Umberto Lenzi’s Almost Human was his first poliziotteschi working with prolific Italian actor Tomas Milian (this Severin Films boxset collects five of the six collaborations) and he certainly uses the actor to his advantage. Here, the film (also known as The Death Dealers, The Executioner, among others) follows Milian’s character Giulio Sacchi, a criminal with very limited morality who is looking for the biggest score by assembling a team to kidnap a wealthy businessowner’s daughter (Laura Belli).
Interestingly, Lenzi mostly follows his antihero throughout the majority of Almost Human; instead of showing the usual heroics of the detectives tasked with solving the case and foiling the criminals, the movie spends a lot of time documenting the atrocities that Sacchi commits as he sets up his master plot. Almost Human starts with an explosive opening during a robbery, and then it takes some time to set up Sacchi’s character – or, more accurately, his lack of one. At times Ernesto Gastaldi’s screenplay feels like it’s aping A Clockwork Orange, attempting to showcase the actions of a brutal sociopath who clearly has no empathy for those that get in his way; while it’s not nearly as successful, it’s still a visceral experience and at times Almost Human offers a surprisingly bleak poliziotteschi from a different perspective.
Listen to Blood and Black Rum Podcast’s episode on the film.
It still does get detective work in here with Henry Silva playing Grandi, a commissioner who gets embroiled in the series of senseless deaths in Sacchi’s wake and, eventually, takes matters into his own hands in a display of vigilantism that pulls in a few themes from Death Wish as well. Milian and Silva play well together, and the film’s best moments come from the cat-and-mouse game that ensues.
Lenzi’s direction does get a bit bogged down in the middle act, but an incendiary opening and finale buoy Almost Human above more mundane offerings in this sub-genre. Shocking and at times cruel, Almost Human is a real highlight in Lenzi’s directorial career.
Severin Films has released Almost Human in their Violent Streets: The Umberto Lenzi/Tomas Milian Collection with a new scan from the original camera negative. Interestingly, Severin does not offer what type of scan this was unlike some of the other films in the boxset, but whatever the case, the transfer seems to be a step ahead of the other Blu-ray releases that Almost Human has gotten (from Shameless and Filmart in Germany). The film still shows some softness at times, but the medium-bodied film grain is retains its filmic image without suffering from overwhelming clumpiness. Details are noticeably strong at times and the color grading feels a bit more natural here; greens and reds are still extremely vibrant, though. Dark scenes do lose a bit of discernable detail but are otherwise problem-free with no noticeable crush, and I did not notice compression artifacts either. While this movie has already had a few different releases on Blu-ray, in my comparisons this looks the best of the bunch.
Audio is presented with both a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English and Italian soundtrack. While both of the soundtracks can suffer from their dubbing, they also feature strong dialogue and an excellent presentation of Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack, which repeats its motifs multiple times throughout the movie. English subtitles are also included for both the English and Italian tracks (translated from Italian).
Extra features are pretty extensive on this release. First up is a new interview with Umberto Lenzi in which he talks about a lot of the films included in this set, as well as the influence of the three Bs of Italian mafia at the time. An archival interview with Tomas Milian discusses the actor’s role in the film, his methods of getting into this crazy part, and his improvisation. A new interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi discusses his work writing poliziotteschi (he says it was fairly easy to write, harder to film) and how he came to be associated with Lenzi. Finally, there’s also a short new interview with Henry Silva, who documents his work on other poliziotteschi/crime dramas and discusses the audition process for Almost Human.
A previously-released audio commentary with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi accompanies the main feature as well as a detail-packed new commentary with duo Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth, who have been showing up together of late to do these excellent features. Finally, the film’s English export trailer is included on the disc.
The packaging also features a CD soundtrack of Ennio Morricone’s score along with a lobby card track listing featuring the film’s alternate title The Death Dealer.
- NEW Scanned uncut from the original negative
- Audio Commentary With Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
- NEW Audio Commentary With Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson And Troy Howarth, Author Of Make Them Die Slowly: The Kinetic Cinema of Umberto Lenzi
- NEW Violent Milan – Interview With Director Umberto Lenzi (1080p; 29:01)
- Milian Unleashed – Interview With Actor Tomas Milian (1080p; 25:51)
- NEW A History Of Violence – Interview With Ernesto Gastaldi (1080p; 37:44)
- NEW Italian American Gangster – Interview With Actor Henry Silva (1080p; 5:30)
- Trailer (1080p; 3:23)
- NEW CD Soundtrack
Almost Human is a brutal poliziotteschi and Severin Films’ first entry in the Violent Streets collection features a great transfer loaded with extras. While this has gotten Blu-ray releases in the past, I recommend this one for both its visual qualities and special features.