This weeks viewing was........
THE STRANGER RETURNS
(Uomo, un cavallo, una pistola, Un)
Spaghetti Western Database entryhttp://www.spaghetti-western.net/index.php/Uomo%2C_un_cavallo%2C_una_pistola%2C_Un
Tony Anthony returns in his "Stranger" guise, in a film that totally eclipses the qualities of its predecessor, "A Stranger in Town".
To the sound of Cipriani's superb score, the Stranger rides horseback (astride the interestingly named "Pussy") through the desert, protecting himself from the sun's rays with a pink parasol, and greeting a passing traveller. The sound of gunfire alerts him to a nearby ranch, where he finds the traveller lying dead. A great gunfight scene ensues, and three dead bodies later he learns of a bandit gang's gold heist plot.
The gang, led by En Plein (Dan Vadis) are known as the Treasure of the Border, on account of the size of the bounties that rest on their heads (although quite how some of his goofy comrades manage to generate such a vast reward is beyond me). They successfully ambush a stagecoach, which is soon revealed to be made of solid gold. The Stranger tracks down the gang, in an effort to claim the bounty, assisted by a deranged local preacher with a pocketful of fireworks.
The story itself is very simple, but delivered in a great style. Like the other films in the Stranger series (well, those that I have seen), it combines the feel of the Leone films (in its poncho clad protagonist and its morricone-mimic soundtrack) but injects an extra dosage of humour. This humorous side is particularly well crafted (such as the enjoyable scene at the beginning of the movie, when the Stranger is forced at gunpoint to dig a grave both for the dead traveller and himself). "Returns" does not borrow so heavily from the Dollars trilogy as "A Stranger in Town", but still its clear where its influences lie. And why not - it does it very successfully and makes for great viewing.
Anthony is never going to exude the same level of cool as Eastwood's Man With No Name, and therefore deliberately plays the role in a more clumsy comical fashion. But there is still no denying his character's appeal - or his fast-draw and accurate gun-play. The supporting characters also really add to the enjoyment, with Vadis particularly well suited to the role of the merciless gang leader.
Perhaps the highlight of the film though is Cipriani's score which, as mentioned earlier, owes more than a passing nod to Ennio, but aptly captures the mood and feeling as the action unfurls. It's one of those soundtracks that could make even a bad film worth watching.
Anthony's Stranger series eventually collapsed into the medieval farce that is "Get Mean". But this particular episode of the Stranger's adventures is a truly enjoyable and highly watchable western. And one that nearly reaches the highlights of Anthony's finest hour - Blindman. "Returns" is the best of the Stranger films that I have seen, and one that I would definitely recommend.