DAY OF ANGER
AKA "Day of Wrath", "Gunlaw", "Blood and Grit"
Lee Van Cleef will always be remembered playing second pistol to Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s groundbreaking Spaghetti Westerns “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” but few today seem to remember that afterwards he made a number of strong entries in the genre without being overshadowed by his co-stars and director. Out of all the films he made following his success in the Leone films there are three that I like to call the Van Cleef holy trinity: “The Big Gundown”, “Death Rides a Horse” and of course “Day of Anger”. All three in their own way are worthy enough to be compared to the popular Leone films. A bold statement I know, but trust me on this.
The plot of “Day of Anger” is rather typical genre fare: an aging gunman taking on a young protégé. The gunman is of course played by Cleef and the young gun is played by Giuliano Gemma, a bastardized outcast until a steely eyed gunman rides in and shows him compassion and respect. Wanting to exact revenge on the town for his treatment, he takes up with the gunman to learn his trade. All goes well until Cleef kills the man who raised him and now the protégé must use his lessons to turn on his teacher.
|Proof that director Tonino Valerii graduated at the school of Sergio Leone|
As one can tell, the plot is what keeps “Day of Anger” from transcending the Leone films before. What makes up for it is the quirky, stylistic and violent Italian twist on the theme. Director Tonino Valerii served as assistant director on “For a Few Dollars More” and didn’t waste much time utilizing the knowledge he gained from Leone to pump into his own films. Though his first western “Taste of Killing” was rather average, he nailed it in “Day of Anger” utilizing stylistic camerawork, violent eccentricities and catchy music to make this a distinct entry into the genre. My favorite sequence he created, that some may find a bit batty, is a duel with rifles done like a joust on horseback. Only would such an outrageous scene appear in a Spaghetti Western and be so mind-blowing.
|'bought time I got to do my own Spaghetti Westerns without that Eastwood fella|
Cleef is in top form as the aging gunman but the directors he worked with always wisely chose strong, usually younger, actors to act second to him. Here Valerii chose Giuliano Gemma, a charismatic young man on the fast rise to stardom thanks to his roles in strong genre films like “A Pistol for Ringo” and “The Return of Ringo”. Gemma compliments Cleef wonderfully playing the abused, clueless protagonist that undergoes a dramatic changes throughout the film with an array of emotions. Gemma would hands down become one of the best stars of the genre and it's surrealistic to see him acting opposite an early genre heavyweight like Van Cleef.
|"This Lee Van Cleef is a real badass"|
Despite its routine plot, "Day of Anger" still manages to be one of the best films the genre has to offer with it's powerhouse cast, eye-catching directing, pulsing score and violent eccentricities one can only find in Spaghetti Westerns. The film was heavily cut for U.S. release and the best version available is the DVD release from Wild East as they went to extreme lengths to bring America the full uncut version for the first time. This release however is long out-of-print and extremely hard to come by so be prepared to spend a pretty penny to obtain it.
Written By Eric Reifschneider