The Plot: Tony Anthony plays The Stranger, a drifting cowboy who finds himself wandering from one adventure to the next in this classic Spaghetti Western series. After literally being dragged into a town by his own horse, he stumbles into a saloon that is being looked over by a gypsy family. They beg The Stranger to help their daughter, who is a Princess, as she makes her journey across the ocean back home to Spain in order to claim her kingdom. The Stranger, ever the opportunist, asks for a lump sum of $50k dollars and they reluctantly agree. The Stranger and the princess make it across the ocean, but once on her old stomping grounds it becomes apparent that things have changed quite a bit. Their family’s enemy The Barbarians now control a great deal of the countryside, the two of them are ambushed and the princess is taken by the Barbarians and to top things off the princess’ father is dying. The Stranger, despite losing The Princess to the hands of her mortal enemy, still simply wants his money – but for him to get that he’ll have to help the Princess find an ancient stash of gold. So now The Stranger will have to sneak into Diego’s (the Barbarian King) palace, save the Princess and then have her lead him to the treasure. However, as you may can guess, things can never be so simple!
Ferdinando Baldi is a filmmaker I am fairly familiar with. Although he first made his name with sword & sandal movies in the early sixties, his best known works here in North America would probably be his Westerns. Films such as Viva Django! and Texas, Addio helped cement him in the minds of Eurocult fans the world over. However, his pairing with actor Tony Anthony also proved to be quite fruitful as he would go on to direct some popular movies, some written by Anthony himself, as well as help kickstart the popularity of 3D movies during the 1980s. Get Mean falls right between the most critically successful of the Anthony/Baldi partnership, a film called Blindman, and then what I have to assume would be their highest monetarily successful film, Comin’ At Ya which was a 3D western that helped reboot the dead technique in the 1980’s. Get Mean is actually the fourth film in Tony Anthony’s The Stranger series and it has to be the weirdest of the group. Setting the stage for the film in Europe, while actually shooting in Europe, tends to be an area of some controversy amongst Spaghetti Western purists. Although I am a Spaghetti Western fan, I suppose I’m not obsessed enough to be bothered by the issue because I actually think it’s a great idea and a novel concept amongst these films. However, I think what generally rubs most viewers the wrong way about this one, aside from it’s location and historical inaccuracies, is the general strangeness of the film. A cowboy taking on strange Barbarian clans, thinly drawn caricatures of them at that, you can get more than a little perplexed while delving into this one. It’s reminiscent of older martial arts film fare, because the foreign characters tend to be quite outlandish. Unfortunately, with this one we don’t get any Japanese ninjas. A mistake on the part of the filmmakers if ever there was one!
Get Mean starts off in such a drastically different direction than which the film ultimately ends up going. Although it’s slightly humorous that The Stranger is actually dragged into town, by his own horse, the scene doesn’t really play out for laughs. After the horse eventually drops him off, he enters into the bar where he meets the gypsy family (as mentioned in the plot synopsis) – but everything seems so dark and foreboding. There is a really excellent shot in this first section that kind of initiates this mood, where it shows The Stranger reflected in silhouette as he opens the swinging doors to the saloon, but this shot in turn is revealed as simply a reflection from a Crystal Ball. The lighting and the idea both work to an incredible degree and sell you on the atmosphere of this possibly being a moody and artistic western. However, these illusions are soon shattered by the dialogue alone. Get Mean is a comedic western, not totally unlike the kind that Terrence Hill made famous with his Trinity series, but only slightly less broad. Where Terrence Hill often played the comedy up in his films to the point where it resembled the work of Benny Hill, Get Mean shows slightly more tact in my opinion. Granted, My Name is Trinity would undoubtedly be the better movie in comparison, I just think that the comedy here is slightly less in your face and in that regard it works better for me as a fan of more traditional Spaghetti Westerns. Do not get me wrong though, Get Mean is still pretty broad and low brow in its comedic fare but ultimately what I’m getting at is it is a lesser of two evils. It’s hard to say this isn’t broad, when you’ve got Tony Anthony tied to a spit and ready for barbecue with an apple in his mouth! I’d also be a hypocrite if I didn’t mention the slightly annoying banjo music that plays throughout, as I couldn’t help but get a rather Benny Hill vibe from it!
Tony Anthony generally doesn’t seem to get the respect that other greats of the genre seem to receive, and the reason for this tends to allude me. It could be his distinctly American delivery, which doesn’t come from a gristle-bearing pair of clenched teeth like a Clint Eastwood nor a happy go lucky younger kid voice like the one that Hill was often saddled with. He delivers something completely different from the rest of the Spaghetti Western genre greats, but I’ve found that I like what he does. Nobody delivers a one-liner like this guy does and Get Mean really puts this quality on display. I think my favorite line of the movie really shows how good the man was. In the written form, “Listen. Business is business, and I happen to be a business man” comes across as completely redundant and more than a little silly, but Tony Anthony’s inflections on the words give it a slightly quizzical feel and it causes you to pause and re-evaluate the words. He takes something that should have seemed ridiculous, but instead makes it seem just a tad bit off. When you recognize this, you start to think about it and before long it’s stuck in your head. I like this about Anthony and he delivers through the whole movie, one liner after one liner. It gets ridiculous how many funny bits he throws out there. “Oh dear god they got some ugly lookin’ women in this country” and “Little sister, you are going to find out that I am the biggest god damn liar you have ever met!” are two other really amazing and star-creating lines thrown out there from Mr. Anthony and if you weren’t sold on the film by this point, then I don’t know what I can do for you.
The cast aren’t universally great or anything like that. David Dryer’s henchman character is patently offensive as a blatant and effeminate homosexual. Lloyd Batista as Sambra/Richard is inspired, as his villain character might have the most going on for him dimensionally. Sambra is a Shakespeare junkie and often recites lines of dialogue from his plays and thus The Stranger takes to calling him Richard, after Richard III. The back and forth that these two have is one of the better pieces of character action that the film has going for it. The “main” villain Diego, played by Raf Baldassarre however is generally pretty plain. He makes up for this fact by screaming for the majority of the picture – or at least in every single scene he takes part in. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Diana Lorys as Princess Elizabeth Maria. Although she doesn’t do much, she is a stunning woman and is saucy onscreen. With all of that said, this isn’t a character study. It’s an action movie. So action, is what it delivers. There are a lot of gunfights throughout and the explosions are massive in the final act, to the point that you wonder just what kind of a budget this movie had. There’s a brilliant shot in the final minutes where The Stranger stands with seemingly an entire fort exploding behind him as he coolly walks toward the camera. It’s a make or break moment and Tony Anthony sells it to perfection without so much as a flinch. The movie is a mix of varying elements that seem like they should represent a disjointed and ridiculous movie, but for some reason it really works for me!
David Dryer, who plays the homosexual right hand man of Diego’s – is actually writer/star Tony Anthony’s brother
The forth and only film in The Stranger series not directed by Luigi Vanzi.
The film’s historical context is illogical, as groups like The Moors (depicted in the film) were vanquished hundreds of years before America had been discovered.
It’s not a perfect movie by any chance. It is incredibly weird. There are so many odd elements throughout. There’s some strange supernatural things that happen in the final half, where for some reason or another The Stranger’s body is being taken over by spirits and they cause him to howl like a wolf! There’s a moment of black-face comedy like that of a minstrel show and it’s really hard for some people to get over the fact that we’re watching a cowboy duel with Barbarians. As much as I should probably take the high road and call Get Mean dumb and lacking in any intelligent thought – I can’t help but like this movie. I think for every “what the?” moment that there is in the movie, there’s an equally funny sequence that seems intentional and genuinely witty. The mix of elements worked for me as a viewer, but I suspect others might walk away puzzled. I give it a three out of five, but this one is dangerously close to a four. Check it out if you can get your hands on it!