Everybody wants to see DAY OF ANGER reissued in region 1 / region A. Our friends at Wild East have turned a deaf ear, as they often do, and thus far no other distributor has picked up on the demand for this film. If fans were to start suggesting the title to the other botique distributors I’ll bet a re-release would happen fairly quickly.
I watched a clone of the Wild East DVD last night, for the second time. This is a hardboiled western, free of the burdens of nihilism, self-parody and illiteracy that undermine so many spaghetti westerns. The director, Tonino Valerii, is a true dramatist who crafts a very fine piece of work here.
DAY OF ANGER boasts a well-constructed story with layered characters who actually have an arc. They undergo a personal growth, which is a rare thing in a spaghetti western. The moral dilemmas are lucidly presented. Talby and Scott Mary are not the only characters who are required to make tough choices. The stable keeper is a wise man who keeps the faith; he has one powerful scene in which he explains to young Scott Mary how Talby keeps an advantage over him in these lesson’s he’s been teaching the boy. The progression of the characters holds my interest, and I enjoy watching the gradual escalation of tension between Talby and Scott Mary. The midsection of the film, which is the second act and the longest part of the story, drags a little and sometimes takes too long to make its point. The pace is about average for the period in which this film was made, but I wish it had been quickened up a little during principle photography. It’s not something cutting or editing can fix. The third act, which starts when Talby opens a new saloon, is meant to be unsettling by ushering in many changes, and it’s everything it should be right down to the last shot fired. We think Scott Mary will show mercy for the man who taught him how to stand up for himself, but no, he has become as ruthless as his mentor. Good writing is important to me, and this sophisticated storytelling is a refreshing change from the usual spaghetti westerns.
Gemma makes it clear that Scott Mary never quite grows up, but he’s on his way. Lee Van Cleef’s flinty personality defines Talby, one of his most fully realized characters. He’s superb in the part. My favorite scenes are when he rides up the street of white-washed adobe buildings and enters the saloon to deal with that little problem from the past. That saloon scene is classic. Every western needs at least one classic saloon scene, and there are a few good ones here. Watching Van Cleef in DAY OF ANGER feels true western.
I like DAY OF ANGER so much I want to rate it 4 stars, but two things take me out of the film. First, the mood of the story is at odds with the score. There are some okay guitar interludes, but the main title theme and balance of the score is too jazzy and modern, with blaring trumpets that really annoy me. I don’t like this score. Second the opening title design was in the hip style of the day – what I call cut-rate Andy Warhol – but it’s sloppy and starts the film on the wrong keynote. Again the title sequence is at odds with the mood of the story that follows. I would have preferred a more plaintive score over black or a traditional “period western” opening. Indeed the opening shots look composed for titles to flash over them.
So I give it 3 stars, but it’s on the verge of 4 stars. The film is in my top 10 and I’ll be watching it again soon.