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Get Mean

Blue Underground // Unrated // October 27, 2015 // Region 0
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 21, 2015 | E-mail the Author
"Now, when things are even-up, a man really should fight fair...but, oh, 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!"

It's a little past the six minute mark into this Spaghetti western when some viking-looking monstrosity storms into a ramshackle cabin somewhere in the American Southwest. After the settings shifts to Spain a few minutes later, The Stranger (Tony Anthony) and the princess (Diana Lorys) he's been hired to shepherd there are standing in front of a castle surrounded by lush, green foliage, and then they turn around and are smack-dab in the middle of an epic desert battle between an army of barbarians and the Moors. Then there's this part later into the movie when The Stranger starts getting punched in an ancient cathedral by unseen ghosts, relentlessly howls like mad, and...well, "now, all you people in them coffins, I don't believe in this kind of stuff. You hear me? So don't be tryin' to turn me into no damned wolf!" A little after that, he vanishes in a puff of smoke, reappearing with every square inch of his body -- from his head to his toes and all the naughty bits in between --- pitch black, just in time for him to square off against a rampaging bull. Wait, wait, don't forget about our hero getting roasted on a spit with a lemon in his mouth, the hunchback who quotes Richard III while wheeling around on a turret with 360 degrees of cannons, the flamboyantly...errr, flamboyant guy who's force-fed mashed potatoes until he shits out a message from The Stranger, and I guess you're starting to get the picture right about now that Get Mean is anything but just another Spaghetti western.

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That's probably all the review of Get Mean you really need -- I'm sold, anyway! -- but maybe I should say a little something more about the plot. You'd think a Spanish princess would be safe hiding out in Rapid River, Michigan -- assuming that map is dead-on, anyway -- but these are some especially tenacious barbarians we're talking about here. A gaggle of gypsies had been doing their damndest to protect Princess Elizabeth Maria from the war ravaging her homeland, but the invading savages' drive to conquer Spain has even brought them to our shores in search of her. The time for hiding has long since passed, but if the princess is going to reclaim her land and her people, she's gonna need some help getting there safely. For the tidy sum of $50,000, The Stranger is up to the challenge. (Hell, he has three other movies in the can to prove it!) Getting her to Spain is no sweat, but before The Stranger can return Liz to her father, they get caught in the crossfire between the barbarians and the crown-supporting Moors. By the time the dust settles in that epic desert clash, the princess is snatched away by the perpetually snarling Diego (Raf Baldassarre), the hunchback pulling his strings (Sombra, played by Lloyd Battista), and the outrageous '70s gay stereotype Alfonso (David Dreyer). The Stranger shrugs all that off and insists to the ailing king that he's earned his fifty grand, princess or no princess. Turns out that they can't pay him without getting their hands on the lost treasure of Rodrigo, and the only person who knows where to unearth that impossible wealth is...well, the princess. If we were talking about any other movie, I'd say that you could figure out what happens from here, but nope, not in Get Mean.

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Get Mean so wholly and completely shatters Spaghetti western conventions that it really shouldn't be saddled with that label at all. Southeastern Spain was no stranger to hosting Eurowesterns, but while the overwhelming majority of them used the Almerían desert to double as the American Southwest, Get Mean treats Spain as...well, Spain. With The Stranger's first couple of adventures already having shamelessly parroted Leone, Get Mean hungers for something different. No saloon. No standard issue shootouts. No traditional Old West Town backlot. Less than you'd think on horseback. While so many other Eurowesterns were stone-faced, scowling, and deadly serious, Get Mean wedges its tongue firmly in cheek. It wants you to snicker -- to be surprised at pretty much every possible turn -- and damned if the movie doesn't nail that over and over and over again. While Get Mean is completely fucking bonkers for an hour and a half straight, it does have an actual plot and a truly memorable cast of characters to hold all that unhinged insanity together. If you walk into Get Mean aching for yet another knockoff of A Fistful of Dollars, brace yourself. If you're expecting any sort of vaguely accurate recounting of Spanish history...yeah, forget it. Those with a taste for something different ought to love the hell out of Get Mean, though. The most frequent talking point in the extras is how the production routinely struggled to rustle up enough cash to make it through the day, but you'd never know that just to look at the screen. The scale of it all is outstanding, the movie loves colossal explosions almost as much as I do, and the clever use of standing sets and historic locations put Get Mean in a league all its own. It's fast, it's frenetic, it's entirely too much fun, and it's defiantly unique.

It's because Get Mean is so unrepentantly bizarre -- and the general decline of the Spaghetti western by the time cameras were rolling -- that anyone reading this review has almost certainly never laid eyes on it. The movie apparently only played in one lone theater stateside, and in forty years, it never got a proper home video release on these shores. The closest thing to that till now was Tony Anthony selling DVD-Rs on Blue Underground has done a phenomenal job rescuing Get Mean from obscurity, lavishing it with an outstanding visual and aural presentation as well as piling on several hours of extras. If you're willing to let the movie take you on this wildly imaginative ride, Get Mean is a hell of a rewarding discovery on Blu-ray. Highly Recommended.

From the strength of this high-def remaster, you'd never have guessed that Get Mean was essentially a lost film. There's not a scratch or so much as a fleck of dust to be found anywhere throughout this immaculate presentation, and the level of clarity and detail on display here can be astonishing:

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Color saturation varies a good bit depending on the scene: often lush and vibrant, sometimes dull and overcast (surprising me in that battle royale in the desert early on), and occasionally sunbaked in a deep desert gold. Considering how hands-on the folks behind Get Mean were in every other aspect of this Blu-ray disc -- not to mention Blue Underground's many years of experience at this sort of thing -- it's a safe bet that they signed off on the color timing and that this variation is completely intentional.

While I'm thrilled overall with this shiny new transfer, I do have a couple of minor gripes. The grain at times looks somewhat unnatural, clumping together and coming through a bit mosquito noise-y, although that's not all that much of a nuisance:

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The other isn't something that can really be captured in a still image. It almost looks as if a sizeable chunk of Get Mean was shot through plastic sheeting. There's a texture that, in a still image, looks like film grain. When the camera pans or there's other significant movement in the frame, though, that texture remains frozen in place, as if it's floating above the image rather than being an inherent part of it. To some extent, I felt that I could see this early on, but it's especially noticeable throughout the final half hour of the film. I don't see anything similar in the trailer elsewhere on this disc, so whatever this effect is, it doesn't appear to date back to filming. If you've gotten your hands on Get Mean already, look at The Stranger collecting scorpions, the shots of him roasting on the spit as well as the barbarians looking on, and that defining moment when our hero decides it's high time to...well, get mean:

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That sporadic, floating texture can be mildly distracting, sure, but it doesn't dim my enthusiasm all that much for what is otherwise such a terrific looking disc: easily the best looking of Blue Underground's Spaghetti westerns and particularly remarkable for a film that all but vanished forty years ago.

Get Mean storms onto a dual-layer Blu-ray disc at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and an anamorphic widescreen DVD is along for the ride.

The same as pretty much every other Spaghetti western, Get Mean was shot with just a guide track, and all of its dialogue (along with everything else!) was re-recorded after the fact. This was also primarily an American production, so it makes a whole lot of sense that the audio on this Blu-ray disc is delivered exclusively in English. Presented in 24-bit, two-channel mono, this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack leaves very little room for complaint. Aside from a little sibilance here and some mild boxiness there, I found myself impressed by how clean, clear, and robust the lossless audio is. I mean, it's been forty years, and the colossal blasts from The Stranger's four-barrel shotgun still pack a hell of a wallop. Well done.

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Subtitles are dished up in English (SDH), French, and Spanish. There aren't any remixes or dubs this time around, but a shiny new audio commentary has been included.

  • Deleted Scenes (8 min.; SD): There are four additional scenes in this reel, among them Diego torturing one of the princess' hapless subjects in a ploy to uncover the location of the treasure, the secret origin of Sombra (with a bonus primer into Moorish History 101!), a burst of misogyny before the attempted gang rape, and a brief thing with a well.

  • Interviews (53 min.; mostly HD): Clocking in at twenty-three minutes, the lengthiest of Get Mean's interviews is with its producer and lead actor, Tony Anthony. This conversation spans all four of the films he starred in as The Stranger, but Get Mean not surprisingly is lavished with the lion's share of attention: direction of this installment winding up in the capable hands of Ben-Hur alum Ferdinando Baldi, dreaming up the setting of old Spain, suffering through a neverending gauntlet of financing nightmares, and struggling to find distribution for such an oddball movie, especially when Spaghetti westerns as a genre were pretty much dead and bured. A few behind the scenes shots are scattered throughout here, as well as peeks at the premiere of Get Mean's restoration this past June.

    Co-writer and chief badnik Lloyd Battista looks back fondly on Get Mean in his twelve minute interview, marveling at how much production value his lifelong friend Tony Anthony was able to get on the screen with his shoestring budget as well as the impossible locations its canny European co-producer was somehow able to line up. Battista also touches on how he created the concept of Sombra and speaks a bit about the film's deeply unconventional tone.

    Executive producer Ronald J. Schneider devotes most of his ten minute interview to Get Mean's grueling financing: being encouraged to start shooting before all the money was in place, then fighting to rustle up enough cash to keep production going a few days at a time. It's fascinating to hear more about the business side of independent filmmaking in the '70s, not to mention Schneider's start in the business under the legendary Allen Klein. Schneider also delves into a little more detail about why Get Mean struggled to find distribution, especially after (or, well, because of) making such a splash at the Fox Theater!

    I'm not sure when this eight minute interview with director Ferdinando Baldi was shot, but considering that he passed away nearly a decade ago, it follows that this is the only of these conversations to be presented in standard definition. The emphasis isn't on Get Mean so much as the pair of 3D Westerns that Baldi made with Anthony.
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  • Audio Commentary: Tony Anthony, Lloyd Battista, and Ronald J. Schneider all return for Get Mean's commentary track. Though there's unsurprisingly a fair amount of overlap with their interviews elsewhere on this disc, this commentary still breezes through plenty of uncharted territory: what the motif with the silver orb represents, how the legions of soldiers were a mix of extras and miniatures, squabbling over locations in Almería with eight trillion other productions shooting at the same time, Get Mean toying with both an R and a PG rating at varying times, a Marvel comic that was in the works, and even where The Stranger franchise would've gone from here if this fourth installment had been more of a success.

  • Poster and Still Gallery: Get Mean's image gallery piles on 56 lobby cards, production stills, international poster and video art, rough paste-ups of posters, and even licensing agreements. Wonderfully comprehensive and well worth a look.

  • Promotional Material (9 min.): Rounding out the extras are two trailers -- one in English, the other in French -- and a set of four radio spots.

  • Easter Eggs: I haven't figured out how to access 'em from the menu, but there are files for a Tony Anthony trailer gallery on the disc itself, so maybe some eagle-eyed viewers will spot how to access these Easter eggs without a BD-ROM drive.

Get Mean comes packaged in a Criterion-style transparent case, with a hefty booklet on one side -- with Spaghetti western historian Howard Hughes exploring The Stranger tetralogy in great detail as well as delving into Get Mean's many remarkable locations -- and the Blu-ray disc and DVD on the other. The chapter stops are showcased on the interior of the cover. Get Mean is an all-region release, by the way.

The Final Word
There are remasters, and then there are rescue missions. For all intents and purposes a lost film, the gloriously unhinged Get Mean never found meaningful distribution on these shores for forty years. Getting a movie like this on Blu-ray at all is remarkable enough, but for it to look and sound this terrific, and for it to be bolstered further by several hours of compelling extras...? That's miracle work. It's true that the sticker price for this one is a little higher than average for Blue Underground, but if you have a taste for the adventurous, Get Mean is worth it and then some. Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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