Quarantine Film Diary – Day 1 – THE STRANGER RETURNS (Luigi Vanzi, 1967)

Stuck in the Czech Republic as a result of a travel ban announced after the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, I watch one random film a day until the travel band is lifted to keep some of my sanity.

The huge success of Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy birthed many copycat movies. Of these, the most blatantly similar, at least in concept, are the Stranger films starring Tony Anthony as a Man With No Name type of nomadic westerner, complete with a poncho, though with far clearer and prettier hair. The comedic vibes of the second film of the series, The Stranger Returns, prompts more comparisons with the Terence Hill-starring Trinity movies, which could come a few years later.

The Stranger is introduced riding a black horse and holding a pink umbrella in what seems to set the tone for a psychedelic movie. After this inspired intro, the film settles into the same old plot structure with limited psychology about a nameless stranger riding into town and going after some baddies who terrify a town while looking for some gold, with an odd preacher joining him as an unlikely sidekick.

While this is the first of the Stranger movies I have seen, from what I have read about it, the first film was not only more serious in tone but also quite unrewarding. The fact that any sequel was made for it at all is a great testimony to the popularity of the Spaghetti Western genre around this time. The Stranger Returns has limited psychology but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

While lacking a little bit in ambition, there is some fun to be had from the two dimensional characters moving around like puppets and from the little time that is wasted on any semblance of narrative depth. Interesting to note that Anthony came up with the original concept for the story of The Stranger Returns, and the Stranger remains his most famous cinematic role.

The Stranger Returns (Un uomo, un cavallo, una pistola) | Director: Luigi Vanzi | Writer: Tony Anthony, Roberto Infascelli, Giuseppe Mangione | Starring: Tony Anthony | Italy, West Germany, USA | 1967

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