I wasn’t actually sure whether I had seen this 1982 movie back in the day prior to sitting down and watching Arrow’s brand new spanking hi-def upgrade of it. Not surprising really as there were more maniacs, madmen and mutilators littering the video library shelves than you could shake a stick at back then. After watching it I can only guess that this was my first time as it certainly was not one that hung in the memory like it was for many who list this in their top ten stalk and slash films of all times. I guess for an impressionable teen battling acne and a two pack of tissues a day masturbatory habit this must have been quite a revelation but it was a far more jaded and cynical viewing that I had here. According to the introduction by star Paul Ehlers (Marz) and producer Gary Sales, the film got embroiled in the video nasty furore meaning it sunk without a trace over here for nigh on 35 years. I definitely remember it being on the shelves via the Video Film Organisation and have to dispute that claim as I certainly don’t recall it being caught up in anything more than random seizures along with many other films at the time (Best Little Whorehouse In Texas anyone)?
Reviewing this is like covering the music of The Ramones, AC/DC, or Status Quo. It’s exactly the same as many other films and essentially the biggest wholesale slaughter going on in it is aping the much superior granddaddy of the campsite dice and slice movies The Burning made by Tony Maylam the year before. It even starts around a campfire telling the terrified teens around it the legend of Madman Marz who had killed his family with an axe and been hung for his deeds by the vengeful townspeople; only for his and their corpses to mysteriously vanish. The slight difference is that the story is sung out very badly to a melody reminiscent of ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home.’ Naturally the first thing for the viewer to do is count the cast hoping there’s plenty for the forthcoming butchery but disappointingly there are only 6 young and gifted kids being overseen by 6 older camp trustees (you guessed it 3 horny guys and girls) as well as a couple of other staff. Not that much juice for the fire really. As anticipated and sorry to leave such a large spoiler but if you didn’t see this coming… Madman Marz rises from his ramshackle backwards abode and starts off on his killing spree making all too drawn out work of the very dumb cast. I say very dumb but that would be unfair as far as one of the main girls in it is concerned as she is played by Gaylen Ross who played Francine in Romero’s seminal Dawn Of The Dead four years earlier. For some reason, mayheps knowing what a turkey this was she went by the name Alexis Dublin here rather than her real one.
So this is badly paced, formulaic and even cribs a chilling synth heavy score emulating that of both Rick Wakeman’s in the Burning and Jay Chattaway’s in Maniac, so are there any redeeming features here. Well yes but only just! The monster effects, call it a monster due to the supernatural overtones are not bad when Marz is cast in silhouette. Unfortunately close ups of rubbery hands etc are pretty poor. The gore is passable and in a couple of instances quite grizzly. Sure it’s a case of mainly throwing a tin of red paint at the affected area but it is done with panache and at times a sense of humour. You should look out for one death in particular that is surely done in homage to another classic and infamous film in the 70’s. The cover art and restoration job are cracking too, far better than the film really deserves. Does anyone survive Madman Marz’s murderous rampage? Does anyone really care? You know exactly what you are getting in for when you sit down and watch a film like Madman and don’t really expect any surprises apart from the one’s that will hopefully make you jump out your seat. For the record there are not many of them here too. I should also mention the director as normally they are integral to things and if you have not heard of Joe Giannone before it’s hardly surprising as it was his one directorial full length feature. Sadly he died at 60 in 2006 of heart failure.
So not much to say about this one really, well you would think so but then we move onto the extras and there’s no less than a feature length (yes slightly longer than the film itself) making segment. This better be damn interesting I thought before sitting down to watch it! There’s no denying the fact that the makers capitalised the success of films such as Halloween, The Burning and Friday the 13th to make a fast buck with this film as it was a time when everyone was in a buying frenzy after similar horror pictures smashed it up at the box office They were lucky to get funding quickly and assemble cast and crew together. As for the cast they all talk fondly of main male lead of the film TP (Tony Fish) who died at 51and everyone involved has lots of memories of the then 30 year old film. Gaylen Ross I should point out is not present here but many of the others are involved in this look back and it serves as an interesting enough lesson in low budget film making. I had to laugh at the fact they considered Vincent Price to play the ‘madman’ but couldn’t afford the £3,000 three day fee; that’s just one of many interesting anecdotes here. Also cool is a revisit to the location and seeing what’s there now after all this time. They also talk about reaction to the film when it was released and seeing it at the premiere themselves. Apparently it got very little coverage in the specialist press around the time and after looking in Stephen Thrower’s excellent Nightmare Movies I see it gets just two scant name-checks there too. Apparently Tarantino loves it though, no surprise there and so do others and we do get to meet some more obsessive enthusiasts and collectors who have done everything from songs to paintings inspired by the film. Naturally there is talk of a remake or sequel but seriously, there’s obviously a reason that this has not been done yet and as for the guy who talks about it should have been a franchise! The geek in me found this all a lot more interesting than the actual film though.
One would have thought that this would have been a case of everything you ever wanted to know about Madman but were afraid to ask but it would appear not. Next up a 35 year on look back at the making of the film running a much more compact 21 minutes. Put together by Vinegar syndrome who have released Madman in the USA this reunites Producer Sales and Madman Ehlers along with Tom Candela who played Ritchie one of the younger and more inquisitive members of the cast. Ehlers was only originally designing the poster for Madman but it suddenly clicked that he would be ideal to play him as well apparently. They probably made a good choice to and he is a bit of a larger than life person and a mine of information on these features. It has been mentioned a couple of times that they discovered The Burning was filming around the same time rather than finished first so perhaps my previous comments are a bit unfair but it’s one hell of a coincidence about the similarities between the two. They are still hopeful that this Blu-ray will raise interest in the sequel and get it off the drawing board. Next up producer Gary Sales talks about how he got into the film industry and has some tales to tell. Madman was his first of just 6 production credits and although he has been assistant director and 2nd unit director on over 20 films one wonders why he took a step up to make his own feature. The Samson and Delilah porno he ended up working on very early sounds interesting! Sales and Ehlers get a couple of short interviews mainly about the proposed sequel via Deadpit at a convention, which are certainly worth a quick watch. They definitely missed the proposed 2009 release date of the follow up. Then there’s some music tracks inspired by the film Pizza Party and their hardcore thrash take on things is not too bad but very lo-fi but the rest are a bit meh. Finally Sales pays respects to those involved in the film no longer with us.
Wrapping it all up with trailers, TV spots, stills and artwork galleries and commentary tack this is a really in depth and authoritative presentation which pretty much includes everything done on the film ever. Even if I didn’t enjoy the turkey at the centre of it all I feasted well on the trimmings and I suspect this title is going to be a very popular one with the fans who remember it originally. Even if I am not one of them my respect for Madman Marz has gone up after wading through all this and he is now another boogeyman I will be all too aware of next time I get caught in the woods after dark.