Day of Anger - 1967
Day of Anger - Released 21, 1967. Directed by Tonino Valerii
"Don't get your hopes up too high. It's a dirty life... "
That's what professional gunslinger Tarby (Lee Van Cleef) says to younger man Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma) who becomes his junior gunslinger-in-training in director Tonino Valerii's frequently thoughtful Italian Western Day of Anger. The tale features crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses as men who use violence to solve their problems in the corrupt town of Clifton in America's Olde West (actually filmed in Spain and Italy) finally reach an apex of conflict that we see coming almost from the first ten minutes of the film, but how they get there is more important than the fact that they will. Not that the characters see this coming, except for one, retired Sheriff Murph Allan Scott (played by Walter Rilla) who runs the local stable where he boards horses. He predicts where everything is leading and tells this to Scott Mary who has developed an inability to see the obvious or to listen to advice in direct proportion to his growing power as a gun-fighter.
The script by Ernesto Gastaldi, Renzo Genta and director Valerii* contains plenty of Cowboy movie elements that have showed up in many other films, and Day of Anger only halfheartedly delivers on some of this (such as the relationship of Scott Mary to the ladies in the bordello where he was apparently born, or the activities of the gambling houses in Clifton, most of this is portrayed the exact way it is portrayed in so many previous western films).
Where Day of Anger excels is Lee Van Cleef's intelligent gunfighter who is aging-out and losing his edge as the years pile on, and so he adopts Scott Mary to be a shadow gunslinger-partner to help even the odds, though wrapped up in this self-serving maneuver is Cleef's characters tough-love sympathy for Scott Mary who was previously serving as the town's all-purpose scapegoat and victim for bullying when the story starts. Once Scott Mary has started using a real gun (previously the retired sheriff had been teaching him how to draw using a carved pistol made only of wood) Scott begins letting out an anger and willingness to exact revenge that was nowhere to be seen previously when he was a very-humble garbage man.
Frank Talby (Cleef) amasses wealth and property as he step-by-step takes over Clifton, and he eventually builds a gambling house that looks like a temple with large golden pistols acting as pillars and as advertisement out in front of the operation. Throughout the film Tarby has taught Scott Mary the ways of gunslinging and has issued the instructions like commandments given by a demonic-god to an acolyte, numbering each missive:
- Never trust anyone
- Never beg another man
- Never get between a gun and it's target
- If you wound a man, you better kill him, or he'll later kill you
- The right bullet at the right time
- Accept all challenges, no matter what the cost
- Punches are like bullets, always make the first ones count
- When you start killing, you can't stop
Eventually Tarby's disciple will learn to his horror how this set of teachings naturally work out, finally looking down at Tarby himself laid out in the gravel and begging Scott not to pull the trigger.
* Based on the German novel Der tod Ritt Dienstaggs (Death rode on Tuesdays) by Rolf Becker [aka Ron Barker.]
Original Page March 26, 2017
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