GET MEAN. Italian-American, 1975. Tony Anthony (also wrote the story and produced), Lloyd Battista. Directed by Ferdinando Baldi. (Pther names of those involved are withheld to protect the innocent who were only collecting a paycheck and are otherwise blameless)

   Bad is, of course relative (like your brother-in-law), but when it comes to movies there are different levels of true cinematic incompetence.

   There is the most obvious kind of bad film, the low budget badly made and poorly acted film. Among the most famous of that breed are Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, Robot Monster, and the hands down winner Manos: Hands of Fate. They wear their badness as a sort of badge of honor. We made a bad film, yes, but we would have made a better one if we had talent.

   Then there is the “what went wrong” category, when big stars, directors, writers, and even bestselling books somehow get to the screen in a form audiences simply cannot believe turn out so bad. Otto Preminger late in his career seemed to specialize in these with Hurry Sundown and Rosebud, Michael Cimmino made cinematic bad movie history with Heaven’s Gate, millions of dollars and Laurence Olivier couldn’t save Inchon. A book by Alistair MacLean and a cast that included Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, and Franco Nero could not save Force 10 From Navarone. The less said about adaptations of Harold Robbins’ The Adventurers and The Betsy the better, but even they couldn’t come close to the one with Pia Zadora. (I won’t even write the name, there may be curses involved and malign spirits, besides Ms Zadora’s acting).

   But there is another kind of bad film, one so bad, so gonzo stupid and inept that it plays as if you were smoking something funny even when you see it cold sober. Get Mean is that kind of film.

   We begin as a typical Spaghetti Western. Tony Anthony, our hero, is being dragged through the dirt by a galloping horse through some unnamed Southwestern canyon, and to add to the mystery he is being observed by a crystal ball sitting out in the middle of nowhere.

   Let me be clear, Anthony, who starred in a number of Spaghetti Westerns, is largely to blame for this film. He not only stars, but he wrote the original story and produced the film. If there is anyone to blame it is him.

   It’s only a shame the audience and not him who suffers the most from this fact.

   Soon his exhausted horse wanders into a ghost town and promptly drops dead (and never have I seen a hammier performance by a horse). Anthony frees himself, and sees smoke rising in an abandoned building. He follows his nose and inside finds a group of Romany and an old seeress with the crystal ball we saw earlier. They offer him wine and food, and proceed to explain that he is expected.

   They dump ten thousand in gold in front of him and produce the Princess Maria, who he is told he must escort to Spain where she can free her people from the barbarians.

   Our Tony, however, has already been established as an untrustworthy mercenary type and bargains his fee up to $50,000 in gold, which they quickly agree to, when a Viking replete with furs, blonde beard, and horned helmet bursts in with three sailors dressed like escapees from Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore.

   Having dispatched them we are shown a map as Tony and the Princess cross the United States and the Atlantic to Spain. We learn from the map also that there seems to be desert canyons in Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior, because that’s where the animated map starts our journey.

   So after a brief sojourn on the shore after they land in Spain we are in the Spanish desert (at least they actually have them there) resting and arguing because Tony is so rude to royalty and thinks she is full of hot air, when we hear many men and horses approaching.

   A great battle is about to be fought between the evil Barbarians (still Vikings, but looking more like Attila’s huns) and the Princess’s allies — the Moorish army — which were driven out of Spain by El Cid around the eighth century, save for some incursions in the South and nice architectural touches.

   The good Moors are soon wiped out thanks to the Barbarians secret weapon, Leonardo’s turret, with multiple cannons that can be rapidly fired, and Tony and the haughty princess are captured by the Barbarian chief, his Valkyrie bodyguard, and his two allies; a rather gay Prince dressed like Hamlet, and the hunchback Richard II. Yup folks, that Richard II, War of the Roses, nephews murdered in their cell, old twisted back himself.

   My kingdom for a … but I’m getting ahead of the plot. That comes later.

   For no real reason the Valkyries tie Tony up and hang him upside down from a pole. then they all ride off happily with the Princess to their castle. Sadly Tony Curtis in not present to say ”Yonda lies the castle of my fadda.” Come to think of it that was a much better film even with Tony’s accent.

   Eventually more Romany types show up and rescue Tony and the wounded leader of the Moorish army. It seems as if it is up to Tony now to rescue the Princess and collect his money, so Tony, after a brief recovery, goes and gets himself captured by the Barbarians by offering his services.

   The Chief and the Prince aren’t to sure of this, but Richard II never saw an ally he couldn’t betray and persuades them that Tony could be useful. After all, the Barbarians aren’t too smart and worship a live horse in gold plated armor known as the Stallion of Rodrigo since they live in El Cid’s castle, and it turns out are desperate to find the treasure of Rodrigo.

   Tony proves to come in handy here and is sent on a mystical quest for the treasure, which involves a strange ceremony in what appears to be a Russian Orthodox church and a semi-mystical quest which ends with him being turned black (“Everywhere,” he assures us after checking his pants), and returning with no treasure but the Scorpion Necklace which curses the bearer to die.

   At this point the Barbarian chief is tired of messing with him and has him trussed up like a pig and put on a spit over a slow fire. At least he’s white again. The Princess, seeing this, grabs a sword, duels Richard II, and is promptly killed when he throws a sword between her shoulder blades.

   Well, that plot point wasn’t going anywhere fast, and now there is a treasure worth more than the reward for delivering the Princess to interest Tony — if he doesn’t cook too soon.

   But the treacherous Prince has other things in mind and frees Tony, who turns the table on him and forces the Prince to swallow the Scorpion Necklace, which the Chief and Richard II have since learned is key to Rodrigo’s treasure.

   Still hanging in there? If not I can hardly blame you.

   The Prince is returned to the castle and force-fed until he returns the missing necklace while Tony invents some sort of four barreled hand held cannon and prepares to challenge the Barbarian horde, but before he can, the Valkyries confront him, and after briefly considering cutting off some important parts of his anatomy, instead decide to make use of them in a gang assault that Tony manages to elude and instead throw the Prince in as a very reluctant substitute.

   There are by now so many things about this film to be offended by, it is hard to focus on just its use of stereotypes and casual prejudice.

   The Prince survives without changing sides, and as Tony assaults the castle, is killed. Tony then puts scorpions down the Chief’s armor and has a chuckle or two as the Viking leader spends more time dying than the ham horse earlier in the film, but just about as boring.

   Now only Richard II and Tony are left to face each other down in a gun fight. Tony’s Colt against Richard’s six barreled revolving cannon all as Richard recites the “My kingdom for a horse” speech from Shakespeare. This film is not kosher; ham is on the menu.

   Unluckily for the viewer Tony wins that one and even finds Rodrigo’s treasure, then we are shown in animation him sailing back to America and riding into the screen, past another mysteriously placed crystal ball …

   I’m am happy to say, though, that this one does not prove accurate in its predictions, and we never have to see Tony or this movie, or anything half as stupid again unless we smoke or ingest something we shouldn’t.

   As bad films go, it is hard to rate this. Ken Russell would have thrown up his hands in despair. Ed Wood would have cried himself to sleep, the movie even has bisexual cross-dressing Valkyries. Andy Warhol would have shredded his soup cans.

   Get Mean is not the worst movie ever made, but it bows to none as the stupidest most gonzo Western in history, and I include Terror in a Tiny Town in that mix.

   If Tony Anthony gets dragged into your town behind my horse, my advice is to aim low and shoot first.