Having never known his father and a mother who was a whore Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma) has grown up in the town of Clifton, Arizona being pushed around by the other residents with few who really care enough for him to try and look out for him. Maybe that is why when charismatic gunman Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) rides in to town that Scott becomes captivated with the cool killer who takes an interest in him. When Frank realises that the locals bully Scott he takes him under his wing, teaching him how to draw quick and shoot accurately with the young Scott becoming even better than his teacher. The question is why would Talby want to help Scott?
For Spaghetti western aficionados "Day of Anger" ranks highly, you can find one review after another which talks compassionately about this movie, going on about the styling, the Leone influence, the in-joke surrounding the name of a mule and much more including a hose back duel involving rifles. And whilst I am not an expert on Spaghetti westerns I can see some of what others see in "Day of Anger" and for that reason can appreciate why it is held in such high esteem, often showing up in reviewer's lists of top ten spaghetti westerns.
But how about an average movie fan that enjoys the western genre, how does "Day of Anger" come across for them? Well as always my top priority is did it entertain me and it does from beginning to end. Not only do we have the twang of guitars which screams Spaghetti western but we also have the obvious dubbed voices. We also have this storyline which sees young Scott turned into a killer thanks to Talby teaching him the rules of survival from never beg to punches are like bullets, you need to hit first. There are plenty more and you would be surprised how much sense there is in the lessons which Frank teaches Scott. Throw in some classic scene framing and you almost stop caring whether or not the movie goes anywhere because the lessons being taught are entertaining in their own right.
There is another reason why "Day of Anger" works as Lee Van Cleef and Giuliano Gemma work so well together, they seem to bounce off of each other like they had been working together for years and knew what each other would say before they said it. This adds to a thought which runs through your head as you watch because with Scott never knowing who his father was you begin to wonder whether maybe there is blood between them. Yet at the same time you begin to wonder whether at some point Scott will begin to question Frank's motives and turn on his tutor. It is the chemistry which makes the movie tick and be more about the lessons of surviving the west as a gunman.
What this all boils down to is that "Day of Anger" is a great western whether you enjoy spaghetti westerns or just westerns in general. It has great styling but also a fascinating storyline as well as captivating performances from Lee Van Cleef and Giuliano Gemma.