[toggle title=”Specs” state=”close” ]
Director: Tony Anthony
Writer: Tony Anthony, Ferdinando Baldi and Lloyd Battista
Cast: Tony Anthony, Lloyd Battista, Raf Baldassarre, Diana Lorys
Length: 84 min
Label: Blue Underground
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Subtitles: English SDH
- Audio Commentary with Producer/Star Tony Anthony, Co-Writer/Star Lloyd Battista, and Executive Producer Ronald J. Schneider
- The Story Of The Stranger: Interview with Producer/Star Tony Anthony
- Looking For Richard: Interview with Co-Writer/Star Lloyd Battista
- Beating A Dead Horse: Interview with Executive Producer Ronald J. Schneider
- Tony & I: Interview with Director Ferdinando Baldi
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- French Trailer
- Radio Spots
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Collectable Booklet featuring new writing by Spaghetti Western expert Howard Hughes
Get Mean. It’s almost an ironic title because, despite the utterance of the line by the film’s main character, the Stranger (Tony Anthony, here, reprising the role for the fourth time), the Stranger gets almost anything but mean. Anthony is the world’s most unlikely spaghetti western hero; he’s short, he talks kind of funny (completely lacking that stoic feeling given by Nero, Eastwood, and the genre’s other greats), and his face is almost always stuck in what can only be described as a scowl. However, while Eastwood and Nero scowl like their mother’s have just been insulted, Anthony scowls like he just caught wind of an unsavory scent. Perhaps these are all the reasons that Anthony is so perfect for this role, because Get Mean is anything but your typical spaghetti western. Following its troubled production, Get Mean more or less fell into obscurity. Tony Anthony proclaims that after finishing it he tried to never think about it again. Blue Underground’s new Blu-ray release of the film, however, gave Anthony the chance to dust off the cobwebs of his mind, and dig back into one of the weirdest western films cinema has produced.
Filmed primarily in the Almería region (where many of the iconic spaghettis were shot) in 1975, Get Mean comes quite literally at the tail end of the genre. At this point, the westerns in Europe were turning towards parody. What was once a beautiful framework for fierce, leftist charged cinema, had become less than fertile grounds. Many of the directors had abandoned the genre, but a few held on. Anthony knew that he had to write something completely different than the 600 other films that had already been released; if he was going to make another western, he was going to have to stand out. He had done this once before with The Silent Stranger, which could be surmised as his ‘the Stranger goes East’ western. This time he would take the Stranger somewhere even more absurd: back in time to medieval Spain.
The film barely attempts to explain its conceit, opening with the Stranger being dragged behind a man-less horse, through the dessert until being left outside of a seemingly vacant town. There some images of a mysterious crystal orb, I guess that has something to do with his being catapulted through time, but I don’t think Anthony was too worried about it, if I am being honest. It just happens and you either accept it or you don’t. He eventually finds himself inside the home of a family of gypsies who offer him 50,000 dollars to escort Princess Elizabeth Maria back to her rightful home in Spain. The Stranger agrees, although not before admitting he doesn’t even know where Spain is.Once the Stranger embarks on his mission, he becomes shoe-horned into scene after scene of humiliating, as well as near death, situations. His travels eventually pit him working both with and against a hunchback (Lloyd Battista) obsessed with Richard III (so much so that he dons the name for himself), along with a cast of colorful characters including a barbarian warrior (played by Raf Baldassarre) and an extremely dated, borderline offensive homosexual character (potentially a baron or even a jester) played by David Dreyer — Anthony’s real brother, although you would never guess from looks. Despite their garish nature, these characters actually help to transform this otherwise silly film into quite a fun ride. Baldassarre is really stellar — definitely has a physical presence — in his role, but for some reason (and maybe this says a lot about me), I couldn’t help but imagine how great it would be with someone like George Eastman in the role, an actor with a little more penchants for over-the-top performances. On the other hand, Dreyer emerges as one of the film’s best characters. Poor stereotypes aside, Dreyer commits to his role, and sure he overacts but he does so in such a commanding way that it really adds to the overall strange nature of the film. Battista is probably the film’s second best character — like many spaghettis, the villains have the most personality. Again, overacting is key to the film and Battista does it in strides. However, Battista also carries with him a sense of theatricality, which given his character’s obsession with Shakespeare, makes perfect sense for the role.
As far as the Stranger is concerned, Anthony gives the character a very specific turn for this film. The Stranger is somewhat lampooning the strong, silent type but he also allows for a great deal of humor to creep in as well. While this reviewer is no expert on the Stranger films, it has been documented that Get Mean offers Anthony’s loosest portrayal, quicker to push it to sardonic levels. Sometimes this humor falls flat and if there is ever a character that feels out of place, its Anthony (but that somewhat works for the stranger in a strange land plot device). Ultimately, Anthony always seems to be fronting, pretending to be something he’s not. There is a way of looking at it that shows how it totally works for his role; he is somewhat of a failure as a hero and always finds himself in more trouble than he can put up with. But when it comes time for the Stranger to “get mean,” it doesn’t feel quite real enough.A lot of people have made a lot of fuss with comparisons to Army of Darkness, and that is surely there, but not quite as much as it seems people have made of it. This movie is in a lot of ways far more absurd and, in other ways, not even close to Raimi’s absurdity. The closest comparison that should be made is that Ash is, in many ways, cut from the same ilk as the Stranger. But, where Bruce Campbell can play both bumbling fool and strong hero seamlessly, Anthony isn’t quite able to traverse the poles as effortlessly.
The shining star of the film is the director, Fernando Baldi. By this point in time Baldi was an already proven Italian master of genre cinema. He worked with some of the genre’s best stars (Nero, Terrence Hill) and took part in producing some of the better works. Baldi brings a sense of levity to film that it doesn’t always seem to even deserve. Get Mean is not a great film but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great aspects to it. It’s more properly described as an uneven failure, but Baldi’s direction is nearly perfect. The shots are beautifully composed in scope, and show the director’s fine visual eye. Without Baldi’s expert craftsmanship, one can easily imagine this film being a total mess. Baldi transcends the film’s most ludicrous aspects and gives it credence. It’s fun, goofy, and sometimes stupid but its shockingly beautiful all at the same time.One of the film’s major problems is the soundtrack. This saddens me to say because Fabio Frizzi is one of my favorite composers, and his trio, Frizzi-Bixio-Tempera created some truly remarkable scores. Its not that their music is poorly written, it just doesn’t match the tone best (or maybe it does but it gives in to the comedic aspects too much). Rescored without the whimsical, silly banjo/fiddle numbers, the film could probably feel a bit more serious-minded. It has a sort of vaudevillian or Benny Hill-esque vibe, where the characters are there for us to laugh at in their outlandish little situations.
In the end Get Mean is one of the purest examples of a genre on its last legs. Desperate to find something new or perhaps content with satirizing itself, everything about the film flies in the face of the stoic, politically charged films of Italy’s westerns. Get Mean is a film that makes very little sense…and, yet, it still works. It’s one of those ‘must be seen to believed’ films, and I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like it.
For this release of Get Mean, Blue Underground have provided a brand new transfer of the film. The 2.35:1 1080p transfer is, overall, a stunning presentation of the original elements, and a major improvement from anything previously available from the film. Back when Blue Underground released Man, Pride and Vengeance, we pointed out that some of the scenes appeared a bit yellow in tone. Well that occurs here as well, but as this also tends to show up in a great deal of westerns shot in Spain and Italy of the era, it was perhaps a desired effect. There are some shots that appear underexposed and/or a bit flat in contrast, especially during the moments when the Stranger is first arriving in Spain, but overall the print is crisp and bright, featuring a heft of natural film grain, and bold colors. There is surprisingly little damage to report as well, which given the film’s state since its release, is quite surprising. Despite its lacking release history, the print has been finely preserved over the years.
Similar to the video, the audio on this disc holds up well. BU have provided a DTS-HD mono mix, which has a bit of limitations but offers a fine representation of the original elements. Unlike many Italian-shot westerns, there isn’t the inclusion of an Italian dub, but since the film was geared towards American audiences (an American production), the absence is of little concern. There is an excellent audio commentary that collects the same folks featured in the interviews. There is a lot of discussion over the budgetary concerns, as are also featured on the interviews, but it does go a bit more in depth into aspects of the film (sometimes explaining what the film doesn’t).
In the interview with Tony Anthony, you get a strong sense that the Stranger was, more or less, a version of Anthony playing himself. He’s a strange sort of guy, but he’s also clearly quite bright. Anthony wrote nearly all of the film’s he starred in, in some manner; Battista calls him the idea man. The included interview covers basically his entire career and it’s a pretty fascinating snapshot at just what might be one of the most unlikely careers in cinema. There’s probably no reason that Anthony should have ever been a leading man in westerns, that he was, makes it all the better. In the few interviews included on this disc — with Anthony, Battista, EP Ronald J. Schneider, and an archival interview with Baldi — you get a strong sense of just how run and gun this production was. Schneider goes more in depth to how they would have to get the budget piece meal as they went along. Anthony even discusses a scene shot in the exhaustive heat — the battle between the barbarians and the Spaniards (where they only had half the horses needed and they had to get…creative) — where the crew nearly walked because the production couldn’t afford to supply them water. Battista is a bit more personable in his piece and he gives a fantastic interview mostly discussing the writing and performances in the film. All in all, there is a ton of great material included (deleted scenes, photo galleries, trailers) for supplementary features, topped off with a fine essay from Howard Hughes
Blue-Underground has always been a fantastic home for Italian genre cinema in the US. Their past work with films like Django, Man, Pride and Vengeance, and many films by Fulci and Argento, have sort of helped to solidify their role. While they have had a few issues in the past, they seem to have worked through the kinks, and Get Mean represents some fine work from the company. As Anthony mentions, after the release of this film, it was essentially, beyond passing mention, forgotten. Blue-Underground have brought it back, complete with a beautiful restoration and slew of informative and entertaining features. For all its eccentricities, Get Mean is without a doubt a must-see film and not because of how fun or with any sort of pretense on describing how great it is (it is fun and quite competently shot by Baldi), but because it is the perfect representation of a genre-in-decline. Get Mean is kind of a historical document, one that perfectly demonstrates the era it was released in.