• Day Of Anger (Arrow Video)



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: March 30th, 2015.
    Director: Tonino Valerii
    Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma, Walter Rilla, Christa Linder, Yvonne Sanson Drury
    Year: 1967
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    The Movie:

    I’ve always liked Lee Van Cleef better than Clint Eastwood. He’s probably best known for his secondary roles in the For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly and he’s undeniably great in those films, but personally, I’ve always thought his shining moments were Sergio Sollima’s The Big Gundown and Tonino Valerii’s Day Of Anger. So let’s talk about ‘Day Of Anger’ because it’s just been given a proper Blu-ray release from Arrow Video (following a DVD release from Wild East years back and then a crummy Japanese Blu-ray by TC Entertainment).

    The film introduces us to Scott Mary (played by Giuliano Gemma of Tenebre and numerous other Spaghetti Westerns), a down on his luck street cleaner working in Clifton, a small Arizona town. Life is tough for him and he’s picked on sometimes. When a tough guy named Frank Talby (Van Cleef) rides into town, he and Scott strike up a friendship of sorts and Talby ends up shooting one of the bullies who’d been harassing Scott. Talby decides to move on, as he’s hot on the trail of Wild Jack (Al Mulock), a former ‘business partner’ who owes him a cool $50,000. Unbeknownst to Talby, Scott decides to follow him, as there’s really nothing left for him in Clifton. Scott has a plan though, an ulterior motive - he thinks he can get the fast talking and faster shooting Talby to teach him what it takes to be a gunfighter.

    When the pair catches up with Wild Jack, he tells them that he was double crossed by some of the fine, upstanding citizens of Clifton, and that they’ve got his money, not him. But before Talby can be on his way, things get ugly and he and Scott, who proves his metal with a six-shooter, have to fight their way out. With a new respect for Scott’s quick draw, Talby and his new apprentice head back to Clifton to get his money back, but Talby soon gets out of hand, and Scott, who’s now been taught by the best, has to step up to the plate and take him down before things get even worse.

    Culminating in a classic showdown between teacher and student, Day of Anger is a well-written, and wonderfully directed Spaghetti Western classic. Lee Van Cleef has never been better as the sympathetic yet simultaneously cold hearted Talby, using those expressive eyes of his to communicate and bringing a serious sense of tension and menace to the part that a lesser actor could not have offered. Likewise, Gemma turns in what is probably his best performance as the likable and naive Scott. It’s interesting to watch his character go from naïve but well-meaning to calculating and dangerous – but when he learns from the best, we know his transformation is inevitable.

    As a kind of Sergio Leone protégé, having acted as assistant director on For A Few Dollars More two years prior, Tonino Valerii shows a demonstrated flair for extremely fluid camerawork (credit to director of photography Enzo Serafin where it’s due, the movie looks great) without following in the footsteps of his mentor too closely. The seemingly required facial close ups are there, but aren't used to quite the same extent as Leone's films, and the emphasis of the film is more focused on the action and gunplay. That’s not to say it’s short on mood or atmosphere, just that it is maybe a little less dramatic than the Leone pictures that preceded it.

    Sorely underused throughout his career, and usually confined to type cast roles, Lee Van Cleef brings a believable dimension to his character, proving that he was more than just a great screen villain, but that he could play the leading man and anti-hero as well as Eastwood, Nero or Hilton. Rounding out the film is the catchy-as-all-Hell soundtrack from Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park), some very authentic feeling sets (don't be surprised if you want to go wash the dust and grime off your face when you're done watching!), and a great European supporting cast consisting of Walter Rilla (from the Dr. Mabuse films), Christa Linder (Dracula In The Provinces), Peiro Lulli (My Name Is Nobody) and Andrea Bosic (Danger! Diabolik and Manhattan Baby).

    This one doesn’t get the sort of respect outside of Spaghetti Western circles that some better known films do, but it’s absolutely worth all the accolades that those in the know have showered it with over the years and it absolutely ranks up there with the best of the Italian westerns of the era.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Day Of Anger arrives on Blu-ray in a ‘brand new restoration of the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative’ and it obliterates the previous aforementioned Wild East DVD and TC Entertainment Blu-ray releases. Colors are bright, bold and vivid without looking artificially boosted while black levels are solid and deep. Flesh tones look lifelike and accurate and the image is very clean, showing only a natural amount of film grain and some minor white specks here and there. Compression artifacts don’t creep into the image at all and there are no obvious instances of heavy noise reduction or edge enhancement to note. This is a very clean, colorful and wonderfully detailed transfer and it really helps you to appreciate just how nicely shot this film is.

    Audio options are provided for the feature in both Italian and English LPCM Mono with optional subtitles in English only. Both tracks sound good, but for most fans the English track will be the way to go because Van Cleef does his own voice work here. Both track are clean, clear, nicely balanced and have good depth, particularly when it comes to Ortolani’s score. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note – things sound just fine here.

    As far as the extras go, this disc contains both the uncut 152 minute long Italian version of the movie and the shorter 95 minute American theatrical cut of the film (it is essentially a truncated version of the longer cut). From there, check out a new interview with director Tonino Valerii clocking in at just over ten minutes. Here Valerii talks about some of the themes that run through the movie, the role that corruption plays in the storyline, who really wrote the movie, and of course, working with Gemma and Van Cleef.

    Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi is also interviewed on the disc in a piece running just over thirteen minutes in length. He talks about working with Valerii on the film, the film’s budget, the role Gemma played in getting the movie more attention, writing the picture and basing the plot on a story by Renzo Genta’s ‘Der Tod Ritt Dienstags.’

    Film Critic Roberto Curti has a forty-three minute piece where he talks about Tonino Valerii’s life and work in cinema, the rise of Spaghetti Westerns, Gastaldi’s script as used in Day Of Anger, the precision of the way in which the film uses weapons and more. Closing out the extras are a few trailers for the feature, a single deleted scene not included in the longer version of the movie (it runs 1:32 and sees Gemma as he encounters a man in an alleyway who gives him a stern warning), menus and chapter selections. None of the physical materials (liner notes, etc.) that are supposed to come with this release were included with the test disc sent for review, so we can’t really comment on anything other than the Blu-ray disc itself.

    The Final Word:

    Day Of Anger really is a top tier spaghetti western, a cracking mix of action and adventure shot with no shortage of style and an eye for dramatic compositions. Arrow’s Blu-ray release is a thing of beauty – the extras are solid and you get both cuts of the movie in fantastic high definition. Joy!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!