Saturday, December 16, 2017

Get Mean

Unlike the first three STRANGER movies produced in Italy by American-born star Tony Anthony, which received generous theatrical releases through MGM, GET MEAN sputtered into grindhouses and drive-ins under the fledgling Cee Note banner. It was also the first of the series to be directed by someone other than Luigi Vanzi, with BLINDMAN’s Ferdinando Baldi taking the helm. Perhaps Anthony’s biggest strength as a producer and writer was his willingness to think outside the box. From A STRANGER IN TOWN to THE STRANGER RETURNS to THE SILENT STRANGER, the movies got, ahem, stranger as they went along, culminating in the flat-out bizarre GET MEAN, which takes place in an alternate 19th century with Moors and Vikings.

As much fantasy as western, the bizarre plot by Anthony, co-star Lloyd Battista (BLINDMAN), and Wolf Lowenthal (COMIN’ AT YA!) finds The Stranger (Anthony) accepting a $50,000 offer to return Princess Elizabeth Maria de Burgos (Spanish actress Diana Lorys of THE TEXICAN) to Spain, where a battle for her kingdom ensues between, yes, Moors and Vikings. The Stranger loses the Princess to the Viking king, but negotiates his way into the warlord’s good graces with the promise of a treasure hidden in a nearby temple.

Co-writer Battista, who played the main heavy opposite Anthony in THE SILENT STRANGER and BLINDMAN, is the Viking lord’s hunchbacked sidekick with a Richard III obsession. Another villain is played by David Dreyer (FUZZ), Anthony’s brother, who gives the kind of performance one might expect from an amateur directed to play “gay” in 1975.

Filmed as the cleverly titled BEAT A DEAD HORSE, GET MEAN is fascinating for many reasons, just one of which being it’s almost subversive that one of these Spanish-lensed westerns should be actually set in Spain for once. No one speaks Spanish, of course. It’s suggested through mysterious silver orbs in the desert that the Stranger has actually traveled through time, but who knows. Anthony brings back the cool four-barreled shotgun from THE STRANGER RETURNS as part of his unusual arsenal, and he spends significant screen time in blackface. A substantial budget allows for large-scale battle scenes and hundreds of extras.

Believe it or not, Anthony wasn’t done with spaghetti westerns. COMIN’ AT YA!, released by Filmways in 1981, was a surprise hit and the biggest 3D smash in America since the 1950s. His 3D follow-up TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS was more Indiana Jones than Clint Eastwood, though no competition to either in box office receipts.

No comments: