GET MEAN, the last and biggest of Tony Anthony's Stranger films warrants a deluxe Blu-ray/DVD combo from Blue Underground.
As the film opens, The Stranger (Anthony) is already in trouble, being dragged behind his own horse into a ghost town where the exhausted beast collapses and dies. The Stranger discovers that he has not come there by chance, as gypsies have prophesized that he is the one to see their Princess Maria Elizabeth de Borgos (Diana Lorys, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF) safely home to Spain so that she may liberate her people from the conquering Vikings of hulking Don Diego (spaghetti western regular Raf Baldassarre, THE GREAT SILENCE). The Stranger has incentive to take the task as they can only meet his $50,000 fee if the princess claims Rodrigo's Treasure as her birthright. They have no troubles traveling from the Midwest and across the sea to the Spanish coast but soon find themselves caught in the middle of a skirmish between the Vikings and the princess' allies the Moors. The Moors are easily outmanned and outgunned, and the Vikings soon have the princess in their clutches while The Stranger – left hanging upside down above a well at the recommendation of Diego's campy gay advisor Alfonso (David Dreyer) – is rescued by Morelia (Paul Naschy regular Mirta Miller, COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE). When the princess' Emir tells Morelia and The Stranger that the princess must go to the Mosque Vesuvios to claim the treasure, The Stranger invites himself into the Vikings' fortress to make a deal with Diego's scheming hunchbacked second-in-command Sombra (Lloyd Battista, LOVE AND DEATH) to trade the princess for the treasure; but The Stranger of course is not the only one planning a backstabbing or two.
While the first three Stranger films helmed by Luigi Vanzi were impoverished variations on "The Man With No Name" films, particularly THE SILENT STRANGER, the resurrection of The Stranger seven years later in GET MEAN can be seen as the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bridge between Anthony's and Ferdinando Baldi's ZATOICHI spaghetti western variation BLINDMAN and the 1980s 3D efforts COMIN' AT YA and TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS. Co-written by co-star Battista, his character once again enters into a truce bound for betrayal with The Stranger, but Sombra is a wonderfully entertaining villain who piles on the treachery to earn his comeuppance during the explosive finale (Dreyer and Baldassarre seem bland by comparison despite the scenery chewing). Anthony's hero is a little crabby and not particularly compelling unless he's blowing stuff up. He spends much of the first half alienating rather than intimidating his enemies or making voiceover observations ala his character THE SILENT STRANGER or his semi-autobiographical stuntman character in COMETOGETHER. Lorys and Miller have little to do despite being positioned early on as something more than damsels in distress. The score by partners Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi, and Vince Tempera (who also scored Fulci's FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE and THE PSYCHIC before splitting up) is all over the place, trying at times to match add a sense of grandeur to the scope visuals and prod the audience during the comic parts; but all of the elements thrown into the film from Moors and Vikings to the bulls and blackface the "trials of death" seems not so much designed as inspired by whatever props and costumes were available during the shooting schedule.
While the first three "Stranger" films were long unavailable reportedly because of producer Allen Klein, GET MEAN was produced by Anthony himself and THE SILENT STRANGER co-producer Ronald Schneider (GIMME SHELTER) and distributed stateside by the company Cee Note. Never released on VHS stateside, GET MEAN gets a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer that preserves the Techniscope image in all of its blown-up grit with strong close-ups and variable wider shots (low light interiors look a bit softer because of the decreased depth of field with foreground and background people and set decoration going in and out of focus in panning and tracking shots). The sole audio option is a lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track that sports robust vocals, scoring, and explosions while optional subtitles are available in English SHD, French, and Spanish.
Producer/star Anthony, co-writer/star Lloyd Battista, and executive producer Ronald J. Schneider appear on a new commentary track in which they discuss the difficulty of getting the project together, Baldi's ingenuity (rather than tearing out pages to accommodate the schedule, he came up with new ideas), and how getting the film in the can was only half the battle as they ended up with less money for post-production than promised. The actors discuss the amount of improv in the film, and Battista relished the opportunity to "play" Richard III during the climax and was give the go-ahead by Anthony and Baldi to do so. Anthony also expresses his disappointment that MGM and the studios were not interested in the film since spaghetti westerns were on the way out but also did not get that he was trying to do something different. Anthony also appears in the new interview "The Story of the Stranger" (23:11) in which he discusses pairing up with Saul Swimmer to form a production company, starting with the successful short PILLOW TALK. He also discusses his partnership with "super manager" Allen Klein which lead to him seeking work in Europe and the unlikely prospect of playing a cowboy following the surprise success of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. He recalls meeting Antonioni-adjacent filmmaker Luigi Vanzi, the "artistic" director he and the producer wanted to mount a western, who recognized that Anthony's cowboy would not be in the mold of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. The resulting picture provoked laughter at the screening, surprising Anthony when Klein wrote him a check to produce another Stranger film. In discussing THE SILENT STRANGER, he reveals how his association ended with Vanzi during the stressful Japanese shoot when the director alienated him and the Japanese extras before suffering a nervous breakdown. This lead to Anthony discovering Baldi who was a university professor hired by William Wyler to consult on the battle scenes in BEN HUR.
In "Looking for Richard" (11:32), Battista recalls college friend Anthony asking him to go to Japan with him to make THE SILENT STRANGER and how that lead to BLINDMAN. He also discusses his behind the scenes collaboration with Anthony as a screenwriter, expanding upon Anthony's story ideas and the back-and-forth that would ensue once the idea captivated him too. He realized that GET MEAN was a continuation of the "culture clash" angle of THE SILENT STRANGER, and proposed the Sombra character and his idolization of Richard III (Battista brought Wolf Lowenthal in as co-writer because he was more familiar with the play). He also recalls the opportunity to shoot in impressive, authentic locations as well as the EL CONDOR fortress set (which had also been reused in other westerns including A REASON TO LIVE, A REASON TO DIE!). In "Beating a Dead Horse" (9:49), executive producer Schneider recalls meeting Anthony through Klein who had him do the accounting on Anthony associate Saul Swimmer's MRS. BROWN, YOU'VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER and later being sent to Japan to work on THE SILENT STRANGER. Six years later, he was approached by an investor who wanted to do a film, so he approached Anthony for ideas. He recalls finding that the projected foreign sales for $750,000 shrunk down to less than $100,000 with the popular opinion at Cannes that westerns were on the way out, and heading to Italy hoping to be able to keep the production going with that amount of money.
All of the video featurettes include excerpts from home movies shot on the set by Anthony's then-girlfriend Diane Dobronte, but it is most heavily-used in "Tony & I" (8:19), an archival video interview with Baldi (who died in 2007) in which he focuses mainly on his two 3D films with Anthony. The deleted scenes (8:28) seem to come from a VHS tape of a work print and features some nice additional bits for Battista including his rebuttal to Alfonso's accusation of betrayal when Diego shows up at the temple. This segment also ups the film's sadism quite a bit, and that may have been the reason it was cut (although some of the humiliation inflicted on Alfonso in the finished film strains good taste) if not to keep the film under ninety minutes. The package is filled out with a theatrical trailer (3:23), a French trailer (3:21) under the title HANG HIM BY HIS FEET, four radio spots (1:58), a poster and stills gallery, and a booklet by spaghetti western expert Howard Hughes. (Eric Cotenas)
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