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Stranger Returns, The (Western Jack) 
Written by: on May 20th, 2012

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1967
Director: Luigi Vanzi
Writers: Tony Anthony, Bob Enescelle Jr., Giuseppe Mangione
Cast: Tony Anthony, Daniele Vargas, Marco Guglielmi, Jill Banner, Marina Berti, Dan Vadis, Raf Baldassarre, Luciano Catenacci

DVD released: April 12th, 2012
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen & 1.33:1 Full Frame
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono German
Subtitles: German, Italian
DVD Release: Colosseo Film
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (Germany)
Retail Price: 26.99 EUR

Synopsis: Posing as a dead postal inspector, a ‘Stranger’ finds himself in the cross-hairs of some bandits, who are trying to steal $20,000.

The Stranger Returns was directed by Luigi Vanzi, who also directed two other ‘The Stranger’ films starring Tony Anthony,  A Stranger in Town and The Silent Stranger. Key collaborators on The Stranger Returns include cinematographer Marcello Masciocchi (The Sweet Body of Deborah, Tropic of Cancer) and composer Stelvio Cipriani (What Have They Done to your Daughters?, Rabid Dogs). Other titles that The Stranger Returns is also known under include, ‘A Man, a Horse, a Pistol’ and ‘Shoot First, Last Laugh’.

Content Wise, The Stranger Returns retreads ground that by 1967 had been well worn in countless other Spaghetti Westerns. With the film’s most obvious inspiration being Sergio Leone’s ‘The Man With no Name’ trilogy. Unfortunately this is where The Stranger Returns and the aforementioned ‘The Man With no Name’ films ends.

When it comes to style, The Stranger Returns lacks the picturesque visuals that have become synonymous with the film’s of Sergio Leone. With most of the film’s visuals just merely framing the action and not heightening it.

Speaking of action, the film’s action sequences are also not without their own flaws. Sure they are sufficiently violent and hold up well in this regard, when compared to other Spaghetti Westerns from this era. Unfortunately when it comes to the gun play in The Stranger Returns lacks the bravado that sets the most revered films from this genre apart from their contemporaries.

With that being said, there is one area in which this film works really well and at times excels. And that is its use of offbeat. How often to get to watch a western in which the gunslingers horses name is ‘Pussy’. And while the use of humor does make the story at hand all the more easier to digest. There are a a few moments in which its does miss the mark. Most notably a scene where one of the bad guys are looking for ‘The Stranger’ and when their search proves to be unfruitful. They then look at themselves in the mirror. Which ultimately leads to their demise, since ‘The Stranger’ just happens to be lurking behind that very mirror.

Outside of this film’s leading man Tony Anthony. None of the other cast members leave any lasting impressions. And this actually is not that detrimental, since this film is clearly built up around its star and everyone else is merely props to further the story at hand. Also though Tony Anthony gives a engaging enough of a performance. He lacks the charisma that some of his fellow actors from this genre like Clint Eastwood, Franco Nero and Tomas Milian, had in spades.

Overall The Stranger Returns is mildly entertaining Spaghetti Western that hard core fans of the genre will get the most mileage out of, while someone new to the genre should with some of the genre’s more well films like, Django, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West.

The DVD:

This release comes with two versions of the film. On disc one the film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, while the film is presented in a 1.33:1 open matte version on the second disc. Quality wise these two transfers look comparable and from the same source. Colors look nicely saturated, flesh tones look accurate, black and contrast levels look consistently good and details look crisp throughout. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is minimal.

A special note about the two versions included with this release. This film was most definitely framed with the intent of being shown in a widescreen format and though the open matte presentation offers a little more information at the top and bottom of the frame. The widescreen version gives the film a more cinematic feel, while the open matte looks flatter. Obviously there are pros and cons for each version. And thankfully this release covers all the options.

Both version of the film comes with three audio options each, English, Italian and German (all of them in Dolby Digital Mono). All of these audio options are in very good shape. This release comes with two subtitles options, German and Italian.

Extras on disc one include a audio interview with co-screenwriter / actor Tony Anthony (37 minutes 7 seconds – in English with German subtitles). This interview covers the span of his career and also gives a well rounded glimpse into his portrayal of ‘The Stranger’ character.

Extras on disc two include a German trailer for the film (3 minutes 21 seconds – 4:3 full frame), a English language trailer for the film (3 minutes 21 seconds – 4:3 full frame), the U.S. theatrical trailer for the film (2 minutes 17 seconds – 4:3 full frame) and image gallery. Also includes with this release is a reversible English language cover. Overall The Stranger Returns makes its home video debut via a first rate release from Colosseo Film.

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