This is a great showcasing for Lee Van Cleef. After almost fifteen years as a working character/supporting actor, playing heavies principally, Van Cleef finally received the recognition he deserved after his great turn as Colonel Douglas Mortimer in FAFDM. After that, from 1965 to 1970, he enjoyed his own Golden Age in which he worked in films–primarily SWs–with good scripts and top billing for himself.
I group this in Van Cleef’s “A” Category of Spaghetti Westerns; it’s as good as DEATH RIDES A HORSE, THE BIG GUNDOWN, and THE GRAND DUEL. Frank Talby is a great character–a character for whom more scripts could have been written. He is a heavy, but he’s a wily, elegant heavy–almost like an evil version of his Sabata character. Van Cleef’s greatest strength is his screen presence; the man has a screen presence rivaled by very, very few. That screen presence is here in this film in spades. In particular, I love the way Van Cleef uses his body language and his eyes to convey emotions and thoughts–this is more effective than pages of dialogue. In particular, I love the scene in the bar when Wild Jack beats the tar out of a young and green Scott Mary. When Scott tells Wild Jack that he’s “with him [Talby],” you see Van Cleef puff on his pipe, glance quickly at Scott, and then nonchalantly look away–as if he doesn’t know Scott, after which Wild Jack unloads on Scott. It’s a great pure cinematic moment, and Van Cleef was a master of that.
Wild East does make a beautiful print of this film–I really wish they would consider a second edition of it since it’s still highly sought after. I have seen the WE Edition, but I own a print by I.S. Filmworks out of Missouri. Beautiful print and in its complete 111 minute uncut runtime.
One other note: DAY OF ANGER has a great score by Riz Ortolani–who also did the score for LVC’s 1973 Eurocrime film, MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY. It’s somewhat Morricone-esque, but original enough to make it memorable from the wannabe Morricone scores prevalent in the Spaghetti Western genre. I am biased–Lee Van Cleef is my favorite film actor, but DAY OF ANGER never gets old.