In the peaceful, rural Old West town of Clifton, Scott (Giuliano Gemma) does the dirty work, emptying toilets and sweeping around the town - son of a whore, he is treated poorly by the townspeople but dreams of becoming a fast gun and is continually practicing with a wooden gun he has made. Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) rides into town and takes Scott under his wing - seeing the mysterious stranger as the man he wants to be, Scott follows him out of town and starts to learn the brutal lessons required to become a gunfighter himself. When Talby returns to Clifton to settle an old score, Scott finds himself forced to choose sides against his old townspeople as Talby looks to take control of the town for himself...
Co-written by the director Tonino Valerii (who worked as assistant director on Per un pugno di dollari (1964)) and writer Ernesto Gastaldi (who already had genre experience including the powerful script for 10,000 dollari per un massacro (1967)), I giorni dell'ira was part of the great heyday of Italian Westerns in the years immediately following Sergio Leone's genre revolutionising Dollars Trilogy. While many of the resulting Spaghetti Westerns looked for inspiration to the more action filled Django (1966) by Sergio Corbucci or the overtly political films of Sergio Sollima, I giorni dell'ira is firmly in the Sergio Leone mould and Valerii closely follows the stylings of his mentor's iconic productions, both in the storyline and direction.
The story is much richer than that of many genre entries - Italian Westerns would quickly fall into cliché with most revolving around simple stories of revenge, but the theme is rather more convoluted here - the revenge is sought not by the trainee but the veteran and he does not intend to simply kill those who have wronged him, but to completely take over their town. The idea of a young rookie gunslinger being taken under the wing of a more experienced, jaded veteran was also quite common place, Ferdinado Baldi's Texas, Adios (1966) and Giulio Petroni's Da uomo a uomo (1966) pre-dated this, but the idea is more realistically handled here - although Scott is already quick on the draw, this is well explained by his years of practice with a toy gun and he is genuinely hesitant to actually kill in his first gunfight (something that never seems to bother the young shooters in the other films). Running to nearly two hours in its original Italian cut, the film is sedately paced at times, with the focus on storyline, but the writers avoid adding in any gratuitous action, meaning that when the killing starts, it is more shocking and always relevant to the story.
Valerii's direction is clearly inspired by Leone and his scope image is continually flooded with sun-drenched vistas, including a number of very deep focus shots. The locations look familiar and even some of the sets look to be reused from Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. (1966) or at least closely inspired by them. Composer Riz Ortolani was not a genre regular but provides a superb soundtrack with a number of recurrent themes that really help to boost the film into the Parthenon of the great Italian Westerns.
Lee Van Cleef is excellently cast as the jaded Talby, convincing as a quick gunfighter still on top of his game, but conveying a world weariness, he had already played the part well in the earlier Da uomo a uomo, but here he gets the advantage of a far better actor to play against - although already establishing himself as a genre regular in Una pistola per Ringo (1965) and its sequel, Italian actor Giuliano Gemma can really convince as the young man learning the ways of the gunfighter and maturing noticably throughout the film until the dramatic climax.
Firmly inspired by the Sergio Leone classics, I giorni dell'ira could well pass as a lost film by the master of the genre with wide, sunsoaked landscapes, deep focus and a plot based storyline, but Tonino Valerii's is far from merely mimicing here and has created a superb film with an unpredictable storyline that avoids the potential clichés, rounded off by some great acting from two of the genre's greats, beautiful direction and a highly effective soundtrack. Undoubtedly one of the very best Spaghetti Westerns, this would make a perfect starting point for fans of the Dollars Trilogy to start exploring the wider world of the genre.
|Anyone famous in it?||Lee Van Cleef - a Spaghetti Western regular who starred in the similarly themed Da uomo a uomo (1967)
Guiliano Gemma - Italian actor who made his start in the genre with Una pistola per Ringo (1965)
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Tonino Valerii - not the most prolific Italian directors of the era, his best known work was helming the later Leone produced comedy Western Il mio nome è Nessuno (1973) starring Terence Hill and Henry Fonda.|
|Any gore or violence ?||A little blood but nothing brutal or gory.|
|Any sex or nudity?||None.|
|Who is it for?||A must-see for Spaghetti Western fans.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. 1080p HD
A beautiful print with deep colours, high detail and natural film grain.
|Audio||English LPCM 1.0 Mono
Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono
Both tracks sound clear and strong with a good balance of dialogue, music and effects. The English track includes Van Cleef dubbing himself.
|Subtitles||English HOH for the English audio
English translation for the Italian audio.
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region A/B (USA, North America / UK & Europe) - DVDs are Region 1/2 - NTSC|
|Other regions?||This is a simultaneous, indentical release in the USA and UK, both discs are identical, only the packaging has minor variations. Previously available as a non-anamorphic DVD from Wild East. A Japanese Blu-Ray release only includes a 1080i transfer and has no English subtitles for the Italian audio.|
|Cuts?||The film is presented in the fully uncut Italian version - one scene not present in this version but used in the shorter international release is included as an extra. Print language is Italian.|