Almost Human (Umberto Lenzi, 1974)
aka Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare
Cinema trends in early 70s Italy saw to it that director Umberto Lenzi moved into the ‘Euro Crime’ or ‘Poliziotteschi’ genre and away from the once highly successful ‘giallo’ features. With 1973s GANG WAR IN MILAN (Milano rovente) considered a flawed but adequate first foray into the genre Lenzi sought out writer for hire extraordinaire Ernesto Gastadli who put together a simple but highly effective story for the director’s second ‘Euro Crime’ outing. A simple tale of a small time crook who has delusions of grandeur and a kidnap plot involving a wealthy heiress. One slight problem is that he’s a pill popping loon with a manic personality disorder and a chronic facial tick.
Embracing the role of the nasty sociopath Giulio Sacchi is method actor Tomas Milian whose staple roles in many a spaghetti western had dried up at the start of the 70s, possibly one of the reasons he took on a role that many other leading men would probably pass by for fear of tarnishing their reputation. Imploring to his director that he needed to add realism to the role of Sacchi, Milian would stay true to his method training and get drunk on set where he saw it appropriate, in one of the films standout scenes he even went so far as to ply his fellow actor, and long time real life friend, Ray Lovelock, with copious amounts of whisky – (First time viewers: See if you can guess which scene that might be…)
Highly regarded as Lenzi’s finest venture in the genre, ALMOST HUMAN certainly lives up to its reputation with pretty much something for everyone, high speed car chases, violent machine gun shoot outs, naked ladies and some seriously fucked up moments – A male hostage forced at gun point to suck Sacchi’s dick anyone? The potent mix of Lenzi and a berserk Tomas Milian creates a true ‘Poliziotteschi’ classic; it really couldn’t have been done without either person’s input. Milian’s method acting sensibilities matched with Lenzi’s penchant for in your face, no nonsense, violence created a true classic that also makes a great starting point for anyone just discovering these films. Shameless made a wise decision testing the UK market out with this one.
Shameless has put together a great package that will suit established genre fans and newcomers alike. The transfer is solid with an anamorphically enhanced transfer in the original aspect ratio that’s sharp, detailed and full of colour, with barely any damage at all. In the audio department we get optional English or Italian audio tracks with English subtitles provided for the Italian option. There’s an excellent half hour interview with Tomas Milian who’s more than happy to talk about his ‘70s output and his films with Lenzi. Although the interview is ported over from the previous NoShame DVD release it makes a welcome return on this Shameless release because of the former release now being OOP and difficult to obtain for those without deep pockets. Also on board is a feature long ‘fact track’ by some fly by night character who provides a well researched set of subtitled factoids that appear along the bottom of the screen as the film plays. This track is perfect for the newcomers to this particular genre and comes highly recommended as it points out many films for the uninitiated to track down and should certainly see a lot of people coming away with a nice list of films that they will be itching to watch next. I have to stress though that the fact track shouldn’t be attempted on first viewing as you’ll miss key action scenes and plot points as you read the subtitles. Rounding the whole package off are two trailers, the original theatrical one plus the US ‘Grindhouse’ version, the usual Shameless trailer reel and ‘coming soon’ clips. Last but not least a PDF essay by the ‘Fact Track’ guy introducing the ‘Poliziotteschi’ genre (to be accessed via PC DVD drives). The usual yellow Amary case with double sided cover art is housed in an extremely novel lenticular ‘insert’ cover featuring some imagery I’d never dreamed of seeing on the shelves of HMV! DVD collectors do be aware that this special lenticular sleeved version is strictly limited to 1,000 units, so pick this one up fast before they go.
For what must be the first legitimate ‘Poliziotteschi’ DVD here in the UK Shameless has put together a great little package that is hopefully the first of many. With such a wealth of back catalogue titles in this genre to go at there’s certainly no shortage of films to choose from, it will certainly be very interesting to see where we go from here… (Jonny Redman)