DVD Review: Umberto Lenzi’s ALMOST HUMAN

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+.

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