Sunday, November 7, 2010

In short: The Stranger Returns (1967)

aka A Man, A Horse, A Gun

Original title: Un uomo, un cavallo, una pistola

The Stranger (Tony Anthony) rides into another spot of bother. This time around, he's trying to steal a coach full of gold that a group of bandits captained by a sadist known as En Plein (Dan Vadis) has set their own eyes on.

As always, the Stranger has a plan to steal the stolen gold that might look good in his mind but quickly collapses under the stress of reality, leading to his capture and torture. Of course, our dubious hero escapes and the usual hither and yon around the gold ensues; until it all ends in a grand finale in which the Stranger picks off his enemies one by one but loses his ultimate prize.

Unlike the first Stranger movie I talked about yesterday, this second adventure of Tony Anthony's weird-faced wearer of blankets is already half on the way to the bizarre comedy stylings of the later entries in the series. Some of the film's humour is even funny.

Unfortunately, the silly parts collide with the usual Spaghetti Western scenes of sadism that are part of the film to prove the bad guys are even worse than the anti-hero in rather unpleasant ways, leaving behind an aftertaste of unnecessary and ill-considered mean-spiritedness. That this mean-spiritedness is especially directed at women might be par for the course for the Spaghetti Western genre, but shoe-horning scenes of female suffering between comedic scenes really pushes the film towards outright misogyny.

As it is, The Stranger Returns is not light-hearted enough to exclude the nasty parts, and not interested enough in the unpleasant depths of humanity to make effective use of its lighter moments as a good contrast. It just hangs somewhere in the middle.

Luigi Vanzi's direction is less interesting than his work on the first film. It's all very routine, watchable Spaghetti Western by numbers, without even a single scene as tense or spirited as the nearly dialogue-less middle part of the first film.

The Stranger Returns certainly is an alright Spaghetti Western (aka "I've seen worse"), but its transitional position just before the Stranger series becomes really silly and imaginative makes it a less successful film than I'd hoped for.


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