Although he may never have achieved the mainstream recognition his talents probably deserved, there is little doubt in my mind that Lee Van Cleef qualifies as an iconic actor.

Whether it be in the likes of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, or Escape From New York, Van Cleef’s mean, moody presence pretty much elevated every project he was involved in.

And it was the western genre where his persona played best, so it’s great news that Arrow have dusted off 1967’s Day Of Anger for a re-release.

In truth, the film is far from a classic, but when you have Van Cleef on form such as this, it barely matters.

Director Tonino Valerii’s flick centres on the affable, put upon Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma), a likeable bloke that is cast as the town’s dogsbody for seemingly no other reason than that of being a bastard (in the birth sense).

Literally shovelling shit for a living, Scott dreams of being a gunslinger, laying waste to the bad guys and earning the plaudits from all.

Wouldn’t you know, Van Cleef’s Talby decides to pay Clifton a visit – Talby being one of those snarling, lethal gunmen that Scott aspires to being.

Turns out though that Talby isn’t all bad, and he elects to take Scott under his wing, coaching him in the ‘rules’ of the west and kitting him out with all the artillery he could possibly need.

From there on the pair team up to take out a horde of bad guys, before tempers begin to wear thin…

Firstly, let’s start with the good stuff, which brings us back to Van Cleef.

Swaggering through the film in his usual imposing style, Van Cleef dominates every scene he is in, which is an awful lot.

There is no doubt that he’s helped by a cracking script (which seemingly comes courtesy of four writers), laden with fizzing one-liners, for example Talby intoning ‘they haven’t invented the weapon yet that can kill me’.

The script also paints the characters very much in grey, rather than black and white – the good guys have a bad side to them, and vice-versa for the supposed ‘bad guys’, which makes the whole thing that much more interesting.

Valerii clearly has the eye for a location, with some sweeping vistas, juxtaposed with some decent action sequences.

Mention must also go to a stunning score from Riz Ortolani, which adds a sumptuous level of quality to proceedings.

Sadly though there are also faults – some of the film’s tone really jars, with shifts from clumsy humour to violence in the blink of an eye.

And, Van Cleef and Gemma apart, some of the support actors really try the patience, with barely a decent performance among them.

But the good outweighs the bad, and with Arrow’s usual polish (which includes unearthing the original near two-hour European cut of the film rather than the 90-minute US version) this one is still well worth a watch.

 

 

DVD Review: Day Of Anger
3.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.