“Oh, dear God,” the gunfighter exclaims. “They got everything in this country!” The country in question is Spain, or at least this film’s funhouse-mirror version of Spain, and the reason for the gunfighter’s exasperation is that even though he’s an American from the Wild West, he’s encountered ghosts, gypsies, a Shakespeare-spouting hunchback, marauding Moors, a bitchy princess, and barbarian savages who may or may not be Vikings. Although it’s technically the final entry in a four-film spaghetti-Western series starring Tony Anthony as “The Stranger,” a knockoff of Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” character, Get Mean—also known as Beat a Dead Horse, The Stranger Gets Mean, and Vengeance of the Barbarians—is a deeply weird phantasmagoria disguised as an action/adventure film.
Many have noted similarities between Get Mean and Army of Darkness (1992), the final theatrical entry in Sam Raimi’s gonzo Evil Dead series, since both pictures involve sarcastic Americans facing monsters in otherworldly realms. Yet while Get Mean nearly matches Army of Darkness for imaginative strangeness, it lacks the playful wit of Raimi’s movies, so the movie is dull and flat when it should be exciting and whimsical. Anthony’s bland performance is one weak area, but it’s not the only one. Jokes thud, villains seem petty instead of nefarious, and scenes drag on way past the point when they cease being interesting.
Thing get off to a lively start, because the Stranger gets dragged by a horse through a desert—past some sort of metallic orb thngy—into a ghost town, at which point the horse drops dead. Then the Stranger enters a saloon, which suddenly has people, and encounters folks dressed in costumes from various different historical periods. After a pointless bar brawl, Princess Elizabeth (Diana Loris) hires the Stranger to escort her to Spain. Cut to a map, revealing that the original location is in the Great Lakes (!), and a line tracks the Stranger’s trip to Spain by horse, train, and steamship. Upon reaching Europe, the Stranger gets roped into a war between the barbarians and the Moors, accepting the challenge to perform a labors-of-Hercules mission. At one point during his odyssey, the Stranger discovers his skin has turned black, just before he fights an angry bull. Other episodes during the movie include an implied lesbian orgy, a torture dungeon, and a shootout pitting the Stranger’s monstrous, multi-barreled hand cannon against the hunchback’s rotating gun turret, which is equipped with full-sized cannons.
All of this sounds a lot more interesting than it is to watch, though Get Mean is somewhat lavishly produced. Director Ferdinando Baldi’s work is as unimpressive as Anthony’s, because in addition to awkwardly shifting between comic and serious tonalities, the filmmaker never quite maximizes the incredible visual potential of the material. Weird counts for something, but in the end, boring is boring. FYI, the preceding films in the series are A Stranger in Town (1967), The Stranger Returns (also 1967), and The Silent Stranger (1968).
Get Mean: FUNKY