Today’s Webcomic of the day is GRAVEDIGGER, beautifully drawn noir tinged crime webcomic, starring a character that bears more than a passing resemblance to movie heist hardman Lee Marvin.
Well drawn and engagingly written. Check it out here!
Well drawn and engagingly written. Check it out here!
Podcast of the Day: Agony Column interview with Walter Mosley!
A great interview by Rick Kleffel with Walter Mosley in full on brilliant mode discussing his new GIFT OF FIRE omnibus novels. Covers everything from Philip K. Dick to Hegel to Christ to creation myths to Darwinism to Jazz to the American Prison System. Listen to it here and thank me and the Agony Column later!
Subscribe to the Agony Column podcast here.
Proof positive I do this blog to educate myself as much as entertain anyone else, is this post on Hugh Holton.
I knew Hugh Holton was a high ranking, highly decorated Chicago Police Officer.
I knew he was a fantastic writer from owning and reading three of his books.
I knew he had passed in 2001.
I did not know he had as many books, above and beyond the ones I own. Given his responsibilities as one of Chicago’s Top Cops, that he was able to be as prolific (and going by the novels I’ve read, as consistently good) as he was, is quite amazing.
So without further ado, today’s Recommended Writer is HUGH HOLTON:
Police Lieutenant Hugh Holton was a twenty-nine year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He authored several bestselling novels, including, Time of the Assassins, The Left Hand of God, and Violent Crimes. At the time of his death, at the age of only 54, Hugh Holton was the highest ranking active police officer writing novels in America.
1994. Presumed Dead
1995. Windy City
1996. Chicago Blues
1997. Violent Crimes
1998. Red Lightning
1999. Left Hand of God, The
2000. Time of the Assassins
2001. Devils Shadow, The
The following three titles were published posthumously, which is why they came as a surprise to me when researching this post. I’ve heard REVENGE was an early discarded rough draft of his, so it’s not up to Hugh Holton’s high standards. It’s something he would have tweaked/perfected had he known it was being published. So take that into consideration when reading it. It’s basically just an early draft, the publisher decided to put out there, so judge it as such, and not as representative of Hugh Holton’s usual great work.
I was turned onto Hugh Holton’s fantastic Larry Cole mystery series a while ago, and they are pulse-pounding procedurals and thrillers, grounded by the experience of someone who knows intimately the facts behind the fictions… he writes about.. My personal favorite of the three novels I’ve read so far is the juggernaut-like TIME OF THE ASSASSINS. In terms of pacing, and just keeping you racing till the end, it’s the strongest [the others I own are WINDY CITY, and VIOLENT CRIMES].
It was a great starting point for me to the excellent body of work Hugh Holton left us with, but I think I’ll now go back, pick up all the books I’m missing and read them all chronologically.
REVENGE, by all reports should not be considered part of the chronology, it’s something that (again according to reports) was not ready for publication, and was put out as a cash grab by the family and the publisher. It’s a curio, at best, and I would have less problem with it if the family had put their name on the novel(his Daughter I believe signed off on this version), rather than just Hugh Holton’s.
Being a writer, the idea of assigning sole responsibility to me, for something I didn’t have the chance to proof/edit… well that would bug me even in the grave. A writer’s books are his reputation.
And Hugh Holton has a well earned, and well deserved reputation as a great writer. Try the books for yourself at the links below! And tell’em HT sent ya!!!
WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.
Robert S. Duncanson, 19th century Black romantic painter (The Sigma Pi Phi series)
Parks, James Dallas.
ROBERT S. DUNCANSON: 19th Century Black Romantic Painter.
Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, Inc., A Division of the Association For The Study of Afro-American Life and History, Inc., 1980.
x, 60 pp., 25 b&w illus., chronol., catalogue of works. Appendices include letters from Duncanson and note from Mrs. Ruth E. Showes, “A Relative”; letter concerning Duncanson’s illness from his wife Phoebe. 8vo (24 cm.), cloth.
When the Death-Bat Flies: The Detective Stories of Norvell Page- Best known for his Spider pulp stories, scribe Norvell Page was a master mystery writer as well. This 800-page book collects over 30 of Page’s detective stories from the pages of DETECTIVE TALES, THE SPIDER, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY and STRANGE DETECTIVE MYSTERIES, most of which have never been reprinted before. Includes an all-new introduction by Will Murray.
Three short thrillers that offer variations on the theme of the innocent person caught up in murderous events. Dead Dolls Don t Talk (1959) allows a juror to find out what it s like to be on the other side of the law. Hunt the Killer (1951) is the story of a man just out from prison who is newly framed for a killing he didn t commit. And Too Hot to Hold (1959) is a case of mistaken identity that escalates when greed takes the place of common sense.
“Reading Page is like grabbing a live electrical wire. . . . Once you take hold, you can’t let go until the story comes to an end. Page paced his stories at one speed only-runaway locomotive.
“When it comes to writing grab-your-throat and hurtle-you-along at a hundred miles an hour fiction, there’s nobody better.”
—Robert Weinberg, from his introduction
From the author of The Spider, here are seven tales of weird mystery and strange crime. Follow Ken Carter as he unravels seven strange cases.
Bonus: Also included is a 1935 article by Norvell Page explaining his approach to writing.
With an introduction by Robert Weinberg.
Cover art by Walter M. Baumhofer.
City of Corpses
Statues of Horror
The Devil’s Hoof
The Sinister Embrace
“How I Write” by Norvell Page
In steamy Shreveport, Louisiana, two musical legends-in-the-making come together: a whiskey-soaked country singer named Hank Williams and blues artist Muddy Waters. What they’ve got in common over several hectic days of drinking, singing and whoring is an interest in staying alive despite local mobsters, bent cops, and a truckload of Ku Klux Klansmen. Then there’s the bankrobber’s daughter.
The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy [Paperback]
Norvell Page – THEY SAID IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE. THEN THEY SAID ONE MAN COULDN’T STOP IT! Richard Wentworth spent his vigilante career as The Spider always in the shadows. Now evil acted in broad daylight. The Party of Justice swept into office, rewriting the laws of New York state overnight to benefit their criminal backers and make slaves of its people. This American Reichstag gave itself sweeping powers and raised a private army to exert its malevolent will. How could The Spider hope to stop a criminal conspiracy as big as the state itself? This time The Master of Men would go beyond taking the lives of evildoers… by bringing Hope to the tyrannized citizens of the Empire State! The “Black Police Trilogy” is author Norvell Page’s classic pulp fiction Nazi allegory from 1938. Originally published in three consecutive months of The Spider Magazine, the novels “The City That Paid To Die”, “The Spider at Bay”, and “Scourge of the Black Legions” are collected in book form for the first time! The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy
The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!
If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.
And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.
Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!
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You can read it here.
Rather than the differences of these two films what strikes me is the similarities. Both are 1946 films. Both big budget A pictures for the time, with high profile directors (Lewis Milestone while a forgotten director today, for his time helmed many a top-tier film). Both successes, the films share that theme of young people and the great expectations the adults in their lives have for them, and what becomes of these children because of those… great expectations.
In David Lean’s seminal GREAT EXPECTATIONS the story is told from the boy’s perspective, (Pip played by Anthony Wager and John Mills) who meets a girl (Estella played by Jean Simmons and Valerie Hobson)who is also subject to…great expectations. Greater expectations even than his.
[A nice aside about the two young actors who played Pip and Estrella comes from Sean Axmaker of TCM. He writes:
'The most visually evocative scenes in the film, however, take place in Miss Havisham's shadowy mansion. [Pip] Summoned by the mysterious matron to her shuttered manor, he enters a Gothic haunted house that time forgot and finds an eccentric, possibly mad dowager in a rotting wedding dress, holding court in a musty throne room dominated by a decomposing wedding cake, a reminder of the day she was jilted at the altar. Havisham has sent for Pip to become a playmate for her ward Estella (Jean Simmons), an impertinent young beauty with whom Pip immediately falls in love. Apparently, young Anthony Wager [the Actor] also fell in love with [17 year old] Simmons (how could a thirteen-year-old boy with stars in his eyes not?) and even played the hero in real life. According to Simmons, her dress caught on fire from a candle she was carrying through a scene up a flight of dark stairs. “Everybody stood aghast, but Anthony came and tore it off me and put it out. This boy was the one who saved me.”]
In Lewis Milestone’s STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS the story is told from the girl’s perspective, who (as in EXPECTATIONS) is molded by the expectations of a domineering matriarch who shapes her to marry for power and money.
“He wanted to make something of his son, and I was tied to them both from that time on… [He used my guilt to make me marry his son]. Sam you’re not going to go away again! I want you here, Sam! I’ve lived so much inside myself. So choked with wanting something else that lives and breathes, so desperate for air and room to breathe it in! Oh, please, oh please… stay here.”
—Barbara Stanwyck as Martha in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS
And in both films the course of those lives are neither easy nor straight, but undulating tales of loves deferred, and tragedies… born.
And both films were the first appearance of two future stars. GREAT EXPECTATIONS being the first film appearance of Alec Guinness, and STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS being the first film appearance of Kirk Douglas.
[Guinness' performance is little more than a bit part, but Kirk Douglas is revelatory in his first screen role. Imbuing a difficult role, with a suffering that makes him neither hero nor villain... but something more sad, and memorable than both. But everyone gives strong performances in STRANGE LOVE, Heflin an oft dismissed leading man gives, perhaps his best performance here. Barbara Stanwyck adds some rare vulnerability to her tough as nails persona. However, arguably it's Lizabeth Scott's performance as Antonia Marachek, the one caught in the crossfire, that lets everything work in this film. That and the script of Robert Rossen (of ROARING TWENTIES and HUSTLER fame) that has to rank as one of his best.]
And finally the ultimate comparison, both films… come highly recommended. .
You can view THE STRANGE LOVES OF MARTHA IVERS online here.
And when ready to purchase there is a great Criterion DVD for David Lean’s film, loaded with special features. However, the various DVD versions of STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS are, on the whole, bare-bones affairs, sporting no special features. Check the links below.
Hope you enjoyed today’s selections, and come back tomorrow for the much awaited next installment of… WEDNESDAY’S WORDS! Till then… be good.
[Contains minor spoilers for Season 1 of Luther]
The strength and magic of LUTHER is grounded in it not being the standard cop show about the serial killer or the case, those are ancillary to the real story. which is about Luther trying to make all the dysfunctional pieces of his life, particularly the women in his life… work, to be right.
His greatest challenge not surviving the serial killers, but something far more deadly and relate-able, trying to emotionally survive and make happy the women in his life, from his boss, to his wife, to his… arch-enemy/friend. And it’s only when the writer loses that plot, that heart of the story of Luther, that it suffers… badly, and devolves into its sub-par 1st season conclusion.
See my previous review, for my detailed list of problems with season 1, but in brief, a poorly written and cliched final episode (couple of episodes actually) that marred an otherwise tremendous, and amazing series.
Now that said, perhaps I didn’t give enough love to the first 4 (4.5) episodes. Those episodes are really powerhouse television, the quality of which you seldom see.
And a big reason is the quality of the actors. Idris Elba of course is phenomenal, as is Ruth Wilson who plays the red-headed Alice, as well as the rest of the principal cast. But I wanted to give attention to two actresses that I saw in this series first, and have since come on my radar for other work they’ve done.
One is the gorgeous Indira Varma, who plays Luther’s less than faithful wife. She also played the cheating wife in the first season of ROME. She seems to be making a career of playing cheating women as well as playing women who do not end well, with this series, ROME, and MOSES JONES (ugggh— traumatized me. A good series, but one that is too violent for its own good). She’s a convoluted character here in LUTHER, as his estranged wife she is in many ways more damaging to Luther, by far (in her hot/cold nature), than any of the monsters he has to face. She doesn’t set out to be cruel, though there is a bit of that there, but mostly it’s more a half hearted indifference, which is all the more crushing. It’s another strong performance by Indira Varma.
But the 2nd actress I want to give praise to, and the one I really wrote this post to mention, starred in only one episode of Luther, but left an indelible impression. I’m speaking of Nicola Walker, who stars in episode 4′s tale of a purse fetish serial killer. The salacious and slightly silly description of the killer, doesn’t really do justice to the uneasiness of the episode, or the wrenching, and episode making performance of Nicola Walker.
Following seeing her on LUTHER, I caught her earlier work on SPOOKS, and in that she was equally… brilliant. She brings a very unique presence to the screen, something thoughtful, and considered, and deeply heartfelt, she is so… there. In a world where so many people are shutdown, from themselves and others, there is something so rich and full and impassioned and human about her in the noblest most caring definition of that word. She’s not the ravishing beauty of say Indira Varma, but she has something that can only be called… more. Something within, a stillness, a sense of depth, something both furtive and fathomless, fragility married to something slightly frightening, her intensity, kept subdued… just out of sight, something haunting.
To put not too fine a point on it… I adore this actress’s presence, her performances, her ability to channel humanity– definitive, in a world that is anything but… humane.
So yeah that’s the refresher on LUTHER, and a couple actresses who deserved mention. I’ll post on season 2 soon.
Addendum: I just watched season 2 of LUTHER, if you can call 4 episodes a season. It’s utter rubbish!
Well, why don’t I tell you how I really feel?
The main problem with season 2 is it veers sharply to the irrational, and soulless, and more than just a little bit trite and tired.
Trite uninteresting villains, once smart cops inexplicably made moronic, including the lead Luther. And it makes the mistake, that the original series initially didn’t, of concentrating on the villains, and losing all the intriguing personal ties that made LUTHER interesting and captivating television in the first place.
Unlike many shows LUTHER originally understood something seemingly lost on most crime shows, the fact that criminals are a boring lot, and it’s the procedural and the dynamics of Luther’s life and the extended family around him that was the draw.
Season 2 undoes all that originality, and just makes Luther and all the cops incompetent, feckless caricatures rather than fleshed out characters. Add to this the fact that the new cast I just don’t care for, and you have a show working at a significant disadvantage; a show that plays, while you are watching it, as just so tired, and so disappointing and irresponsible, and so worthy of fast-forwarding.
The best way to describe it is that it performs as if writer Neil Cross had 4 episodes worth of story for season 1, and after that completely ran out of ideas and anything close to originality, for the ending of season 1 and the entirety of season 2 (With the exception of the very ending of Season 2, the coda if you will, I thought that was a nice scene to go out on, but everything leading up to that 5 minutes was largely rubbish, from the overlong plot of killer twins, that was nicked from a far better episode of Tom Fontana’s HOMICIDE, to the completely annoying and useless characters from Erin Gray, as the new detective, to the mother, to the killers. It’s just a lot of hackneyed and overwrought, and unforgiveably tedious characters, that just don’t remotely interest).
I have seldom seen such a sharp fall from grace from the same writer in such a short period of time. Bottom line: Season 2 of LUTHER is just plain awful, which is unfortunate for a series which in terms of performances and look and sound is laudable and had such potential.
Final Grade: D-/F.
“The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Oct 1949- You are a detective sergeant You’re assigned to robbery detail. 16 persons have been robbed and beaten senseless. The victims describe the assailant as a tall, beautiful woman. Your job… stop her.”
— from the DRAGNET episode BIG GIRL
Jack Webb is the force behind some of my favorite Old Time radio shows, among them PAT NOVAK and PETE KELLY’S BLUES, but DRAGNET was clearly his most successful show. A favorite of law enforcement officers, and with the full backing of law enforcement agencies throughout the US, it’s easy to see why its no-nonsense format compelled.
Six Decades later and the show still compels. Listen to BIG GIRL for yourself HERE!
It is very unusual for me to review a series and go into specifics, because I avoid such reviews myself. I don’t like spoilers, I like to go into something fresh. All I need to know is if you liked something or not, and general reasons why, I don’t need a play by play.
Unfortunately LUTHER is one of those rare shows that requires more detail, than I typically like to give when reviewing a show. This detail necessary in order to relate accurately my feelings on the show’s 1st season.
I will attempt to be as general as possible, but there are spoilers below. So for those looking to avoid all spoilers and just get the gist of my feel on this show, just jump to the last paragraph.
The first thing that has to be said is, I think with a lesser actor in the lead role the show would have sunk under its weight of…excess. Its extremes pushing it dangerously close toward parody and the farcical. Like one actor states when describing the show, ‘it’s not realism, it’s arched to the point of theatrics’, and needs especially capable actors to ground this.
And they pull that off spectacularly for most of the episodes that make up season 1 of LUTHER.
The high point of course being the lead. Idris Elba is one of the best and most commanding actors of his generation, and none of those gifts are wasted in this series, about a London Inspector Detective, a monster hunter at a cross-roads. He brings a nuanced strength and believability to a role, that as stated pivots wildly between the understated and the monstrous.
The episodes ramping up till # 5 which is the most outrageous episode of the run, an amazing hour of television, packing more delirious ups and downs then in a typical season of most shows, or in most 2 hour movies for that matter.
Part of the jaw dropping nature of it, is the irrational actions of a main character, who to cover up a minor crime, compounds it with a blood bath that makes no sense. So part of the strength of that episode is its nonsensical nature, the audience can’t keep up because it is irrational.
Episode 5 is clearly influenced by the 1st season of 24, so those holding this up as British television’s originality over American television, would be incorrect. But while not original, the twist and turns of LUTHER are unexpected and for the most part well done.
However it doesn’t work quite as well here as in 24, because that betrayal, that Greek tragedy reveal comes out of nowhere here, and is not really supported in anything covered in the brief season of LUTHER. So everything rests on the final episode to give some perspective to the lunacy of episode 5, and that simply does not happen.
The last episode, episode 6, the season conclusion, instead leaves a taste of ashes in my mouth. The show LUTHER perhaps being more appropriately named after a different historical and Literary figure, Job. Since the trials of Job are what they put Idris Elba’s character through.
If anything the season ender is too steeped in such broad melodrama and theatrics, and strains suspension of disbelief too far. I’m willing to meet a show half way, but this episode went off the rails in terms of poor justifications and even poorer character actions/decisions.
This final episode steeped in what can be called, I think accurately, moronic actions from all involved, including Luther, especially the supposed brilliant Luther. As one character states “you’re not acting in a reasonable way’ and that’s the mantra for the last two episodes of LUTHER for all the characters. They are all written as caricatures of people, rather than real 3 dimensional personalities, their actions coming off as inane and contrived, to steamroll viewers to the series protracted and unsatisfying conclusion.
For a show that prides itself on being innovative, the finale is largely a very idiotic and moronic episode,that does not do justice to what has come before. The plotting is unlikely and haphazard at best, and the cliffhanger denouement… lacking.
It is insultingly stupid to be blunt. Here we have a character supposedly one of the best detectives and his female ally, one of the most brilliant sociopaths, and the best plan they could come up with, to trap the end game villain, is arranging a meeting in full view of snipers, and just hoping on absolute luck to escape without being shot or taken into custody by police!?. Really? That’s your master plan? It is moronic.
And the purpose of this suicide mission? To allow a civilian, someone who has no interest in believing the protagonist’s protestations of innocence to help save the day? And the civilian not only buys it but agrees to commit a felony. Agrees to walk into police headquarters, sneak unnoticed into the police locker room, break into a locker and find diamonds (Diamonds that somehow Luther magically guesses the location of. Guessing exactly where the villain is keeping them. Really??? Talk about plot contrivance), and get out without being noticed or stopped.
I do respect Neil Cross for creating this series/character, but I just think he wrote himself into a brick wall, and just couldn’t write himself out of it and ended up with a very, very flawed and contrived final episode.
I mean it is absolute dreck, if you take half a second to consider it. It is an incoherent muddied mess. And this is followed up by the third ludicrousness, plot idiocy/contrivance, of telling the bad guy about the theft before you know it has been pulled off.
Really? Come on!
Thus giving the bad guy time to try and stop the theft. And all these mistakes and suicide by cop ideas avoided, the final purpose is to lure the villain to a location so you can catch him confessing on tape??
That’s your brilliant idea???
A confession that is completely inadmissible, as the very show illustrates in episode 5, how audio recordings can be manipulated, and are worthless in and of themselves.
So the whole endgame is a tissue of faulty logic and questionable dumb luck.
And the culmination of this episode’s stupidity, and what really just annoyed me and soured me above everything else, is Luther has the upper hand on the monster that has done all this damage, and ends up talking himself out of that upper-hand and into receiving a butt whupping, that engenders him needing to be saved… again, by his homicidal female ally.
I think Neil Cross progressively writing not only the series as a whole, but his lead character specifically, less convincingly with each episode.,
And to add to the issues, let’s ignore little common sense things that would have made more… well sense, in proving the protagonist’s innocence and the other person’s guilt; cell phone records, and geo-location of cell phone signals just to name one option.
As the show takes pains to point out, this is a monitored, near Orwellian 21st century Britain, where everything is seen, and everything recorded. These are 21st century detectives. So if they couldn’t pull actual recordings of crucial conversations between Luther and the Killer, at least the who, when , where of these calls is something they can pull. Luther’s cell phone was in use miles away at the time of the death he’s accused of . And a triangulation of other cell records would probably prove where the real criminal was at the time of all three unsolved murders of Episode #5. Thus giving the besieged protagonist reasonable doubt if nothing else, to help at least sway his Chief Detective to his side.
Just simple common sense stuff like that is ignored in favor of hysterical and nonsensical plot contrivances. And obviously this didn’t bother some, as the first season was well received, but as I stated… for me the season finale left the taste of ashes in my mouth.
And obsessing on that ending, (Spoilers)Comeon he should have at least shot the villain in the knees to shut him up if nothing else, rather than ending up punked on the wrong end of a knife. I hate these filmic cliches of turning your back on the villain or letting down your guard etc. I don’t find it gripping or good writing, I find it boring and to be cliched, hack writing.
That kind of writing comes off as an insult to my intelligence, and just ended up unduly sullying a show, that for most of the season I was quite behind.
There’s supposedly a 2nd season now available, and I’m lukewarm on investing the time to see it, but I will. Mostly to see if series creator Neil Cross imbues that with less of the lunacy and idiocy that marred for me the culmination of season 1, and can recapture the strengths of series 1.
So all that said I do recommend Season 1 of LUTHER, unsatisfying end acknowledged, the first 5 episodes of season 1 are worth the price of admission.
And to be fair I’m only this disappointed in the ending, because of how impressed I was with the shows buildup, highlighted by great cinematography, excellent soundtrack, impressive montage sequences (I love the opening credit sequence and the theme song), and of course for the most part… stellar performances and direction. Final Grade: B.
And if you like LUTHER I would direct you to a similar, but I feel superior BBC police procedural, the little seen but riveting 55 DEGREES NORTH.
A show that ran for a brief two seasons, it eschews the brutal and tortured extremes of LUTHER, to instead be a lowkey tale, of a small English countryside police force.
Don Gilet and the striking Dervla Kirwan (that’s a lot of woman! Please excuse that bit of sexism, but easy on the eyes… she is ), headlining a show that is some odd mating of Moonlighting meets Homicide meets Diagnosis Murder, while being quite a unique and original take on a police procedural.
No serial killers here, these are more prosaic crimes, but the show, in an age of grim and gritty, is all the more welcome for that light touch. And the final episode ties everything up with quite an enjoyable ending. 55 DEGRESS NORTH
comes highly recommended. The full show is available on DVD. B+/A-.
Umberto Lenzi’s ALMOST HUMAN- Re-watching this and it is just a scathing film, with Tomas Milian giving one of his finest performances in a lauded career, starring as a venal, cowardly two-bit psychopathic thug, that kills to cover his fears and cowardice, and kills to feel empowered.
As insidious, disgusting and twisted a portrait of a diseased mind as ever put on film and remains a powerful, brilliant film and Lenzi’s finest directorial hour, and one of Ennio Morricone’s most captivating scores.
The Italian dubbed subtitled version is typically lyric (as with all the Italian films of this period it was recorded without sound, so contrary to peoples assumption, the Italian language version is no more accurate or valid than the English language version, and in this case is less so), but the real winner is the English dub which is pretty phenomenally acted, which only makes sense since most of the principles, such as Henry Silva (typically cast as a villain brings a very nice dynamic in his rare role as hero) and Thomas Milian were speaking English, and do their own dubbing. So the English dub is the more accurate, effective soundtrack. Being suitably degenerate and vulgar to coincide with the images burnt into this 70s era bit of celluloid.
That rightness of the English dub, also clearly seen in the title. In Italian the film’s title translate into the inane and wordy “Milan hates: the Police can’t open fire”, whereas the English title perfectly encapsulates everything you need to know about this film… ALMOST HUMAN. A great title for a great film.
The Italian rash of poliziottesco films were a response to the world wide popularity of America’s new wave of brutal crime films, most notably, Don Siegel’s seminal film DIRTY HARRY. And while the Italian poliziottesco wave gave us many enjoyable takes on crime films, such as VIOLENT ROME, Lenzi’s own VIOLENT NAPLES, few transcended mere imitation, to be competently crafted, harrowing powerhouses, with something invariably of its own to say. ALMOST HUMAN is one of those transcendent films, and remains four decades later one of the finest crime films/character portrait ever produced. A+.