November 16, 2011

Reader's Choice: Almost Human (1974)

Directed by Umberto Lenzi. Starring Tomas Milian ("Giulio Sacchi"), Henry Silva ("Commissario Walter Grandi"), Laura Belli ("Marilu Porrino"), and Gino Santercole ("Vittorio"). Rated R.

Source: Region 0 DVD (NoShame)
Running time: 01:39:16
Country: Italy

Picked by Matt-suzaka

A ruthless small-time criminal named Giulio goes on a killing spree, which attracts the attention of a hard-nosed inspector, played by Henry Silva. Tired of being broke and looking to make some quick cash, without much planning and with the help of his partners (one of whom is played by Ray Lovelock), Giulio eventually kidnaps the 20-something daughter of a local billionaire who Giulio's fuck-buddy (Anita Strindberg) works for as a secretary. ALMOST HUMAN goes back and forth between the police procedural aspect involving Silva's character and the Milan police and the whole kidnapping storyline involving Giulio and his lackeys. At a certain point, there's a brutal home invasion scene in which Giulio and his boys get high on drugs and do some rather creative things to their hostages.

Originally titled Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare (which, according to Babelfish, translates to Milan hates: the police cannot talk nonsense), ALMOST HUMAN is one of the more notorious Eurocrime movies to have come out of Italy, and it's well-known for its over the top performance from Tomas Milian as Giulio, who's one of the more recognizable names and faces of 70's Italian genre cinema.

Prior to finally watching ALMOST HUMAN, it had been on my radar for a while and I'd heard great things about it from sources who are much more familiar with the Eurocrime genre than myself. Not to get ahead of myself, but unfortunately it didn't quite live up to the hype for me. However, one of the things that always stood whenever I'd hear people talk about the film was how crazy Tomas Milian's was, and in that respect it definitely met my expectations. Before I go on, I should probably describe Milian's character in the film. Giulio is loud and obnoxious, but at the same time he's charismatic and very much an alpha male. To me, Giulio comes across as someone who's not all there mentally. I'd go so far as to say that he's mildly retarded, or at the very least suffering from sort of hyperactivity disorder, and this is partly due to Giulio's actions and Milan's scenery-chewing performance.

Admittedly, I found ALMOST HUMAN to be kinda boring. Story-wise it's very by-the-numbers, and it reminded me a lot of BEAST WITH A GUN, and despite not being all that crazy about BEAST, I actually prefer it to this film. While the scenes of violence in the film were impressive, there weren't enough of them to break up the monotony of everything else that was going on, and in general I thought the pacing was pretty bad. Henry Silva is good in the film and provides an interesting contrast to Tomas Milian's character, but the outcome of their "relationship" was pretty disappointing. You'd think that the film would build up to a considerably violent confrontation between the two because of the type of characters they are, but it's not the case. To use a pro-wrestling term, the blow-off was a bit lackluster.

Don't get me wrong, ALMOST HUMAN is good and it's considered to be a favorite of many fans of the genre, but I personally just found it to be disappointing for a number of reasons. It's shot really well and the acting is pretty good all across the board. As a fan of sleaze, the home invasion scene was a nice surprise and easily the highlight of the film for me. Otherwise, it just wasn't what I wanted it to (and hoped it would) be. With a stronger story, ALMOST HUMAN would have left a much better impression on me, but I'd still recommend it to those who are curious.

Score: 6


  1. I thought Almost Human was okay. I think Rome: Armed To The Teeth is the better Lenzi/Merli/Milian film.

  2. Too bad you didn't love this one like I do, Aaron. Though, I feel confident in saying that Almost Human might be held to a higher pedigree due to Milian's insane performance. He's my favorite actor from that grouping of Italian film stars, so I have a soft spot for anything he is in.

    Richard does make a great suggestion with Rome, and I might also suggest giving The Cynic, the Rat & the Fist a whirl. That film is also directed by Lenzi and stars Milian, Merli AND Saxon!

  3. Richard: It's one of the movies I'm planning on getting around to. Not necessarily anytime soon, but one of these days, for sure.

    Matt: See, I'm a Franco Nero guy through and through. Had it him been playing Milian's charater (although I can't picture Nero being that over the top and sleazy), I might have liked this film a lot more. Oh well. I liked it... just didn't live up to my expectations.

  4. I love this one, too. Great film all around. I see it as a character study about a slimy, weasel of a man who gets what he wants and doesn't care who gets killed to attain it. On the NoShame disc, the wealth of extras reveal that Silva was originally to have played Milian's role, but Milian demanded he do it, instead. Sorry you didn't care for this one, Aaron. I find it a quite brilliant film. Most people tend to fall towards the 'Violent Cop' style of Eurocrime as opposed to the political thrillers or mafia movies. This one is one of those stand alone features as it doesn't really fall under any particular category. Shots of the opening car chase were lifted from Martino's VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (1973) by the way.

  5. I dunno... I like Milian, but I'm not crazy about him like a lot of other people are, which is probably why I wasn't as stoked on this movie as I would have hoped. I did go out of my way to buy the NoShame release though, so I'm curious to see how it holds up on a repeat viewing. And you're right about this one falling into its own category. Like I said in the review, it reminded me of BEAST WITH A GUN, which also is a standout of the genre in that it's thematically not in line with a lot of the other more politically-minded movies, or the ones that focus on corruption of some sort.

    Also, I was aware about the car chase, but wasn't sure who ripped off who! I assumed it was Lenzi who lifted the footage from this movie, so thanks for correcting me.

  6. Not sure if Lenzi was responsible or not for suggesting, or lifting the shots. Supposedly it was the "producer", which makes sense. WHat's funny is that when all these special editions of Italian cannibal movies came out, the directors always lay blame for the animal deaths at the hands of the "producers", who allegedly shot the footage themselves, or purchased it from some unknown source, lol.

    I didn't like BEAST WITH A GUN at all. I should probably see it again, but I take it, compared with some of his other movies, that Grieco seriously didn't like women at all, lol. His JULIUS CAESAR AGAINST THE PIRATES (1962) is actually pretty decent...and has some gorgeous women throughout, only they're not being maimed, raped and mutilated!

  7. That would definitely makes sense since both ALMOST HUMAN and VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS had the same producer (Martino, I believe). And don't even get me started on those cannibal DVD extra features where the directors either blame someone else or make excuses for shit that they blatantly shot for exploitation's sake (Sergio Martino I'm looking at you). BEAST WITH A GUN I liked, but was bored with it during spots. It has one of the best Eurocrime scores I've ever heard, and I thought Helmut Berger in that film was a better psycho than Milian in this one.

  8. If you the nasty aura of BEAST WITH A GUN caught your attention, you should seek out Grieco's VIOLENCE FOR KICKS (1975). That one has some of the strongest scenes of misogyny I have ever seen in any movie. That one really made me wonder about the director, lol. People gave Fulci a hard time regarding women, but damn, this guy....:D

  9. I will definitely check that one out! I've heard the title thrown around in various places, but you piqued my interest by claiming that it's very misogynistic. Sounds like a fun time!

  10. It's one of those semi political--social class pictures back when the kids of the rich upper class were rebelling against society by participating in rampant violence. Some of that is happening now over here.

    In Grieco's film, he focuses way too much on the sleaze aspect of it. Nothing wrong with that, just the tone is pretty strong. There's also some Karate(!) from Antonio Sabato, too, as the cop on the case.

    Probably the "classiest" example of this sub style would be Romolo Guerrieri's (I may have spelled his name wrong) YOUNG, VIOLENT, DESPERATE, or YOUNG VIOLENT & DANGEROUS. Tomas Milian is in it, too, but he plays a cop instead of a psycho. He was incredibly popular in Italy back then, as you're probably aware. He did a ton of the Italian crime flicks.

  11. I think the whole rebellion thing was also touched on in STREET LAW, although it dealt with adults rebelling as opposed to the youth. YOUNG, VIOLENT AND DANGEROUS is another title that I've heard mentioned in the past. I'll be sure to add it to my ever-growing list of movies I need to see!