Six-Gun Reviews returns and this week Shawn Gordon reviews Ferdinando Baldi’s Get Mean (1975) starring Tony Anthony and Lloyd Battista.
Spaghetti westerns were a unique movement in movies, where a certain very American genre was transplanted to Europe, particularly Italy and Spain. The movies were often criticized for their lack of originality – it is true that they rarely branched out into uncharted territory or tried to be more adventurous, but then the western in general is fairly isolated and follows a set pattern of conventions. But none of that applies to Get Mean, a late entry to the European western, made in 1975 when the genre was in decline across the globe. This movie represents a failed attempt to broaden the genre and keep it afloat for at least a short while.
It stars American-born European western/cowboy star Tony Anthony, reprising his famous character from earlier movies, known only as ‘the Stranger’. Anthony and director Ferdinando Baldi had previously collaborated on the much better Blindman (1971), best remembered for featuring a supporting turn by Ringo Starr. The two would continue a working relationship with the popular, but terrible, 3-D western Comin’ At Ya (1981) and the laughable Indiana Jones knock-off Treasure Of The Four Crowns (1983). Baldi had proven himself to be a capable director of westerns with the solid Franco Nero-starrer Texas Adios (1966) and the memorable Forgotten Pistolero (1968), but, after Blindman, his abilities seemed to nose dive.
Get Mean has the Stranger finding himself a stranger in a strange land after being hired by gypsies to escort a princess (Diana Lorys) back to her native Spain. Once there, he encounters brutal barbarians who are warring with Moors, evil spirits, gay stereotypes and a treacherous hunchback who identifies with Richard III, all out to do him harm. “When things are even up, a man should really fight fair. But when they just keep puttin’ it to you buddy, and they’re stompin’ on your ass, there’s only one way to fight: get mean.“
While I will admit that Get Mean is unique and a one-of-a-kind, it also isn’t very good. The story doesn’t make much sense, the characters aren’t very interesting and the situations are tedious. Although, the film does move at a good pace, it is still often dull because nothing very interesting happens along the way: it becomes a long 90 minutes.
The movie is only sort of a spaghetti western – in fact, many genre aficionados do not even consider it to be a part of the genre or movement. While the movie features some obvious western iconography, it isn’t set in the Old West. To me, that is the least of the reasons why the movie fails to be a western – the biggest reason is that it lacks most familiar western elements. Most of the characters are out of something else, who knows what exactly (!); the situations aren’t very ‘western-like’ and, of course, neither is the setting. The action is also out of the genre norm, playing like a mismatch of genres all running together at once.
The European western worked well most of the time on its limited budgets. Get Mean has larger ambitions, but lacks a larger budget to justify such ambition. The movie winds up being a historical epic made on a quaint and unflattering shoestring budget.
One of the most obvious problems with the movie is its score (an almost unfathomable shortcoming for an Euro western, but here it does happen). The score by Bixio-Frizzi Tempera is obnoxious and intrusive, relying heavily on a loud banjo. Tempera scored other spaghetti westerns, but I am unfamiliar with any of his other works.
Another problem stems from an embarrassingly dated and broad gay character, who, I assume, is meant to be comical. Cast as the effeminate Alfonso, Diego’s flaming adviser, is Anthony’s own brother David Dreyer, who speaks in a high voice and wears pancake make-up. His wardrobe is also a painful sight, but the less said about that the better.
This was meant as the starting point for future adventures involving “the Stranger” in different genres and time frames. Anthony said that if the flm had worked, he would’ve known that he could take the character anywhere. Nothing further ever surfaced, though, so it would seem Anthony got the message that it didn’t work!
Anthony also produced and co-wrote the story with Baldi and co-star Lloyd Battista, but in truth he isn’t a very charismatic leading man. His “Stranger” character originated in a trilogy of movies made in the late 60s where he made a career out of being a Clint Eastwood substitue.
Anthony’s “Stranger” was interesting, if nothing else, because he wasn’t a typical movie cowboy hero. He was one of the fugliest leading men imaginable: pudgy, filthy and weasly; in fact, most the time his character would be assigned to support a more conventional leading man (much like Eli Wallach was used in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly). While his everyman “Stranger” persona is fun, it works better in a proper western setting. The earlier “Stranger” movies are guilty pleasures, entertainments without substance so to speak, but Get Mean isn’t able to achieve even this.
This movie has been compared with Sam Raimi’s Army Of Darkness (1992), but if anything it reminds me more of Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981). Of course, Get Mean isn’t anywhere near as good as those movies, nor is at as inventive and not nearly as much fun. It’s an ambitious failure which amounts to little more than a novelty and a curio. Even for Euro western fanatics and genre completists, Get Mean is unessential viewing.
MoM Rating: 3/10