Spaghetti Westerns, Part 9

Alright, so it’s been a while since I have posted up one of these. You see, for Christmas I was given Alex Cox’s book 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director’s Take on the Spaghetti Western. It’s essentially just a list of some of the more notable films from the genre, with a synopsis for each and some penned thoughts. However, Cox is much more erudite than I can manage, so stop reading and go buy his book. Seriously, it’s a great introduction to spaghetti westerns and full of insight. Realistically, it’s much better than anything I will ever manage on here.

What? Why are you still reading? Oh, okay, fine. If you’re still reading, I may as well provide some more lazy comments about another of these fine films. Although, honestly, I may as well be writing this in crayon on a toilet wall.

Day of Anger (I Giorni Dell’ira) (1967)

I’ve watched a lot of Lee Van Cleef films and Day of Anger is amongst his finest. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s not his best film, but it’s his best performance. As aging gunslinger Frank Talby, he provides exactly the right level of cunning and menace from the off. What’s more, he makes the character truly ambiguous in a way that will have you alternately enthralled and appalled by his actions.

Alongside Van Cleef is Giuliano Gemma, who I mentioned briefly in a previous post about Tenebrae. I wasn’t overly impressed by Gemma when I saw him in Day of Anger, but it was the first film I saw him in. I’ve since seen him in a number of other films and he’s become one of my favourite spaghetti western actors; I’ll happily watch anything he’s in. In Day of Anger, Gemma plays an orphan, Scott Mary, mistreated by folk in the town of Clifton and treated like a virtual slave. Talby takes him under his wing, teaches him how to be a real gunslinger and how to stand up to the oppressive townsfolk.

A good portion of the film is like the spaghetti western equivalent of Karate Kid, as Scott eagerly absorbs the lessons of the older man. Later, however, it becomes apparent that mastering the art of killing comes at a high personal cost.

Day of Anger was directed by Tonino Valerii, who was Sergio Leone’s assistant director. As you might expect, this is a high quality spaghetti western. One of the greatest ever made.

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