Dragged behind his horse, Wild West gunslinger the Stranger (Tony Anthony) arrives in a ghost town where a witch offers him a fortune in gold to escort Princess Elisabeth Maria (Diana Lorys) back to Spain to reclaim her rightful throne. A Spain that seems bizarrely trapped in Medieval times, overrun by Vikings, wizards and barbarian hordes. Led by the unholy trio of warlord Diego (Raf Baldassare), scheming Shakespeare quoting hunchback Sombra (Lloyd Battista) and camp Art Garfunkel look-alike Alfonso, the barbarians wage war on the Moors, worship a golden armoured horse belonging to the legendary Rodrigo of Spain and are seeking his fabulous treasure. They kidnap Princess Elisabeth and leave the Stranger hanging by his feet in the desert to die. He is rescued by heroic gypsy Maria (Mirta Miller) and discovers from the surviving royal acolytes that the treasure will only manifest itself to one who has endured the mystical Trials of Death. After many surreal misadventures, the Stranger has enough of being beaten, deceived and abused and decides to get mean…
Did Sam Raimi see this utterly unhinged spaghetti western before he came up with Army of Darkness (1992)? Tony Anthony’s cynical, wisecracking antihero certainly shares a few character traits with the similarly self-serving Ash (Bruce Campbell). Next to Clint Eastwood, Anthony was the American actor who had the most success in Italian westerns yet since much of his output remains unavailable on DVD he remains an obscure figure. Anthony’s friendship with rock manager Allen Klein helped him secure funds to launch his movie career with the derivative A Stranger in Town (1966). Though derided by spaghetti western enthusiasts, the film proved a commercial success and spawned the sequels The Stranger Returns (1967), The Stranger in Japan (1968) and the belated Get Mean, each directed by veteran Ferdinando Baldi and with Anthony serving as producer and co-scriptwriter alongside co-star Lloyd Battista.
Get Mean offers no explanation for its ridiculous time warp conceit, but proves more fun than any other Baldi/Anthony collaboration. If nothing else one has to admire their chutzpah in attempting something so wilfully strange. Baldi’s flashy direction even achieves something of an epic sweep. Impressive production values include real castles adorned with medieval murals which coupled with scenes where one hundred knights on horseback charge across the desert dunes while cannons explode this way and that, suggest this had a fairly substantial budget. The nonsensical plot cobbled together from bits of El Cid (1961), The Vikings (1958) and that omnipresent genre touchstone A Fistful of Dollars (1964) fails to follow even its own internal logic, but the sheer cracked energy wins you over.
Baldi includes some riotous action set-pieces and bizarre interludes such as scantily-clad dancing girls servicing some lesbian barbarian blondes and the whole Trial of Death sequence. Set inside a stunning Spanish cathedral, Anthony is assailed by shrieking skeletons and invisible ghosts that make him howl like a dog. He then travels underground where an evil magician turns him black (“get me to a doctor or I’m gonna die!”), gets chased by a bull before finally retrieving a mystical amulet from a maniacal caveman. An amulet that turns out to have nothing to do with retrieving Rodrigo’s treasure.
There is a weird hippie counterculture vibe to the Stranger movies, albeit focused more on its misogynistic aspects than idealism. Anthony essays a far more vulnerable figure than genre icons Eastwood or Franco Nero ever played, but is equally more mercenary. While the heroines are wholly noble, the Stranger gripes and whines and directs some ungallant remarks their way. Over the course of the plot he is hung by his feet, roasted over a spit (complete with apple shoved in his mouth!) and ravished by those sex-starved lesbian amazons. But it all builds to the moment Anthony delivers a memorable monologue (“A man should fight fair… but when they just keep stompin’ on ya, there’s only one way to fight… get mean!”), tools up with dynamite, bow and arrow and handheld cannon, and blows up everything in sight. Battista scores extra points as his delusional hunchback quotes Richard III during the madcap finale.