Madman (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Mar 23, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Madman (4K UHD Review)

Director

Joe Giannone

Release Date(s)

1981 (April 22, 2022)

Studio(s)

The Legend Lives Company (Vinegar Syndrome)
  • Film/Program Grade: C-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: A

Review

Released at the dawn of the slasher era, Madman was one of the more obscure titles before home video resurrected it in the early 2000s and gave it a new life. Horror fans have declared it to be one of the best slashers of the era. Its producers, who attempted to bring the legend of Cropsey to the screen before The Burning got to it first, were also interested in cashing in on the major successes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. It’s also notable for being one of three horror films to feature Gaylen Ross, who had also appeared in the far more successful Dawn of the Dead, and later Creepshow, before quitting acting altogether. Today, Madman is a beloved cult film with plenty of unintentional laugh-out-loud moments, but an effective central boogie man in Madman Marz, who even gets his own theme song in the film’s opening.

A group of camp counselors are gathered around a campfire when the legend of Madman Marz is told to them. Many years before, he is said to have killed his wife and children with an axe before being hanged, which he escaped from and disappeared. It’s said that if you say his name above a whisper, he will appear and come for you. Goofing around, one of the counselors shouts his name and breaks a window of his nearby home. As a consequence, Madman Marz reawakens and goes after each of the counselors, hacking and chopping away at them in quick succession.

Madman was shot by director of photography James Lemmo on 35 mm film using Arriflex 35 BL cameras, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Vinegar Syndrome brings the film to Ultra HD with a new 4K scan and restoration of the original camera negative, graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 is the only available option). It’s an excellent presentation of a film that’s surprisingly well-shot. Grain ranges from heavy to fine, but there’s newfound clarity to be had. The flashbacks in the opening are a little rough in terms of color and shadow detail, but things improve thereafter. The color grade really pushes reds and greens to the extreme, as well flesh tones, which can range from hot to natural. Blacks are exceedingly deep with excellent levels of detail in the shadows. Overall contrast is ideal, appearing bright but never blown out. Minor instability can be observed, but it’s negligible. The presentation is also mostly clean with very little speckling, but obvious scratches in the middle of the frame during the infamous hot tub scene. It’s an otherwise solid visual upgrade.

Audio is included in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. The score has the most push of all of the elements on this track. Dialogue exchanges are clear and discernible, but sound effects are often flat and straight down the middle. Atmospherics, such as wind and crickets, struggle a bit too. A multi-channel remix would likely do wonders for this film.

Vinegar Syndrome’s Ultra HD release also includes a Blu-ray of the film in 1080p. Both discs sit inside a black amaray case with a reversible insert that features new artwork by Tom Hodge of The Dude Designs on the front and the home video artwork on the reverse. Everything is housed within a limited slipcover featuring the same new artwork. Each disc includes the following extras:

DISC ONE: UHD

  • Audio Commentary with Joe Giannone, Paul Ehlers, Gary Sales, and Tony Fish
  • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues!

DISC TWO: BD

  • Optional Introduction by Gary Sales (HD – :52)
  • Audio Commentary with Joe Giannone, Paul Ehlers, Gary Sales, and Tony Fish
  • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues!
  • I’m Not a Screamer: An Interview with Gaylen Ross (HD – 19:30)
  • The Early Career of Gary Sales (HD – 14:18)
  • Madman: Alive at 35 (HD and SD – 21:02)
  • The Legend Still Lives! – 30 Years of Madman (Upscaled SD – 91:42)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:48)
  • Still Gallery (Upscaled SD – 193 in all – 7:20)
  • In Memoriam (HD – 5:46)
  • TV Spots (Upscaled SD – 5 in all – 1:59)
  • Music Inspired by Madman (Upscaled SD – 13:17)
  • Deadpit Interviews with Gary Sale & Paul Ehlers (Upscaled SD – 3:39 and 5:17)

The first audio commentary, which was originally recorded for Anchor Bay’s DVD release of the film in 2001, features director Joe Giannone, actor Paul Ehlers, producer Gary Sales, and actor Tony Fish. They go quiet several times, but have an enjoyable conversation with each other about the making of the film as they watch it together. The second audio commentary features The Hysteria Continues! podcast collective of Joseph Henson, Justin Kerswell, Nathan Johnson, and Erik Threlfall, who are joined by Johnny Krueg from the Krueger Nation podcast. As per usual, they talk extemporaneously (more or less) about the film and their personal experiences with it. They too go quiet a few times, but manage to keep the conversation lively.

Producer Gary Sales provides a brief optional introduction to the film on the Blu-ray only. In I’m Not a Screamer, actress Gaylen Ross, who infamously wouldn’t talk about the film for many years, appears in a new interview in which she details her involvement with the project. She talks about speaking with Gary Sales after finishing Dawn of the Dead, having to work in the cold at a summer camp, everybody constantly eating because there was nothing else to do when they weren’t shooting, working at night, the story, her disappointment with the ending, not wanting to scream, women in horror films, the hot tub scene, the film’s cult following, George Romero’s influence on her, becoming a director, her documentary work, and why she changed her name for the film. In The Early Career of Gary Sales, the creator and producer of Madman discusses his beginnings, getting into the movie business, making horror films, starting in pornography, developing Madman, the inspiration for Madman Marz, the look of the film, and the legacy of the film. Alive at 35 features Gary Sales, Paul Ehlers, and Tom Candela reuniting 35 years later at Paul Ehlers’ house to talk about the film. Victor Bonacore’s The Legend Still Lives! is a feature-length retrospective documentary on the history and making of the film, featuring many members of the cast and crew, as well as fans of the film. The film was formally a full frame presentation and appears to have been cropped for 16:9 displays.

The Still Gallery features 193 behind-the-scenes photos, promotional stills, premiere photos, posters, lobby cards, newspaper clippings, home video covers, and other odds and ends. In Memoriam features Gary Sales speaking about the late director Joe Giannone, actors Tony Fish, and Frederick Neumann, set to behind-the-scenes stills and personal photos. In Music Inspired by Madman, Gary Sales showcases music from and inspired by the film covered by various bands. There’s also a pair of vintage Deadpit interviews with Gary Sales and Paul Ehlers, as well as the original theatrical trailer and five TV spots. It’s worth noting that the Arrow Video Region B Blu-ray release features an alternate optional introduction to the film by producer Gary Sales and actor Paul Ehlers, which hasn’t carried over to this release.

Madman is the ideal slasher film in many ways, complete with airheaded camp counselors who are ripe for the slaughter at the hands of the killer. It’s not a great film, but it’s an effective horror movie when watching it with the right audience. Vinegar Syndrome ups the ante of their previous Blu-ray release with a quality Ultra HD presentation and great extras. For horror fans, this release comes highly recommended.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

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