Il Giorno del giudizio / Day of Judgment
Watching spaghetti westerns can certainly be a big bag of surprises. With so many films to choose from, often there's no rule to what can make a film work for you. The ultimate question, for me at least, is "was I entertained?", above all other considerations. And so you'll get a bigger budget film with the big names that sometimes that disappoints you (such as Valerii's Price of Power), or conversely, a low-budget poorly produced production that nevertheless pulls it off. Robert Paget's (Mario Garriazo) Drummer of Vengeance was one of those surprises, a British/Italian co-production. Now, this is most certainly a lesser known film, and there's not too much info available on it. In regards to the year, most sources (Amazon, SWDB, Weissmann) list this film as being made in 1971, but in the end credits, it explicitly said 1974, so I'm not really sure:
Anyways, it's yet another revenge for a slaughtered family motif, with Ty Hardin starring as the stranger who hunts down the men who killed his wife and son. There's not too much in the way of plot or characterization, it's pretty straightforward. Hardin hunts them down, and goes undercover in town to keep an eye on things and carry out his plan. Rosanno Brazzi, one of the better actors in the film, stars as the town's sheriff, a sympathetic and later treacherous character. Genre regular Gordon Mitchell also has a role as a deputy.
Hardin wipes many of the men out pretty early in the film, setting the rather violent tone for the rest of the film (and actually, it works quite well in that regard). Usually in the revenge films, the revenge is gradual, and occurs in the later part of the film, whereas in this it starts within the first five minutes, as he saves a killer from the hangman's noose, only to dispose of him himself. The title comes from the fact that when Hardin returned from the war to find his home burned down, he found a small wind-up drummer toy in the debris that belonged to his son. It gets used as a rather suspenseful device in the film, as he winds it up and puts it somewhere where the people he's about to kill will hear and see it, reminding them of why he was there to kill them. And it's actually quite creepy.
So it had a pretty simplistic plot, subpar acting, and some rather lame dialogue, and the score used wasn't even original: it was Morricone's from Corbucci's The Hellbenders. So why did it work? There was just this certain grittiness about it that made it rather fun to watch, that same super-low budgetness that we saw in Matalo! and Django the Bastard, coupled with the many periods of suspense that were so prevalent in those films. Sometimes as he's stalking people, and taunting them with that little drummer toy, it almost felt like a horror picture, evoking Steffen's mysterious character in DTB who scares the hell out of the people before he kills them. It very much had that 70's feel that Matalo did with the unusual camera work and some hippieish looking people- often, when he's killing someone, the camera freezes the picture on the action for a couple of seconds before resuming the character going down. And lots of bad fake mustaches are prevalent throughout the film... Hardin's disguise while in town was quite laughable, looking like someone out of a biker exploitation flick:
Hardin dons several other costumes as well, and it sort of reminded me of Steffen's Joe Clifford in Apocalypse Joe, who used various disguises to foil his enemies. And us fans like to joke about the 6-shooters we see in these films that always manage to have 7 or 8 shots in them. Hardin broke the record in this one, one time getting something like 15 shots out of one revolver.
So, it was one of those sorta bad ones that was actually sorta good, if that makes any sense, and I was pleasantly surprised. I was watching an old VHS rip of it that was actually quite watchable, quality-wise, although there are several sub-par DVD releases out there. Oddly enough, the version I watched was titled Eye for an Eye, although I can't find any reference to that title anywhere. If you can come across it and you like this kind of film, I'd say it's worth a watch.