Release Date(s)1982 (May 26, 2015)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A+
Released in 1982, Madman is one of those good, old-fashioned slasher movies that came out on home video and was forgotten for a time, except by the ultra hardcore horror fans who relished it. It contains your standard slasher plot: Long ago, a man named Madman Marz butchered his whole family and was strung up for it. But if you find yourself in his neck of the woods, and say his name louder than a whisper, he’ll appear and murder you. Well, guess what? That happens and people die. So yeah, there’s nothing groundbreaking to be found here, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some fun to be had.
What’s interesting about the movie is that it’s based on the New York urban legend of Cropsey, which was also explored in The Burning a year prior to Madman’s release. Though they both take place at a summer camp of sorts, they go in different directions with their story. In The Burning the killer goes after the kids, while in Madman he goes for the adults. Madman actually avoided using the Cropsey name when it was discovered that The Burning was already in production. Madman is a batshit kind of movie anyway. It doesn’t quite reach the levels of “so bad that it’s good,” but it gets close in a lot of ways. It’s more of an overzealous slasher, with little to no plot, but some of the performances are sincere enough – not good, but sincere. Jan Claire as Ellie, for example, is almost in a catatonic state most of the time, doing little else besides squealing in fright. It’s pretty laughable.
Another aspect of the movie I found interesting goes into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen the movie and want to be kept in the dark, you can just skip this paragraph. For much of the movie’s running time, I came to believe that someone was killing in disguise as Madman Marz – that one of the adults went nuts and was pretending to be the killer, in a Friday the 13th, Part V sort of way. The mask and the rubber gloves, although made to look real, were dead giveaways that it was somebody in a costume. I was right, of course, but it wasn’t a part of the plot. It wound up being just a bad costume that’s more obvious in high definition. I suppose in the days of VHS, when the picture quality was low on such dark and set-at-night budget titles, you wouldn’t notice details like this. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is pretty subjective, but it did lead my sleuthing mind in another direction.
Regardless, Madman is a fun slasher movie with lots of problems, but not enough to classify it as overtly bad. It’s just a horror movie that likes to pretend it’s better than it is. It has pretty good gore effects and enough terrible dialogue and delivery to be an entertaining watch. And a fun little tidbit: Gaylen Ross stars in the movie under the name Alexis Dubin, for reasons that seem to never have been disclosed. It’s kind of fun, when you put this on knowing nothing about it, and are surprised to discover that Franny from Dawn of the Dead is in it.
Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray features a brand spanking-new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative (also found on Arrow Video’s release), which is something of a miracle that it even survives in such quality. Overall, it’s a very grainy presentation, but flows very naturally. It can be soft looking most of the time, but fine detail is generally good. Shadow detail actually suffers more, but I chalk that up more to the original cinematography than anything else. It’s also a very colorful presentation with natural skin tones, but uneven blacks, mainly due to the grain. Contrast and brightness levels are very satisfying and there are no signs of digital enhancement on display. It’s a mostly clean presentation overall, although there were lots of instances of film damage that appeared in the center of the frame and was obviously unable to be repaired. For the audio, you get an English mono DTS-HD track. Just by its very nature, it’s pretty flat, but it features clear, intelligible dialogue and a strong score. There’s not really much in the way of dynamics, but it sounds pretty clean. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
Besides the excellent presentation, there’s also a nice bounty of extras, much of which has been carried over from the previous Code Red DVD release. There’s an introduction to the film by producer Gary Sales; an audio commentary with director Joe Giannone, producer Gary Sales, and actors Paul Ehlers & Tony Fish; an audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues!; the Madman: Alive at 35 roundtable discussion; The Early Career of Gary Sales interview; the original theatrical trailer; The Legend Still Lives!: 30 Years of Madman documentary; a stills and artwork gallery; the Music Inspired by Madman musical featurette; an In Memoriam tribute; five TV spots; separate Dead Pit interviews with Gary Sales and Paul Ehlers; and a DVD copy of the movie.
Madman getting this kind of treatment on Blu-ray is just nuts. Vinegar Syndrome is definitely to be applauded for it. If you’re a fan of these subgenres, and enjoy getting together with a couple of friends to watch them, this one is definitely recommended.
- Tim Salmons