Lee Van Cleef and Giuliano Gemma team up in the spaghetti western classic DAY OF ANGER
“In my day, we had to either learn the tricks or we gave work to the gravediggers.”
Following the massive success of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, the spaghetti western became the most popular genre in Italy. From the mid 60s to the mid 70s hundreds of these thrilling action movies were made. One of Leone’s early proteges on his movies was Tonino Valerii and in 1967, he directed one of the great movies in the genre. DAY OF ANGER aka as I Giorni Dell’Ira (its Italian title) tells the story of a poor stable boy named Scott (Giuliano Gemma) who lives in the small town of Clifton Arizona. Scott is looked down upon by everybody because he is the illegitimate son of a prostitute. Scott’s job is to empty the outhouse pots around town and his only enjoyment seems to come from play acting with a wooden six shooter in the barn he works out of. One day, Scott encounters a mysterious man riding into town. The dangerous looking stranger introduces himself as Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) and Scott seems mesmerized by him because of his magnetic personality. As Scott spends time with Talby, who suggests he call himself “Scott Mary” (taken from his dead mother’s first name) he gets a sense that this is a person that could help him become something better. During his stay in Clifton, Talby kills a man bullying Scott and is tried in court but goes free and leaves town. Scott decides to follow and eventually catches up with Talby who is looking for Wild Jack (Al Mulock) a former associate that owes him money. Following a shootout in which Wild Jack is killed, Talby is held hostage and luckily Scott comes to his rescue. In return for Scott’s help, Talby teaches the young upstart how to use a gun and pretty soon the kid is amazing at it, surpassing even Talby himself. When Talby and Scott return to Clifton the two use their deadly skills as gunfighters to take over the town but a conflict between the two soon arises and their friendship is tested in the most dangerous way possible.
DAY OF ANGER is expertly shot, acted and scored by composer Riz Ortolani. The main theme (as can be heard in today’s trailer) is a dynamic anthem that is inspired by music associated with the genre but is heightened by Ortolani with a real brilliance. The opening graphic title sequence (also shown in the trailer) is another highlight and is set to Ortolani’s music. It actually rivals Leone’s which were created by designer Iginio Lardani and scored by Ennio Morricone. After working on Leone’s movies Lee Van Cleef, who had only been a co-star in many American Westerns, made numerous Italian films and ended up becoming the face of the genre and a famous star in Europe.