• Almost Human



    Released by: Code Red Releasing
    Released on: February 2018.
    Director: Umberto Lenzi
    Cast: Tomas Milian, Henry Silva, Anita Strindberg, Laura Belli, Ray Lovelock
    Year: 1974

    The Movie:

    Umberto Lenzi's 1974 police thriller begins with a bank robbery. The bandits get out of the car, masked, and enter the bank while the getaway car driver, mask-less, gets harassed by a cop for parking in a no parking zone. When the cop asks to see his licenses, the getaway car driver shoots the cop in cold blood forcing the thieves to have to high tail it out of there pronto before the heat really comes down on them. This is our introduction to Giulio Sacchi (Tomas Milian of A Cop In Blue Jeans and The Big Gundown), the getaway car driver and an all-around low life thug with no regard for human life at all, save for his own.

    The bank robbers don't want Giulio in their midst anymore so, unwillingly, he goes back to live off of his girlfriend, Iona (pretty blonde Anita Strindberg of Who Saw Her Die? and Lizard In A Woman's Skin). When Giulio accosts Iona the next day at work, he spies a pretty girl playing tennis. Giulio asks Iona about her and finds that her name is Mary Lou (the lovely Laura Belli of Execution Squad), a girl who comes from a very rich family. Sacchi and his two cronies come up with a plan to kidnap Mary Lou seeing as her father is the local wealthy businessman (who just so happens to run the company with which Iona is employed), and hold her hostage for the massive ransom of half a billion lira. If the rich man doesn't pay up, his daughter gets it and the gang goes into hiding.

    Giulio and his two companions figure their plan is pretty much a surefire winner but what they don't gamble on is the interference of a tough cop by the name of Inspector Walter Grandi (Henry Silva - a god among men!). Grandi is hot on their tale and is a smart cop, smart enough to know what they're up to and smart enough to be able to do something about it. When the three hoods start killing people along the way to their hideout (in one grisly scene Giulio forces a man to fellate him at gun point while the two women he's with are tied up and forced to watch) the cops put on the pressure and Grandi starts to take a more personal interest in capturing Sacchi and his crew.

    Almost Human is one of those definitive Eurocrime films that embodies what the genre is all about. Milian is perfect in the role of the sleaze ball crook who will stop at nothing to get rich quick even if means killing a child in cold blood or sending his own girlfriend to her watery grave. His two cohorts (one of whom is played by Ray Lovelock of Squadra Volante and Last House On The Beach and the other by Gino Santercole) are almost as bad and function as enablers for Sacchi's dysfunction. Silva, in a rather restrained performance (at least until the final reel), nails the part of the cop who is hot on the trail of these thugs and his chiseled mug lends the part an almost inhuman look that works well in the context of the film.

    The film also has one of Ennio Morricone's most recognizable
    poliziotteschi scores and outside of his western pieces, one of the best scores he's ever composed. Collaborations with Leone aside, Almost Human stands out as one of his best (alongside Revolver from which this score borrows quite liberally) and its evocative notes heighten the tension and suite the film perfectly. If you're not careful you're apt to wind up with opening number stuck in your head long after the film has ended.

    So if you like your police action films with loads of sleaze, smart-ass crooks, slick cops, and no shortage of violent action (realism be damned!) then Almost Human should be right up your alley. Lenzi's direction is tight and slick and demonstrative of what a great eye for detail he used to have when he was at the top of his game. He makes the sets and the action larger than life and keeps the film moving at a solid pace from start to finish.

    The feature presentation is the uncut Italian version (that uses The Executioner title card) but the disc also gives us the option to watch the ninety-two minute U.S. theatrical cut in high definition. It’s unrestored but presented in 1080p with 14GBs of space on the disc dedicated to it. It isn’t as good a movie as the uncut ninety-nine minute Italian version of the film but it’s great to have it included here as an extra.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Almost Human arrives on Blu-ray from Code Red on a 50GB disc with the feature holding up just under 27GBs of real estate. Overall, this is a really nice transfer. Colors look good and we get solid black levels too. Detail rises above the old No Shame DVD release by some impressive margins, particularly in close up shots, and there’s strong depth and texture to the picture. The image is also really clean, showing very little print damage, while retaining a nice, organic, natural looking amount of film grain. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts nor are there any problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement – all in all, a very nice effort from Code Red.

    English and Italian language tracks are provided in DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles available for each track – no dubtitles here, thankfully. Audio quality is fine save for a few minutes on the Italian track where things sound a bit off. The levels are properly balanced and there aren’t really any problems with hiss or distortion to note.

    Extras start out with a new interview with the late Umberto Lenzi entitled The Outlaw that runs twenty-nine-minutes in length. Here he speaks about the events that inspired the film and Italy’s problems with gangs during this era, how he came to make a run of poliziotteschis, details of some of the characters in Almost Human, his thoughts on the different actors that he worked with, Milian’s substance abuse issues, working with Lovelock and Silva, staging the stunts and action set pieces in the film, his thoughts on Laura Belli and Anita Strindberg, the film’s score and lots more. Lenzi doesn’t hold back here, he’s pretty blunt about all of this and it makes for a pretty interesting interview!

    Carried over from the old No Shame DVD release is the excellent thirty-seven-minute documentary entitled Like A Beast… Almost which features interviews with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, director Umberto Lenzi and supporting actor Ray Lovelock. All three have got their own take on the film and their experiences on set. Lenzi gets quite a bit of screen time and the documentary presents some relevant film clips to add to the visuals. As it was with the extra features that No Shame supplied on their Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh and Case Of The Scorpion's Tail DVDs, this is an interesting piece that fits in very nicely with the feature (just make sure you watch the actual movie before watching the extras as they do contain spoilers).

    Also carried over is Milian Unleashed!, a great half hour interview/documentary with Giulio Sacchi in which Milian discusses his life and times within the Italian exploitation boom of the seventies and eighties and how he came to take roles such as this, how he enjoyed working with Umberto Lenzi, and what he thinks about his career looking back on some of the projects he was involved with thirty years ago. Clad in a funky bohemian beanie and sporting a white beard, Milian still looks like Milian and it's a blast tripping down memory lane with him through this segment – when this was shot he still had plenty of attitude and that Milian charm.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the Italian theatrical trailer, the U.S. trailer under the alternate The Death Dealer title, a few bonus trailers (The Violent Professionals, The Last Hunter, Ironmaster and Seven Blood-Stained Orchids) menus and chapter selection. This release also comes with some reversible sleeve art featuring the U.S. Almost Human poster art on one side and the alternate The Death Dealer poster art on the reverse.

    The Final Word:

    Almost Human is a sleazy, sleazy winner. If you're at all into seventies cop thrillers or European exploitation movies check this one out. It's one of Umberto Lenzi's finest moments and it moves at a lightning fast pace. Not for the faint of heart or those upset by political incorrectness, this one still comes highly recommended. Code Red’s disc looks and sounds great and have some pretty impressive extras as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!








































    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I need this.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Never caught up with this one, does the 92 min version feature all of the exploitation elements? Or was some trimmed out for the R version?
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bernhard View Post
      Never caught up with this one, does the 92 min version feature all of the exploitation elements? Or was some trimmed out for the R version?
      Don't know anything about the US version, John, but the film's excellent - one of the best poliziesco all'italiana pictures, imo.
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      I don’t remember any of the gritty stuff missing from the U.S. version (though I haven’t compared directly), but what it does have is a wrap-up featuring a wild optical f/x enhancement that will remind you of the climax of PSYCHO FROM TEXAS, amazingly! A major selling point for me.
    1. Bruce Holecheck's Avatar
      Bruce Holecheck -
      Wrote this up on another board -- spoilers, obviously.

      MILANO ODIA was extensively reworked by Joseph Brenner Associates for its U.S. release. Thankfully this variant is now preserved on Code Red's Blu-Ray, scanned from a 35mm release print and presented in full scope for the first time on home video. To me, its inclusion is important to the history of the film.

      Brenner’s re-edit had quite a bit of footage deleted from various spots throughout; I guess things weren’t moving quickly enough for ol’ Joe. The entire opening sequence is gone, replaced by generic white on black text with a “creepy” minimalist music cue. Likewise, the end credits have been lopped off.

      The Italian text that occasionally fills the screen (newspaper headlines, the ransom instructions) has all been replaced with English-language inserts.

      Apparently, the ending needed more of a punch, too, so the U.S. prints add a lengthy, slow-motion montage of the film’s most violent highlights when Henry Silva corners Tomas Milian at the café. It’s surprisingly pretty effective. Milian’s death becomes a festival of optical effects; the whole thing goes from slow-motion to freeze-frames every time he’s shot, accompanied by a rousing music track. Not wanting to condone vigilantism, a text coda has been added stating Silva’s character is spending twenty-to-life behind bars for his acts!

      Otherwise, the violence generally plays out the same -- the traffic cop shooting is identical; ditto for the car chase and the forced fellatio bit. However, Anita Strindberg's "love" sequence plays out slightly differently, deleting some of the original footage and replacing it with a brief nude shot previously only found in the international trailer. The sound doesn’t quite sync up and the whole bit is awkwardly edited (continuity doesn’t hold), leading me to believe Brenner took the outtake footage from the preview and clumsily spliced it into the film itself to spice things up a little. Every little bit counts, right?

      It's worth noting that I originally did this comparison almost 13 years ago with the NoShame DVD (International version) and the U.S. Prism VHS (JBA re-edit). I haven't gone through the Code Red Blu with a fine-tooth comb, but I assume its contents are the same. Giving the disc a cursory glance, it's very nice, containing both the English dub and Italian audio tracks, with two separate sets of subtitles -- one an SDH track, and the other an actual translation of the Italian dialogue. The remastered international version looks very good, and the U.S. version is a fresh HD scan of a 35mm release print, as previously mentioned. Supplements include a new interview with Lenzi, and the older featurettes from the NoShame release. Definitely worth grabbing if you're an Italian crime fan.
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      Just got done watching this disc, great release!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Anyone tell me the cheapest place to grab this from?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Code Red won't ship direct to Canada.

      If Roninflix will (and I'm not sure if they will or not) you can get it here:

      https://roninflix.com/collections/br...e-death-dealer

      Otherwise, Diabolik.

      http://www.diabolikdvd.com/product/a...ay-all-region/

      Lemme know if you wanna ship to my place and I'll throw it in your next box of review discs to save you a few bucks on shipping.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      That might be the option that I take, and thanks for making it available, man.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      UNITY.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Hahahahahaha
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      Thanks to a re-watch of the old No Shame-sourced extras on this (and some helpful voice actor listings on IMDB) I now know that Milian’s English dubber also did Giovanni Lombardo Radice’s voice in both HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK and CANNIBAL FEROX!
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