Madman (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)
Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: May 26th, 2015.
Director: Joe Giannone
Cast: Gaylen Ross, Tony Fish, Paul Ehlers
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Directed by the late Joe Giannone (his only directorial offering), Madman begins in true slasher movie fashion as a group of camp counselors at the ‘North Sea Cottages’ gather around a fire and tell spooky stories. Things intensify when one member of the group, the owner Max (Carl Fredricks), tells the tale of one Madman Marz, a behemoth of a man responsible for a rash of bloody axe murders years back. He was eventually captured and subsequently executed by the townsfolk for his crimes. Or so they thought. Marz made it away alive, his face horribly disfigured by his own axe, and ever since that fateful day those who say his name are cursed by a visit from the man himself!
So of course, after the story is told, the legend’s treacherous pitfall is invoked and when one of the counselors proves so bold as to toss some rocks at the old Marz home, well, all bets are off. Madman Marz is alive and well, and he’s got a big old axe to grind with these guys. Oh, and he’ll grind that axe, but thankfully not before Gaylen Ross (credited as Alexis Dubin) takes her top off and hops into a hot tub. But yeah, he’ll get there. He’ll kill a lot of obnoxious people and he’ll do it with a fair bit of style at that.
Yeah, it’s another take on the Cropsy legend that was better exploited in The Burning but Madman has its own quirky, low budget charm and it has it in spades. The film takes a little while to get going but that’s to its credit. There’s a bit of a slow burn thing going on here and because of that once the kills start, the pay off has a bit more power behind it than it would have otherwise. On top of that, we get a nice mix of some fairly strong and effective gore scenes and some twisted black comedy that prove to be two great tastes that taste great together. Once Marz gets to his slashing he proves pretty adapt at it and the movie is all the better for it. This more than makes up for whatever complaints might arise from the film’s more deliberate style of pacing.
Of course, there are also the movie’s more bizarre moments. Ross’ hot tub scene is a stand out bit. It’s completely unnecessary and adds nothing more than some (admittedly welcome) side boob ‘hey did I see a nipple???’ action to the movie. Given that this is an eighties slasher, nudity is a bit of a requisite, so hats off to the filmmakers for fulfilling that requirement but it’s an odd scene given what’s going on around our two lovebirds. But a big part of Madman’s charm is its odd moments. Things make this movie stand out – the weird opening credits scene, the film’s synth-heavy soundtrack, and of course the infamous refrigerator scene (that we won’t spoil here) to name only a few. It’s not all that scary, it’s not all that original – but it’s endlessly watchable and plenty entertaining.
Madman arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome transferred in 4k from 35mm archival elements framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and it’s hard to imagine this low budget slasher looking a whole lot better than it does on this disc. Compared to previous DVD releases detail is quite a bit improved not just in close ups (where it really shines) but in medium and long distance shots as well. Skin tones look nice and natural while black levels are quite deep. Shadow detail is strong and there are no obvious issues with compression artifacts or crush, nor are there any noticeable instances of noise reduction or edge enhancement. Some print damage shows up throughout, the most obvious being some scratches that appear in the middle of the screen in certain shots (which was present on the DVD releases too) but by and large this transfer is clean, clear, colorful and very film-like. And for those wondering, yes, the film’s trademark blue tint has been restored.
The English language DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio mix on the disc is also very good. There are a few spots here and there that sound less than perfect but these are infrequent and for the most part the audio is crisp and nicely balanced. Dialogue is, outside of one or two spots where things sound a little muddy, always easy to understand and hiss and distortion are never problems. There are no alternate language options but optional subtitles in English are provided (though not identified on the packaging).
Extras begin with the first of two commentaries. Here we get producer Gary Sales, director Joe Giannone, and actors Paul Ehlers and Tony Fish. This track originally appeared on the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD release (sadly both Giannone and Tony Fish have both passed away since this was recorded) and it’s a very active and informative track. New to this Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray disc is a track featuring the commentators from the Hysteria Continues podcast and cohort Johnny Krueg. This track is both humorous and informative, never getting into an MST3K style approach but still bringing a sense of fun to the talk. They cover the history of the film, its ongoing popularity, how it borrows from and simultaneously subverts typical early eighties slasher conventions and quite a bit more.
Featurettes kick off with the twenty-one minute featurettes Madman: Alive at 35. This is made up of interviews with omnipresent Gary Sales and cast members Tom Candela and Paul Ehlers. Not surprisingly, they talk together about their experiences making the film together, fan response to the film, the picture’s sizable cult following and more. The Early Career Of Gary Sales is a fourteen minute piece where the film’s producer talks about how he got into the film business, his school years, how he got his start in the film business only to make the move into horror and more.
Carried over from the previous Code Red DVD release is the ninety-minute feature length documentary, The Legend Still Lives. This is an interesting mix or archival material, newly shot material acquired specifically for this documentary with various hardcore Madman fans from the internet fandom scene and interviews with cast and crew. It’s well put together, very comprehensive and quite a lot of fun to watch.
Vinegar Syndrome have also included a few shorter bits and pieces here – Music Inspired By Madman is a thirteen minute piece in which we explore various musical tributes to the film contributed but some pretty diehard fans of varying degrees of musical aptitude. In Memoriam is a nice six minute piece hosted by Sales that pays tribute to those involved with the film that are no longer with us: Giannone, Fish and Fredericks. We also get two Deadpit Radio interviews, the first a four minute piece with Sales and the second a lengthier five minute piece with Paul Ehlers, both brief but worth listening too, particularly as Ehler’s piece talks about the proposed sequel to the movie. There’s also a sizable still gallery included here made up of various advertising pieces, home video release art, publicity photos and more, complete with commentary from Gary Sales, which is a nice touch and something that should be done more often for still galleries.
Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, five TV spots advertising the movie, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release a DVD with identical extras is also included inside the Blu-ray case and topping it all off is some slick reversible cover art.
The Final Word:
Madman isn’t particularly tense or frightening but it is a pretty entertaining slasher that toys around with a lot of the conventions you’d expect it to and quite a few you might not. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does what it does well and Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack not only presents the movie in its best looking home video incarnation to date but it comes loaded with some seriously solid supplements as well.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!