Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 5th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, August 8th, 1974
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writer: Ernesto Gastaldi
Cast: Tomas Milian, Laura Belli, Henry Silva, Anita Strindberg, Ray Lovelock
DVD released: July 26th, 2005
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: Giulio Sacchi is a petty thief, who is determined to make it rich at any costs. And things take a turn for the worse for him, when he panics during a bank robbery and kills a police officer. Not deterred by this setback, he comes up with a plan to kidnap Mary Lou Perrino, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. He is also known for his notorious temper and uncontrollable rage, that frequently gets him into trouble.
Inspector Walter Grandi is a tough as nails detective, who has been assigned to the Mary Lou Perrino kidnapping case. He is an equally determined man, who will bend the rules in order to serve justice. Will he be able to lay trap for Giulio and his coconspirators’ or will he put the kidnapped woman’s life in danger?
Almost Human was directed by Umberto Lenzi, who is most remembered for Cannibal Ferox, a notorious film that was banned in thirty-one countries. He was a versatile director, who worked in just about every genre. With the genre that he excelled the most in, being the Italian crime film genre.
With Almost Human, he creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that builds to a fever pitch. And there is an escalation with new act of violence, that culminates in this film’s final confrontation. This moment also serves as a release not only for the characters in the film but the audience as well.
Umberto Lenzi always makes good use of the widescreen frame and Almost Human is filled with interesting compositions and symbolic imagery. One shot in particular, stands out from the rest. It is during a scene where Giulio and his two accomplices have taken the occupants of a home hostage. And in this scene, they hang their hostages from a chandelier, before mowing them down with their machine guns.
The ever so reliable Ennio Morricone supplies, yet another remarkable score, that contains a few notes of what sounds strangely like the main theme from the Sergio Sollima film Revolver.
It is ultimately, this film’s two leads, Tomas Milian (The Big Gundown, Don’t Torture a Duckling) in the role of Giulio Sacchi and Henry Silva (The Manchurian Candidate, Cry of a Prostitute) in the role of Inspector Walter Grandi, that serve as this film’s anchor. The performances do a superb job driving home this film’s nasty tone.
Tomas Milian is one of the most celebrate character actors to ever work in Italy. And he has created some of the most memorable characters who are overflowing with over the top bravado. And it is because of this that he often lifts, average or lesser material and makes it near impossible to take look away. Giulio Sacchi is a character that Tomas Milian was born to play. And when watching his performance in Almost Human, one can see hints of some of his other heavies that he has played through the years.
Henry Silva is cast in a role that is polar opposite, to the killers and other sinister roles that he has become known for. His portrayal of Inspector Walter Grandi is arguably one of his strongest performances. He delivers a pitch perfect portrayal of obsessive cop, who will do just about anything to catch his man. His performance captures just the right amount of intensity, without ever teetering over the edge.
Overall Almost Human is a brutal film, that contains all of the moments of sleaze and visceral violence that has since become synonymous with the Italian crime film genre.
No Shame presents Almost Human in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This high definition transfer has been sourced from the restored original 2p negative and it is available for the first time ever in America on DVD in its original aspect ratio and uncut. The black levels remain strong and constant through out giving the image an exceptional amount of detail. There are no problems with compression or edge enhancement. The colors are nicely saturated and flesh tones look natural. This DVD transfer is interlaced. Overall the print is nearly flawless as there is no noticeable print damage or debris anywhere.
This DVD comes with two audio options, the film’s original Italian language track and an English dubbed track both are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The English language track is the stronger of these two audio mixes. And it should be noted that the Italian language track has few moments where the audio sounds distorted. Dialog is always easy to understand and the music and & effects sound evenly balanced. No Shame’s inclusion of multiple audio options, gives the viewer a chance to decide which one better suits them. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Besides restoring the audio / video for this release No Shame has went to great lengths to make sure that this is the definitive release of Almost Human with the copious amount of extras that they have included for this release. Extras include the films Italian and International trailers as well as a poster gallery that includes music from the film in the background. A collectible booklet has been included that includes bios / filmographies for Umberto Lenzi and Tomas Milian. The booklet also includes a piece that Richard Harland Smith about Almost Human.
Other extras includes a thirty seven documentary Like a Beast…Almost. Which includes interviews with Umberto Lenzi, Ray Lovelock, Gino Santercole and Ernesto Gastaldi. This is a nicely rounded feature that features some interesting recollections. With my favorite being the ever so enjoyable Umberto Lenzi.
Rounding the extras is an interview with Tomas Milian titled Milian Unleashed. Which runs about thirty minutes in length. Tomas Milian is an amazing story teller, who always imparts with the viewer a wealth of knowledge that is always entertaining and insightful. This interview with Tomas Milian is by far and away the best extra on the DVD.
Overall No Shame has put together another solid DVD for Almost Human a down and dirty film, that revels in its excesses which always makes for a great night of entertainment. It is simply one of the best Italian crime films ever made and it should be proudly displayed in every exploitation fans collection.