Sunday, May 24, 2015

MADMAN (1981)

MADMAN (1981) 

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 89 Minutes
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Joe Giannone
Cast: Carl FredricksJan Claire, Tony Fish,  Gaylen Ross, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Paul Ehlers

Synopsis: Years ago, Madman Marz violently murdered his family only to escape into the woods before his execution could be completed. Legend has it that anyone who calls his name above a whisper can summon him back to continue his bloody rampage. But teenage Richie, away at camp, doesn’t believe the old legend and calls his name. As night falls, strange things start happening at camp and soon Madman Marz is back, axe in hand, to finish the killing spree he started decades ago. One of the true classics of 80’s slasher cinema, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents MADMAN on Blu-ray for the first time, newly restored in 4K from the camera negative!

I love me some Madman, a pretty fantastic and simplistic camper-slasher from the vintage age slasher era. It all starts with a creepy and atmospheric campfire tale as crusty camp owner Max (Carl Fredricks) tells the tale of Madman Marz to a group of horny camp counselors and fresh-faced adolescent campers. Madman was a crazed lunatic who murdered his family with an ax in a house conveniently located right next to the campgrounds. Marz was hung for his awful crimes but he slipped the noose and disappeared into the forest where is is told he still lurks the surrounding woods waiting to murder anyone who would dare speak his name. This is one of the better campfire tales and right away established not just an awesome origin story and the local legend but sets up he film, our group of campers and counselors and some frightful atmosphere, this is a great beginning. 

As the campers are about to return to their cabins for the night one of the campers, a smart-ass named Richie, mocks Madman by calling his name into the night and throwing a stone through the home of the killer. which is just a stones throw away. Of course this blasphemy stirs the madman and much slasher-riffic '80s awesomeness ensues. As the group depart from the campfire Richie looks up into the treeline and sees Madman silhouetted against the dark blue night sky among the branches, yet another creepy image right from the start.

Back at camp Max heads into town for supplies while the randy camp counselors settle in for a night on horny teenage naughtiness. Among the group are sweet counselor-couple  Ellie (Jan Claire) and Bill (Alex Murphy) who run off for some nookie, while T.P. (Tony Fish) hopes to patch things up with Betsy (Gaylen Ross), they're summer romance is losing steam but that doesn't stop them from heading off to the hot tub for a protracted and goody soft core courtship, circling each other around the hot tub for a very bizarre hot tub scene. Strange and prolonged though it may be it does pay off with Dawn of the Dead star Gaylen Ross dropping her top and baring her breasts, so just enjoy the soft core tub-circling and enjoy. Then there's Stacy (Harriet Bass) and Dave (Seth Jones), not sure if they're a couple but  Dave seems to be doing his best to weasel his way onto her panties. 

There's a surprising amount of character development for the teen counselors, they all get a decent shake and some superficial build-up before the inevitable ax murdering begins. Of note is the aforementioned Gaylen Ross of Dawn of the Dead notoriety, she's not the most spunky character but damn do I love her eyes. Honestly, her performance is a bit flat, not awful, but she seems to be half-hardheartedly channeling Amy Steel from Friday the 13th during her scenes with Madman Marz. 

Madman's murder-spree is fun stuff even if the set-ups and kills are pretty standfard, but they are well executed. Among them we have a throat slashing to start things off with, a great hanging scene, and multiple decapitations including one fun scene of a hood of truck which takes someones head clean-off. One of the young ladies gets an ax to the chest that is wonderfully bloody, and there's what appears to be a nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a young women taking a meat hook through the chest. Slasher fans will have very little to complain about, this is a very solid camper-slasher from start to finish. 

The character of Madman Marz is wonderfully realized as an unkempt backwoods lunatic portrayed by actor Paul Ehlers, a white-haired dungaree clad madman with an ax, a ferocious presence who seems damn near unstoppable at times. The simplicity of the design cheap and effective with a nasty scar running down his rough face, and part of his nose missing. Watching this again I could not help but think that Madman was a huge influence on Victor Crowley from Adam Green's Hatchet series. 

I love the 80s atmosphere, the camp setting, the blue-tinted lighting and the synth score, this one is firing on all cylinders and while it's not original it does buck a few trends along the way, for instance, the expected final girl doesn't turn out to be the final girl and that little shit Richie who set-off the Madman in the first pace doesn't get his proper comeuppance, though he deserves a very painful death. 

Audio/Video: Vinegar Syndrome do it again with a brand new 4K restoration that gives us the best looking presentation of Madman (1981) yet, fan are gonna flip for this one. Sure, there's the inherent stylistic softness and an grainy film stock to deal with otherwise this is pretty fantastic. There are frames of print damage and we still have to contend with those annoying vertical red lines that pop up from time to time, but keep in mind that those are relics from the source material and no fault of the transfer from Vinegar Syndrome have done right by this '80s cult film.  

The English language DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 audio sounds as good as the flat source material will allow, that said, the delicious '80s synth score sounds great and the dialogue and effects come through clean if not exactly crisp. 

Onto the bonus content you will be pleased to know that Vinegar Syndrome have ported over every special feature from the Code Red DVD release including the fantastic feature-length documentary The Legend Lives: 30 Years of Madman documentary by Victor Bonacore, which is a must watch for fans. 

New to this jam-packed edition are over 43 minutes of brand new interviews with producer Gary Sales, actors Paul Ehlers and Tom Candela all of whom seem genuinely fond to reminiscence about the making of the film over thirty years ago. There's also a new audio commentary track from The Hysteria Continues! Podcast with Special Guest Johnny Krueg of Krueger Nation Podcast, the crew also dedicated a podcast episode to the film that is worth checking out. 

There's also a sleeve of reversible artwork on this release, designed by Madman himself, Paul Ehlers, which s pretty cool. This being a DVD/BD Combo there are 2 discs and each one features artwork from the two sleeve art options, which I love, because I hate ti when we have 2 disc releases and they have the same artwork. 

Special Features:

- Blu-ray/DVD Combo | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR
- Scanned and restored in 4k from 35mm original camera negative
- Gary Sales Intro (1 Min)
- NEW! The Early Career of Gary Sales (14 Mins) 
- NEW! Dead Pit Interviews Paul Ehlers ( 5 Mins) 
- NEW! Dead Pit Interviews Gary Sales (3 Mins)
- The Legend Lives: 30 Years of Madman documentary by Victor Bonacore (92 Mins)
- NEW! Madman: Alive at 35  (21 Mins)
- NEW! Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues! Podcast with Special Guest Johnny Krueg of Krueger Nation Podcast

- Commentary track with Producer, Director and Cast.
- Music Inspired by Madman (13 Mins)
- In Memoriam (6 Mins)
- Vintage Still Gallery (7 Mins)
- TV Spots (2 Mins)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- English SDH Subtitles
- Reversible cover w/ original artwork (Designed by Madman himself, Paul Ehlers)

Vinegar Syndrome have put together quite a treat for the Madman fans, this is a top notch Blu-ray edition that features the best transfer of the film we are likely ever going to see and a bunch of great extras, this is the definitive edition of Madman, which is a pretty great classic 80s slasher film and hopefully it will ear legions of new fans with this fantastic Blu-ray. 4/5