Color, 1974, 99 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Starring Tomas Milian, Laura Belli, Henry Silva, Gino Santercole, Anita Strindberg, Ray Lovelock
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Shameless Screen Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 HD/PAL), NoShame (US R1 NTSC), Alan Young (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)


Almost HumanAfter Almost Humana botched bank robbery, unhinged thief and getaway driver Giulio Sacchi (Milian) is beaten up and kicked out by his gang, finding solace only in the arms of his girlfriend, Iona (Strindberg). One afternoon he devises a ransom plan to earn some quick cash when he spots Mary Lou (Belli), a millionaire's daughter, and enlists the aid of two criminals (Santercole and Lovelock) to help pull off the abduction. However, persistent Inspector Grandi (Silva) catches Giulio's trail and, stymied by the bureaucratic roadblocks of the Milanese police force, must resort to brutal vigilante tactics to bring this mad dog psychotic down.

Director Umberto Lenzi's second foray into Italian crime cinema following the solid Gang War in Milan is arguably his best, offering plenty of action and sleazy thrills as Milian and Silva compete to see who can show down the largest amount of scenery. Like Lenzi's later Milian collaboration Rome: Armed to the Teeth, any chance for this entertaining and degenerate treat to find its audience was stymied in the US by short-sighted distributor Joseph Brenner who cut it to ribbons and, several years after the fact, tried to pass off the product as a horror film under its current title and others like The Death Dealer and The Kidnap of Mary Lou.

Luckily the subsequent Eurocult revival has helped its reputation considerably, with fans able to appreciate it on its own terms and savor its incidental pleasures like the funky Ennio Morricone score (with the incomparable Bruno Nicolai along for the ride). In a fearless performance, the late Milian steals most of the film (sort of like a macho version of The Candy Snatchers) but everyone turns in good work, with the reliable Lovelock and Strindberg so interesting they deserve a bit more screen time.Almost Human

Almost Human (or as it's known by a more verbose title in Italy, Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare) first appeared on DVD in Italy from Alan Young (as a double feature with The Violent Professionals) containing the English and Italian audio tracks without subtitle options. The NoShame version from 2005 represents a substantial upgrade in every Almost Humanrespect, adding English subtitles to both audio options and sporting a visibly slicker transfer as well. Extras exclusive to the US release include the Italian and international trailers, a poster and photo gallery, excellent liner notes by Richard Harland Smith detailing the political circumstances which bred the film, a lively interview with Milian (28m36s) called "Milian Unleashed," and heftiest of all, "Like a Beast... Almost" (35m40s), with Lenzi, Lovelock, screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, and (off screen via telephone) Milian talking about the making of the film including the friendships that formed among them, the original casting of Milian as the cop, the unexpected death that threw a wrench in the production, and the impact of the film's then-shocking levels of violence.

In 2017, UK label Shameless Entertainment (the opposite of NoShame?) took a stab at this film with separate Blu-ray and DVD editions, plus a site-only lenticular cover option that’s very, very NSFW. The transfer looks quite healthy with throughout with that vibrant,peculiar color scheme unique to '70s Italian films fully intact (bright reds, weird overcast dreary skies, etc.).Fans should be more than pleased; apart from some rough second-unit footage during the opening car chase, the transfer also looks very clean. The English and Italian tracks are included in LPCM mono with optional yellow English subtitles (as with the NoShame, directly translated from the Italian, not dubtitles). Both featurettes from the NoShame disc are included (with an amusing new text intro for the Milian one), and Lenzi goes solo with the new, exclusive "Meet the Maker" (19m39s) discussing his cycle of crime films (including ones with Maurizio Merli) and how they reflected the turbulent real-life crime wave and politicAlmost Humanal unrest in Italy at the time. Also included are bonus (newly created) trailers for All the Colors of the Dark, The Sect, and The Church.

Less than a year later in early 2018, Code Red brought the film to Blu-ray (sporting the ridiculously misleading U.S. poster art on the cover), sold domestically via Ronin Flix and internationally (for its first month of release) by Diabolik. This release contains a different HD scan of the film featuring the title The Executioner at the beginning, with mono DTS-HD MA options for the English and Italian tracks with either English SDH subtitles or translated English subtitles for the Italian version-- a nice choice to have. The image features some variations compared to the prior Blu-ray; some of the twilight or night scenes are darker and have a grittier feel (more similar in tone to something like Dirty Harry), while daylight scenes feature slightly more vibrant colors. A bit more image info is also visible in the frame; in short, fans should be more than satisfied. Both of the NoShame featurettes are ported over again along with the Italian and U.S. trailers (the latter as The Death Dealer), plus Almost Humanbonus ones for The Violent Professionals, The Last Hunter, Ironmaster, and Seven Blood-stained Orchids. A different and particularly juicy new interview with Lenzi is added here, "The Outlaw" (29ms1), which spends more time than usual on the criminal gang aspects of the period while cruising through the beats involving Gastaldi, the potential casting of John Saxon, and Milian's vodka and cocaine-enhanced improvisation. However, the big new extra here is the American release prepared by Joseph Brenner, which runs 92m4s and differs radically at times, such as some major music changes and rampant editorial tweaks including a totally reworked ending with a more overt moralistic text card at the end. This one's transferred from a somewhat worn 35mm print (quite a bit of water damage on the right edge) and doesn't look as fresh, but its inclusion here is a really nice touch.

 

Code Red (US Blu-ray)

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Shameless (UK Blu-ray)

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Updated review on March 10, 2018.