Color, 1974, 90m. / Directed by Umberto Lenzi / Starring Tomas Milian, Laura Belli, Henry Silva, Gino Santercole, Anita Strindberg, Ray Lovelock / NoShame (US R1 NTSC), Alan Young (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)


After a 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 distributors who cut it to ribbons and, several years after the fact, tried to pass off the product as a horror film. 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, 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 (or as it's known by a more verbose title in Italy, Milano odia: la polizia non puņ 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 subtilte options. The NoShame version represents a substantial upgrade in every respect, 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 half-hour interview with Milian, and heftiest of all, a 37-minute featurtee, "Like a Beast... Almost," featuring interviews with Lenzi, Lovelock, Santercole, and veteran screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, all of whom paint a thorough picture of the golden age of poliziotteschi filmmaking.



Color, 1974, 91m. / Directed by Umberto Lenzi / Starring John Richardson, Martine Brochard / Marketing-Film (Germany R0 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Lenzi's final giallo is widely considered the weakest of his murder mystery output, primarily because most viewers have only seen the butchered U.S. version which circulated on countless double bills in the '70s. With its abundance of empty-headed suspects and victims, thumping Bruno Nicolai score, and trendy lesbianism, this would make an excellent double bill with its mid-'70s kin like Case of the Bloody Iris and, on its own trashy terms, makes for energetic and often amusing viewing.

A busload of American tourists enjoying the sights of Spain finds trouble when two of their party (one of them riding through a spook house attraction) run afoul of a knife-wielding killer with a penchant for plucking out eyeballs. Our hero, Mark (John Richardson), deduces that his wife may be connected, since she was found months ago lying by a swimming pool with a bloody orb nearby. In classic fashion, each person who finds a vital clue winds up under the blade of the red-gloved maniac, but that doesn't stop the tour from pressing on.

Originally known under the more poetic title of Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro (Red Cats in a Glass Labyrinth), this ludicrous, slash-happy outing was released in Europe as The Secret Killer and Wide-Eyed in the Dark before landing its most famous title courtesy of Joseph Brenner. Newcomers to the genre would be better off starting somewhere else, as Eyeball is padded out with an ungodly amount of filler, mainly travelog footage and conversations in which characters stand around speculating about the killer's motives. The cheeky Nicolai theme tends to blast forth whenever things get too slow (whether the film calls for music or not), and the always reliable Richardson (Torso) somehow keeps a straight face even during the OTT finale.

Viewers tired of fuzzy bootlegs and those awful, bloodless Prism videotapes will be pleased by this German DVD, titled Labyrinth des Schreckens (that's Labyrinth of Fright to non-Teutonics). Featuring the full-length opening credits sequence (with the Secret Killer title) and every gory knife slash intact, this presentation is even more valuable because it finally preserves the original scope compositions with anamorphic enhancement to boot. Some compression problems pop up during darker scenes and the black levels look a bit pasty, but this is by far the best this film has looked on home video. The dubbed German track is presented in a gimmicky 5.1 mix (which at least utilizes Nicolai's stereo music tracks); it's distracting but fares better than Marketing-Film's earlier job on All the Colors of the Dark. A German mono track is also included, but most viewers will want to opt for the original English track, which is looped of course (this is an Italian horror film after all) and features the usual dubbing crew we've come to know and love. Extras include a newly constructed and fairly respectable trailer (though the catchy U.S. one is worth tracking down, too). The disc also contains a gallery and a batch of trailers for other titles in the series, most of them shot on video and, by all appearances, pretty dire.


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