TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS. Born in 1937, Anthony had made a few independent productions and by 1967, through his producing partner Saul Swimmer, he had fallen in with Abkco Records head Allen Klein, the Rolling Stones manager who would also end up overseeing the Beatles after the death of their manager, Brian Epstein. It could be argued that Anthony's career is a classic case of smart networking, knowing the right people, and plain old dumb luck, as over the next few years, he and Swimmer would become tangential members of the Beatles' inner circle, with Swimmer directing George Harrison's CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH and Anthony working on a couple of projects with Ringo Starr. With Klein's help and a distribution deal with MGM, Anthony starred in three STRANGER films, the first two of which became surprise hits in the US in 1968. There were four STRANGER entries altogether, but MGM only released the first three, and as a result, Warner Archive's just-released STRANGER COLLECTION only includes those initial three, all directed by Luigi Vanzi under the Americanized pseudonym "Vance Lewis." Generally well-regarded by fans in their day, the films have fallen into obscurity over time, with Anthony better known today for his hand in the early '80s 3-D revival, but they're available once again, in decent if not spectacular widescreen transfers. And one of the films in particular, is a cult classic that's waited decades for rediscovery.
A STRANGER IN TOWN
(Italy - 1967; US release 1968)
THE STRANGER RETURNS
(Italy - 1968)
THE SILENT STRANGER
(US - 1975)
RED SUN (1971), which paired outlaw Charles Bronson with samurai Toshiro Mifune, and later, during the post ENTER THE DRAGON craze, when gunslinger Lee Van Cleef teamed up with kung-fu warrior Lo Lieh in Antonio Margheriti's THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER (1976). In addition, samurai and elements of Japanese culture made it into other pre-RED SUN spaghetti westerns like Tonino Cervi's TODAY IT'S ME...TOMORROW YOU! (1968), co-written by Dario Argento, which had Brett Halsey and Bud Spencer assembling a posse to avenge the rape and murder of Halsey's wife by a sadistic Japanese outlaw chillingly played by Akira Kurosawa regular Tatsuya Nakadai, and Don Taylor's THE FIVE MAN ARMY (1970), which counted samurai Tetsuro Tamba among its titular band of heroes.
GET MEAN, which pitted the Stranger against Vikings, barbarians, and the supernatural in what might be a dry run for TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS. After the big Hollywood-backed SILENT STRANGER, GET MEAN was released in the US on the grindhouse circuit in 1976 by the small-time Cee Note Films. Never a prolific actor and not one to take hired gun jobs, Anthony stayed offscreen for five years until he returned with sleeper hit COMIN' AT YA!, and it's the early '80s return of 3-D for which Anthony is best known. But with these STRANGER films returning from obscurity courtesy of Warner Archive, and Blue Underground set to release GET MEAN on Blu-ray later this year, 2015 seems to be the year of the Tony Anthony renaissance, a time to re-examine a genuinely uncompromising and strangely endearing maverick who never seemed very interested in playing Hollywood games. If nothing else, it's time to discover the minor masterpiece that is THE SILENT STRANGER. (PG, 90 mins)