Color, 1975, 90m.
Directed by Ferdinando Baldi
Starring Tony Anthony Lloyd Battista, Raf Baldassarre, Diana Lorys, Mirta Miller, David Dreyer
Blue Underground (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Color, 1975, 90m.
One of the more fascinating people to rise out of the spaghetti western craze that launched in the second half of the 1960s is Tony Anthony, an American actor and former pop singer who became allied with Allen Klein, the famous music producer (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc.) who also launched the first midnight movie, Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo. Anthony made something of a splash with three MGM-released westerns, A Stranger in Town, The Stranger Returns (aka A Man, a Horse, A Gun), and The Silent Stranger, which was enough for Klein's ABKCO theatrical releasing arm to handle two Anthony projects, the surreal counterculture menage a trois tale ComeTogether and the fascinating, Zatoichi-inspired western, Blindman (which were produced by and co-starred Ringo Starr, respectively). In America, Anthony is now best known for launching the short-lived '80s 3D theatrical craze with Comin' at Ya!, one of the last spaghetti westerns widely released in America, and his last film to date, the 3D adventure Treasure of the Four Crowns.
Anthony's final Italian film of the '70s, Get Mean, was made halfway through that decade and found him saddling up as the Stranger one last time. We first see the Stranger, a wry and often comic character, tied up at the wrists being dragged behind a horse through rocky terrain, with a giant mysterious crystal ball popping up nearby and then being caressed by a strange woman who seems to have a hand in his mystical destiny. Eventually the horse drops dead after depositing him in a nearby town where the villagers offer him a stash of 50 grand in gold for a very special mission. The present heir to their people, Princess Elizabeth Maria (Spanish horror vet Lorys), needs to be escorted to Spain to help overthrow the barbarian Viking invaders, and the locals are being suppressed by a horde of Moors who like to beat up our hero to the accompaniment of jaunty country music. Cue some animation as the Stranger and the Princess cross the ocean via steamer to Europe, where they wind up in Moor territory with an approaching barbarian horde on the horizon (complete with a sassy fey adviser, played by Anthony's brother Dreyer, who spits out bon mots like "She's not a princess, she's an ill-bred bitch!"). Soon it's one adventure after another as the Stranger comes across a gold treasury guarded by ghosts, gets covered in black tar and pursued by an frisky bull, tangles with a cursed necklace called the Scorpion's Sting, crosses paths with a hunchback named Sombra (Battista) obsessed with Richard III, and dispenses witty insults like "You're worse than trash. You're garbage!"
It almost feels like a stretch to call this a spaghetti western, even with those familiar Spanish dusty locations and Anthony sticking to his wisecracking Stranger persona (along with his pistol and an arsenal of other weapons along the way). The giddy melting pot of narrative ingredients feels a lot closer to a crazed Turkish concoction like Tarkan versus the Vikings, with the script piling on seemingly every nutty adventure element it could think of regardless of petty issues like appropriateness of period or locale. (Why they didn't add some rampaging Zulu warriors is anyone's guess.) Anthony's sleepy-eyed, laconic line delivery can be something of an acquired taste, but he's in fine form here grounded all the insanity, which is accompanied by a peculiar, minimal harmonica and string score by Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera, the composing trio who went on to Lucio Fulci's The Psychic and Silver Saddle before they all went solo.
Barely released in American theaters by Cee Note, Get Mean returns in fine form from Blue Underground as a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD package that easily surpasses its scarce video releases (most prominently a pan-and-scan UK VHS edition). The original scope framing is thankfully preserved, and colors look very robust and natural throughout. The film has a gritty, sometimes erratic appearance thanks to the Techniscope lensing (whose issues should be familiar to Italian cinema fans); close ups are fine and detailed, though wider shots can vary depending on the limitations of the lighting and the film stock. The DTS-HD English mono track on the Blu-ray sounds just fine, with optional subtitles provided in English, French, and Spanish. As usual the film was shot without direct sound, but the actors were almost all speaking English with Anthony and a few others providing their own voices.
Anthony has become something of a mystery figure since the '80s given his absence from the screen and lack of any substantial interviews, so it's gratifying to see him turn up here for some very welcome, valuable extras. Moderated by Severin Films' David Gregory, the film's audio commentary features Anthony, "presenter" and executive producer Ron Schneider, and co-writer and actor Batista chatting about the film shortly after the restoration premiere at the Cinefamily in Los Angeles. It's a very business-oriented chat at times but there are some great anecdotes about shooting in Spain and going through the dubbing process, with a lot of discussion of the film's late director, Ferdinando Baldi, who also worked with Anthony on Blindman and Comin' at Ya! with other credits including Nine Guests for a Crime, Terror Express, and The Sicilian Connection.
Running 23 minutes, the first featurette, "The Story Of The Stranger," puts the bespectacled Anthony in front of the camera for a chat about his entire career starting with a short that played with Pillow Talk and continuing through his colorful film work including his time with "super manager" Klein and the creation of his most famous role. There's some fun behind-the-scenes footage tucked away in here, too, along with a glimpse of the Cinefamily premiere at the end. In the 12-minute "Looking for Richard," Battista covers his relationship as "dinosaurs" with Anthony from their time improvising in acting classes through their days in spaghetti westerns, including the production of this film on some of the sets from El Condor. Schneider, the nephew of Klein, shows up for the 10-minute "Beating a Dead Horse," which focuses not only on his work here but on his Klein-related work (including a stint on what became Gimme Shelter) and his early days hiking around the world with Tony Anthony including the "hell" of their second film together in Japan. The 8-minute "Tony & I" is an archival interview with Baldi, who chats about meeting Tony Anthony (who was dating ComeTogether costar Luciana Paluzzi) in Madrid, mounting their big 3D project together despite the fact that the process was obsolete in Italy, and reconstructing the camera being developed by sleaze legend Michael Findlay (who goes unnamed here) when he was killed in a freak accident atop the Pan Am building. Next up is an 8-minute reel of deleted scenes, presented full frame from a slightly squeezed VHS source; none of it's essential, but there's some fun extra hammy material with Battista that's worth checking out. Also included are the funky English international trailer, the very similar French trailer, four 30-second radio spots, a poster and stills gallery, and an insert booklet with an essay by spaghetti western historian Howard Hughes covering the four Stranger films in detail. It's a real labor of love for a jaw-dropping, wildly entertaining film that almost slipped through the cracks.