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  Day of Anger Father Figure
Year: 1967
Director: Tonino Valerii
Stars: Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma, Walter Rilla, Christa Linder, Yvonne Sanson, Lukas Ammann, Andrea Bosic, Ennio Balbo, José Calvo, Giorgio Garguillo, Anna Orso, Karl-Otto Alberty, Nino Nini, Virgilio Gazzolo, Eleonora Morana, Benito Stefanelli
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Scott (Giuliano Gemma) doesn't have a surname, he is the son of a long gone prostitute who doesn't have any status in this small town of rich residents, taking care of the odd jobs as the resident dogsbody, and if that includes pulling the sewage wagon around on his own in the mornings, then so be it. He doesn't really have any friends either, making conversation with the local down and out is his best bet at companionship, but he's so out of it that there's nothing too stimulating to be gained from that. However, one day as he attends to his chores, a stranger rides into town and approaches him: Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef).

He makes a point of talking to Scott, asking his name, and when he tells the man he doesn't have a surname, Talby does something about that, giving him his mother's name or Mary, hence Scott Mary which by the end of the film everyone is calling him out of respect. This was a tale that could be seen in two ways, and it could be a story of confidence building and status won, or it could be a story of corruption which seems attractive but actually puts the soul of Scott in peril since he is the one who is seduced by a life of violence. What was intriguing that until practically the last shot you were unsure of whether he was righting a wrong or being an ungrateful wretch, or perhaps both simultaneously.

Among the screenwriters was Ernesto Gastaldi, one of the most prolific of Italy's filmmakers who even by this stage was an old hand, with dozens of screenplays under his belt. Director Tonino Valerii helped with the script, not one of the most political plots that the Spaghetti Western genre could bring up, and more a moral lesson in being careful who you look up to. Some found the ultimate fate of Scott and Talby's relationship a letdown, after all Van Cleef generates quite a bit of fan devotion even now and the thought of being in the Wild West with him as your mentor might seem an attractive proposition to entertain, but Valerii and his team were using his persona, honed quickly in the Sergio Leone movies, to interesting aims.

Talby is the gunslinger who takes Scott away from all this, not romantically but as if the young man's father has returned to put everyone who did Scott down in their place; we have no way of knowing if this is the case, but that family connection did offer a resonance the film was leading us to, even if Van Cleef and Gemma didn't much look like father and son (maybe Scott took after his mother?). So what is going on, why has Talby shown up? It turns out his real reason for being in town is to get the money he feels he is owed, as the locals (apart from Scott and the tramp) have gotten rich from Talby's ill-gotten gains and he hasn't seen a penny of them, so is naturally aggrieved.

But all that cash has gone into the town, so how can he get it back? His solution is a tricky one for there are a number of folks with vested interests in ensuring Talby doesn't succeed, and the townspeople find support from various unpleasant characters including Owen the gunfighter (Benito Stefanelli) who has a pretty amazing gunfight with Talby as they ride towards one another on horseback, racing against time to load their rifles before the other man does. There are a good few nice touches like that, often using violence to amp up the tension, but it's Scott's personal development from a complete nobody (though not the Nobody Terence Hill played in Valerii's My Name is Nobody) to one of the most significant individuals around with so much resting on his shoulders as to where the town will fall as regards the line between good and evil. Does he win back that soul from the clutches of Talby, or is it too late? It's ambiguous, but it's a provocative theme for a Western that could easily have fallen back on the tenet that bloody revenge is perhaps a good thing, but didn't. Rockin' music by Riz Ortolani.

Aka: I giorni dell'ira, Gunlaw
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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