Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Stranger Returns

Star Tony Anthony, who also contributed the story, returns—just like the title says—in this sequel to A STRANGER IN TOWN. Like the first film, THE STRANGER RETURNS was released in the U.S. by MGM in 1968, just four months after the original. While influenced by Sergio Leone’s westerns with Clint Eastwood, director Luigi Vanzi and Anthony add more humor and vulnerability to the leading character (he uses a pink parasol to keep the sun’s rays at bay), making him easy to root for, even when he’s acting like a scoundrel.

The Stranger poses as a murdered postal inspector to track a large gang of bandits led by the vicious En Plein (Dan Vadis, then a European star from many muscleman epics). The killers dry-gulched a stagecoach crew and made off with the entire rig, thought to be carrying a strongbox filled with gold. In actuality, the stagecoach is made of gold, which is a heckuva target for The Stranger and his nose for money. The bounty hunter teams up with a batty old preacher (Marco Guglielmi) with a pocketful of fireworks, who provides The Stranger with a super-cool weapon: a rotating four-barreled shotgun!

Starting with Stelvio Cipriani’s awesome score, THE STRANGER RETURNS is the most consistently entertaining of the four-film STRANGER series. Vanzi shoots the violent climax with some wit, as The Stranger invades the bandits’ town and blows them away one at a time. As usual, he takes plenty of physical punishment before laying some smack down on the baddies, who are well led by the sneering Vadis, somewhat leaner than his days making Italian sword-and-sandal pictures like SPARTACUS AND THE TEN GLADIATORS and HERCULES THE INVINCIBLE. Interesting is the unearthly vibe Vanzi and Cipriani provide for the golden stagecoach, really playing up its status as an oddball plot point.

Anthony moved on to THE STRANGER IN JAPAN, but legal problems kept it out of the United States until 1975, by which time spaghetti westerns were passé. However, he made another Italian western during that time, BLINDMAN with Ringo Starr, and teamed up again with Ringo (as producer) for the unusual COMETOGETHER, which had nothing to do with the Beatles.

1 comment:

Jerry House said...

I remember the first in this series, and if I remember correctly, they had a large group of desperadoes riding into town to kill Tony Anthony, but he killed them all -- almost. Someone had miscounted and Anthony killed all but one. I never did find out about the missing bad guy they had inadvertently left off the final body count.