Mark Twain wrote three versions of his story, The Mysterious Stranger, none of which made it to final drafts. It is often referred to as his “attempted novel.” While each version has substantial differences, they all chronicle the main characters’ encounters with Satan, who is also referred to as No. 44. His third version is the only one with an ending, but given its other flaws, there is substantial debate about whether or not it is finished.
But, that final version gave way to Twain’s idea of the duality of humans in their waking dream selves. This is where Thomas Lee Rutter’s Day Of The Stranger enters the foray. This love-letter to Italian spaghetti westerns is based on The Mysterious Stranger and follows Caine Farrowood (Dale Sheppard), who is in debt to some bad people. As such, he is sent to collect a bounty that will clear what he owes.
But, things don’t go according to plan. Now Caine is lost and wandering the desert when he meets The Stranger (Gary Baxter), who goads the stoic man to anger and fills him with dishonest thoughts about his wife, Christina (Maryam Forouhandeh). The lines between Caine’s thoughts, the Stranger’s sinister words, and even their individual selves start to blur for the gunslinger. Is he going mad? Or is the Stranger toying with his soul?
“…Caine is lost and wandering the desert when he meets The Stranger…”
Rutter wrote and directed Day Of The Stranger, and it bills itself as “…surreal, funny, and tensely dramatic.” So, tonally it seems to aim for something along the lines Texas, Adios, and Day Of Anger. The director ensures that the flickering, sputtering grain of films from that era is present, and the ADR synchronization is intentionally off, to replicate the poor dubbing of such movies. The problem is that the grain is obviously added digitally during post-production.
I hate when movies go this route, such as the case here and in the recent Antrum, because it is always so apparent that it is an overlaid effect. So, instead of creating a visual palette consistent with the story being told, the filmmakers awkwardly force a look that is not inherent to how they shot or edited their movie. Those low-budget Italian films looked that way, not due to some aesthetic choice but because, based on resources, that is how the film stock turned out once all was said and done.
So, when viewing the digitally added cigar burns and grain lines, instead of enhancing the worldbuilding, it distracts the viewers. Instead of being sucked into the movie’s universe, the audience is constantly reminded that they are watching a movie. Similar things can be said for the intentionally poor dub.
"…waging a war against itself."