Oddly pedestrian, a touch plodding and determinedly non-political but still entertaining enough
Day of Anger Film Review
“Drink up, Scott Mary. I don’t like to hang around a dead man.”Poor Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma) leads a dog’s life. As the street-cleaner for the town of Clifton, he is bullied and humiliated at every turn. But when slick gunfighter Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) rides into town, he finds an opportunity to redeem himself and gain status and respect as Talby’s right-hand man and protégé. Welcoming such devotion, Talby becomes a father-figure and mentor to the youth, who finds that he has a degree of skill with a six-shooter, himself. But in Tonino Valerii’s colourful 1967 Spaghetti Western, Scott discovers that this Faustian pact comes with a high price when his tutor assumes a much more demonstrative role in the town, and his dark ulterior motives become clear.Director Valerii formerly worked as assistant for Sergio Leone, and he seeks to bring to the screen many of the tricks and devices that he learned from the master, perhaps even mimicking the relationship between Scott and his more experienced benefactor. Although the bodycount is reasonably high and the action is fairly frequent and brutal, the film still feels quite tame and perhaps a little too sedate. The English voice for Gemma is atrocious, undermining his character and belittling his dilemma. But there remains a charm to the story, as slight as it is, and even if the finale is both obvious and lacklustre, we have enjoyed a visual treat on the way to it.
Blu-ray Picture QualityDay of Anger has been newly restored, exclusively for Arrow Video, from the original 2-perf 35mm Techniscope camera negative, and scanned in 2K on a pin-registered ArriScan at Technicolor in Rome. The resulting 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer is quite superb. Although this release also offers the truncated 86-minute international cut of Day of Anger, the full length Italian theatrical cut of the film, which runs for 116 minutes, is definitely the version to opt for.
Lively and colourful, Valerii’s film benefits from the lush photography of Enzo Serafin, who also lensed Journey To Italy and Gunlaw, and from utilising not only the legendary Van Cleef from Leone’s classic Dollars series, but also some of its standing sets and locations. With stalwart art design from Piero Filippone and production work and costumes from the ubiquitous Carlo Simi (Dollars, Django), the film has a vibrant and expansive zest. The township and the shots of figures riding through the landscape have a fine three-dimensional feel to them that is quite rewarding, and the movie never feels ramshackle or just thrown together.
There are several terrific compositions that show this depth off. One example occurs when Scott is in the background looking in through a window at Talby, who is sitting in the right foreground, whilst some other guys are seated off to the far left in the mid-ground. Another has Talby riding slowly into a Mexican village (exactly the same one seen in For A Few Dollars More) and hanging meats drift past us as the camera tracks backwards. Again, the three-dimensionality is splendid.Detail, depth and visual spatiality is excellently presented.The image is certainly not flat.
Lively and colourful, Valerii’s film benefits from the lush photography of Enzo Serafin
The grain does not look clumpy or noisy. It remains natural and organic. No overt DNR has taken place. The transfer has no smearing or banding. Contrast is consistent and does betray the hazy skies and highlights by blowing them out. Edges are smooth and natural with plenty of the haloing around objects part of the source photography. However, I did notice one or two shots in which the ringing actually did look more like artificial sharpening. I went in close and I would say that some detail has indeed been stripped-away with some slight enhancement. It is nothing detrimental and hardly all that noticeable, unless you are looking for it. So... don’t go looking for it. Damage to the print is minimal, but there is one shot towards the end when the bottom left edge of the frame appears torn and slightly flickering. This only lasts for a few seconds, though.
Detail is often amazing. Close-ups are tremendous. Van Cleef has the sort of face that you can spend hours studying, and this transfer really seems to cater for this. His, and many of the other wonderfully grizzled Euro mugs, truly bring this image to life. Whiskers, scars, spittle, pores, eyes – all revealed in frequently startling clarity. Likewise the costumes and the set decoration. We can lose substance and resolution a little further back, but this is a picture that is reassuringly well-defined and sharp.
The palette is deep and boldly rendered. Yes, the overall patina is orange, with a liberal smothering of dusty yellows and browns, but this is the typical aesthetic of the Spaghetti. The primaries, however, are bright and punchy. Reds and greens are deeply saturated and the image has some florid pop at times. During the big inferno, the screen is ablaze with vivid orange flames, and the entertainment in the saloon is suitably garish. Black levels are reasonably strong, too. Shadow-play is consistently effective, and the transfer delivers a fine midnight blue. For the most part, this restoration is extremely worthwhile.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe longer Italian version of the film has a choice of Italian and English dubbed language tracks in uncompressed PCM mono. The shorter international cut just has an English track. Well, you pretty much know what to expect here, don’t you? Plentiful bugaboo dubbing. Naturally, there is very little in the way of lip synchronicity, and the voice utilised for Giuliano Gemma, as I have already mentioned, is particularly woeful. But dialogue is always clear and crisp. The notes on the transfer say that some age-related hiss can be heard, but I didn’t really notice anything worth pointing out. The track is mostly clean and bright.
Gunshots have the trademark sound that echoes across a thousand such Spaghettis, and they come over with enough punch to satisfy without ever threatening to trouble the neighbours. Thundering hooves and bodily impacts also register, the latter with that typically over-the-top clout. But there are some subtleties to be heard too. The click-clacking of the working parts of revolvers and rifles makes a nice little entry in the sound mix. Footsteps on wooden boardwalks may be a touch too overt, but still add some effective and time-honoured ambience. Riz Ortolani’s upbeat and jazzy score swaggers about on the soundtrack, with its fabulous main theme occurring often. The music belies its vintage tininess with some gusto and fine detail within. I had no problems with this track at all.
Blu-ray ExtrasArrow serves up the two versions of the film – the shorter international cut and the better full length Italian theatrical cut. DVD versions are also included.
This release carries brand new interviews with screenwriter Enesto Gastaldi and Tonino Valerii’s biographer Roberto Curti, as well as previously unreleased 2008 interview with the director, himself.
We also have a deleted scene that appears in the shorter version but is not to be found in the longer cut. It actually adds a little context and relevance to the drama.
US, European and TV trailers can also be savoured.
There is the usual reversible sleeve, one side featuring newly commissioned artwork from Reinhard Kleist, while the other retains the far superior original poster art. A 28-page collector’s booklet contains material on the film from Howard Hughes, the author of Spaghetti Westerns.
Day of Anger Blu-ray VerdictOddly pedestrian, a touch plodding and determinedly non-political but still entertaining enough, if only for the sheer Spaghetti joy of spotting familiar faces, sets and locations, Day of Anger wins by virtue of Van Cleef’s imposing persona and Gemma’s considerable charisma. Van Cleef delivers this sort of thing in his sleep, ensuring that even if snoozing through a by-rote screenplay semi-adaption of Ron Barker’s German novel, Death Rode on Tuesdays, he exudes power, wit and cool intimidation.
This sort of material would serve him far better in Guilio Petroni’s Death Rides a Horse, another time when he would appear as a mentor to a younger character in need of courage. He delivers all you could expect and hope for from a genre fixture who was already iconic by this time. And Gemma, who was a rising star in the genre, makes a fine transformation from meek and put-upon to staunch and resolute. The two work well together.
Several great moments help propel this rather mundane story. A speeding rifle-joust on horseback may be quite ludicrous – especially as the combatants are using old muzzle-loaders - but still manages to crank up some sense of carnival excitement and south-of-the-border pseudo pageantry in what is, otherwise, just another saddle-sore take on the Frankenstein myth of a lost creation finding its path and turning upon its creator.
Of course, one of the staples of the Western picture and, maybe especially its Italian variation even more so, is the musical score. And in this department, Day of Anger, plays its trump card. No matter how repetitive Riz Ortolani’s title riff might be, appearing frequently and forming the overwhelming majority of what is, otherwise, a really rather sparse score, it is truly catchy and infectious.
Several great moments help propel this rather mundane story
Arrow Film’s release has a terrific transfer, really benefitting from the film’s restoration, and the extras provide some interesting background context to the production. Not as memorable or as exciting as some fans like to claim, Valerii’s oater is still good fun. It may travel a well-worn path, and may not offer up many surprises but it is never dull. Not top tier Spaghetti, then... but still worthy of adding to any Euro-Western collection.
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