

With its unmistakably Spaghetti Western opening title sequence (filled with repetitive, animated, monochromatic still images and clips), snazzy guitar and trumpet theme tune, a mule named Sartana, and the casting of Lee Van Cleef, “Day of Anger” (also known as “Gunlaw,” “Blood and Grit,” and “Days of Wrath”) is a prime example of the genre. Even though the authorities insist that lawlessness and gunfighting are things of the past, Talby and his new accomplice are destined to bring chaos back to the “civilized” streets. Mary’s amusing transformation (complete with role reversals, switching allegiances, the triumphant rising of an underdog, and the frightening surpassing of the teacher by the student) adds a bit of complexity to an interesting alliance – one born of both necessity and paranoia (marginally resembling concepts from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”). Though it’s designed with witty dialogue, great action sequences (including a most bizarre horseback jousting duel with rifles), darkly humorous blackmail and extortion, and a powerful finale, the pacing is just slow enough – through the repetition of numbered lessons in gunslinging – that much of the excitement has an opportunity to slip away.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10