The Manhunt (1975)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Umberto Lenzi, Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Henry Silva, Luciana Paluzzi and Silvano Tranquilli

The Plot: Our film begins with a group of robbers entering a jewelry store and pulling a heist. In the midst of the confusion and the violence, David Vanucchi (Henry Silva)’s daughter is shot by this group of psychopaths. The only thing that Vanucchi’s daughter can muster before her death is that she saw the “Scorpion”. Vanucchi and the police are baffled by the statement and are left with no other clues as to who could have committed such a heinous crime. Vanucchi, feeling abandoned by a system that allowed these criminals to kill his daughter in the first place, begins his own investigation into the criminal underground. He is persistently told to stay out of it by the police detective who is handling the case, but his own quest for vengeance will not be appeased. Will he find the men responsible or will he destroy his own life in the process?

The Review
I have always had an affinity for crime cinema. It is one of my largest passions as a follower of film, and ever since discovering the world of Euro-Crime, the genre has been a staple of my cinematic habits. The Manhunt is a deceptively generic action/crime film from the outset, but has a great deal of interesting opportunities that it takes advantage of throughout its running time. Often, for me at least, it is the little things that can make or break a genre film. In the case of Manhunt, I don’t think it’ll ever be a title that anyone considers required viewing for fans of Euro-Crime, but it acts as a bleak alternative for the vigilantism influence that some of these films have. A movie that is nowhere near as black and white as Enzo G. Castellari’s Street Law, this Umberto Lenzi directed piece of work may surprise audiences as it tackles the issue in a very unconventional manner.
The impact that Michael Winner and Charles Bronson had on the worldwide culture with their film Death Wish is almost impossible to grasp. Whether The Manhunt was a film made as a spurned outcry against the politics of Castellari’s Street Law or Death Wish, this can likely be debated, but its easy to imagine that both films were sources for inspiration. Although Castellari’s film never shared the same overtly political statements that Winner’s masterpiece of right wing values did, it retained the same concepts. That is to say, if our own government refuses to stop the rampant crime, perhaps it is up to us the citizens. The Manhunt is interesting in different ways, most notably because it is far more gray in its moral color palette. Lenzi’s film doesn’t offer any kind of conclusions for the audience, in terms of how one fights crime when the local government has been corrupted or are generally oblivious, but his film poses many engaging questions throughout. Who would have thought it from the director of Cannibal Ferox?

The Manhunt takes a similar vantage point that the previously mentioned titles did, with the police force made up of either idiots or criminals, and instead asks where the concept of vigilantism ends. Most of the really interesting points, where these questions are asked directly, come about during the final third of the movie so unfortunately that means there is a lot of ‘filler’ thrown around in the mid-section. During this section of the film we are lucky in the fact that Henry Silva is our leading man, as he is always a commanding performer. It isn’t until the final third, however, that I think the film has any chance of being really solid. Lenzi takes vigilantism and presents it in a necessary light, at least during the first half of the movie, but as things begin to escalate we see that while men are fallible then no body of governance can truly be perfect. I don’t think Lenzi excuses the corruption of the Italian government, but instead poses questions from every side of the equation and shows that nothing is perfect. Ultimately, grief, anger and paranoia do not prove to be adequate means in determining order and judging death sentences.
Indeed, Henry Silva demands your attention here. From what I have seen of the man, this may also be one of his most engaging performances as well. There is a moment that comes about early on, where Silva’s character first discovers the death of his daughter. During this we actually get to see the tough guy facade of Silva falter just slightly, and he portrays the role of a grieving father to exceptional levels. However, within short order, Henry Silva is back to being the Henry Silva that we all know and love: a hard man who sports a grimace, no matter what the situation may be. Henry Silva was not/is not a bad actor, not by any degree, but there is no getting past the fact that the man can be a bit one-dimensional. He was a charismatic actor who could win the audience over, but the roles that he was known for didn’t always require him to step out from his safety zone and I find it interesting that we get to see the man do that here, even if it is only for a very short time.

The Manhunt shows Silva at his most brutal, as he wanders from one action set piece to another. In the midst of his investigation we get to see him slap around a transvestite prostitute, whilst yelling “YOU LYING FAGGOT!” which seems shocking by today’s standards but was relatively run of the mill in those times. Silva is shown at this point as being no better than the men he attempts to chase, as he beats and attempts to drown the transvestite we are eventually shown a book-end sequence that shows this gang lead by the Scorpion doing the same thing to the same transvestite in an attempt to also extract information. The homophobic verbal abuse is also continued, so if that sort of thing bothers you then prepare yourself because it gets fairly vicious.

The Conclusion
This is a Euro-Crime title that bucks the norm, that is for certain. When Umberto Lenzi tries to do things that manipulate his audience on an emotional level (as he does here and also with Almost Human), he can be quite successful. The Manhunt doesn’t turn out to be a classic unfortunately, due mainly to the stagnate pace during the middle portion of the feature, but it is certainly watchable. In fact, if you are a Henry Silva fan then it is probably required viewing! I give it my recommendation and list it with three out of five stars. It is above average, but only slightly.