ALMOST HUMAN **** Italy 1974 Dir: Umberto Lenzi 99 mins
Arguably Lenzi’s best movie, this hard-edged policier boasts an appropriately edgy, diverse Ennio Morricone score, and sets its tone with a highly charged post-FRENCH CONNECTION opening sequence of vehicular carnage. During a bank robbery, the hot-headed getaway driver (Tomas Milian) gets twitchy and shoots a cop before his gang flees the scene. Subsequently Milian (key traits: callous impulsive violence and crimson-coloured briefs) hatches a plan to kidnap the sexy daughter (Laura Belli) of his girlfriend’s millionaire boss and hold her to ransom for 500 million Lira.
Although Henry Silva has a prominent role as a trench coat / polo neck-clad Inspector with a cynical DIRTY HARRY-inspired character arc, Milian dominates this riveting, unforgiving urban thriller as a reckless force of nature. When not seen stringing up topless women as “human roulette” or coercing a middle-aged man to suck him off at gunpoint, Milian is joking about his own undiscriminating kill-count and laughing that “the police are helpless”. His most light-hearted line of dialogue is the gloating “Little girl, I’ve been sent here by the Angel Gabriel, here to safeguard your virginity!” In one of the most shocking scenes of 1970’s crime cinema, he machine-guns to death a small child who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – before blowing away her hysterical mum. Brilliantly directed and paced, it’s as heartless as they come, but also dynamic and unpredictable from start to finish.
Review by Steven West