With the Frontierado Holiday coming up on Friday, August 6th here is another seasonal movie.
GET MEAN (1975)- One of the weirdest Spaghetti Westerns ever made and that’s saying something! Get Mean stars Tony Anthony and was also released under the title The Stranger Gets Mean, making it the final movie in Anthony’s series of Italo-Westerns as the enigmatic gunslinger known only as the Stranger.
Another alternate title the movie was released under was Beat A Dead Horse, reflecting the view of Anthony and his production company that Spaghetti Westerns really were beating that dead horse of a subgenre for everything they could squeeze out of it by this point. Emphasizing that point was the way Get Mean features its heroic gunfighter clashing with anachronistic Vikings, Moors and an evil hunchback who loves quoting Shakespeare (for obvious reasons).
The film starts out with Tony Anthony’s character being dragged into a ghost town in a box canyon by a horse he’s been tied to. We glimpse Tony through a small orb like the kind used by Gypsy fortune-tellers. Many viewers use that orb to support their argument that Anthony’s gunslinger will be magically traveling through time and that THAT’S why he battles out of date Vikings and Moors.
It still wouldn’t explain why they speak Spanish and/or English or any of the dozens of OTHER problems that would result from a time-travel explanation. My view is to just enjoy it as weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Think of it like Six-String Samurai but without the actual meaning behind that film’s metaphors.
Immediately after the horse drags Tony into the ghost town it drops dead. Our hero unties his aching arms and wanders into a saloon where he is fed and cared for and offered $10,000 in gold to escort a Spanish Princess (Diana Lorys) back to her homeland since she is the rightful heir to the throne … or so she says.
The first time I watched Get Mean, this development made me genuinely hope that the plot of this movie would find our gunslinging protagonist caught up in the final Carlist War in Spain, which was fought from 1872-1876. (I’m just calling it the FINAL Carlist War to avoid the historical debate over whether there were two or three Carlist Wars.) I had visions that Diana Lorys’ Princess Elizabeth Maria de Burgos would be a fictional Wild Card thrown into the usual mess that the Carlist claims made of the Spanish succession.
No such luck. Immediately after Tony demands the increased price of $50,000 in gold to escort Princess Elizabeth to war-torn Spain actual Vikings in ancient costume burst in, accompanied by some men dressed as Venetian gondoliers. (?) Anthony defeats the intruders with some help from one of the Princess’ co-conspirators in the ghost town. Then it’s off to Spain for our hero and the beautiful Princess by way of trains and ships and, if you insist, the orb.
Once in Spain, Tony and Elizabeth get caught in between two armies – one of Vikings and one of Moors. Like the Vikings, the Moors are dressed anachronistically and are done up like Moors from the time of El Cid. Elizabeth says the Moors are the ones fighting to put her on the throne, which is REALLY weird given the history of the Moorish occupation of Spain. But like I said earlier, don’t bother trying to treat any of this as if it’s literally happening. It’s a waste of time.
After the Vikings vs Moors battle, complete with cannonfire, is over, the Princess is taken away and Anthony is left hanging upside-down to die. Needless to say he is saved from this fate and meets the gorgeous Morelia, who had her soldiers free him.
From there it’s a weird and wild ride involving the lost treasure of Rodrigo, magic spells which seem to transform Tony into a howling wolf-man, black powder bombs which turn his skin coal-black for awhile AND invisible ghosts which our hero fights in scenes forcing him to throw his body around in fake tussles like he’s William Shatner all of a sudden.
Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog are familiar with my elaborate April Fool’s joke-posts. Back before I started this blog I did something similar with fake reviews of Get Mean in which I depicted it as a mystical allegory filled with Black Magick symbolism.
My jumping-off point for all that nonsense was the Carlist Wars. When Carlos VII was defeated in 1876 he still went on claiming to be the rightful King of Spain for decades from exile. He even dispensed Royal Honors like knighthoods, and one of the men he knighted was one Aleister Crowley.
Naturally, once you have Crowley connected to ANY subject however tenuously you’ve got immediate credibility with the gullible and the paranoid. Anyway, I would write all kinds of esoteric meaning into the insane developments of this storyline.
Point being I think it’s a waste of time to look for any deeper meaning in the absurd goings-on in Get Mean. Which is a shame since a fairly decent amount of money was spent on this production. I think Anthony and company missed an opportunity to present a fun, Wild Wild West or Brisco County, Jr type of adventure putting his Stranger character in the middle of the final Carlist War.
It would have been a more straightforward tale with no Vikings or Moors but you could keep the Spanish castles. And certainly the lost treasure of Rodrigo could have been thrown in since so many Spaghetti Westerns involve quests for gold and other valuables. This approach would have still left plenty of room for tongue-in-cheek humor like Brisco County and Wild Wild West used to deal in.
If you’re a newby to EuroWesterns they were usually filmed in Spain’s Jarama Valley, so the Spanish setting for Get Mean was itself one of the sly in-jokes of the film.
Anyway, Tony Anthony’s character emerges triumphant over Vikings, Moors and anyone else who gets in his way, then heads back to the American West via ships, trains and, if you insist, the orb.
Get Mean is lots of fun and delivers great eye candy and spectacle but ultimately strikes me as just one big waste of time and a decent budget when it could have been so much more without losing sight of the few fin de siècle comedic points it wanted to make.
This movie’s best Frontierado use might be after you and your guests have watched whatever REAL westerns you want to watch and are drunk enough to just want something weirdass to end the night on.
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