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Anchor Bay presents
"First, I will save your soul. Then, I will destroy you."
DVD ReviewVampires are among the oldest terrors to appear on film, from Nosferatu to Dracula, through modern films Interview With A Vampire and the upcoming Queen of the Damnned. We've seen vampires both as minions of evil and as funny, quirky characters in satires. Looking hard though, it's hard to find a vampire film that has the level of originality and depth as George Romero's Martin.
The film tells the story of Martin (John Amplas), a young boy who has been sent to live with his eccentric uncle Cuda (Lincoln Maazal) and Cuda's mild-mannered granddaughter. Martin is a vampire...sort of. He kills attractive women and drinks their blood, except he has to use hypodermic needles and razor blades to do the job. Martin works in Cuda's grocery store and leads a fairly basic life, but underneath lies his bizarre fetish for vampirism. Otherwise, Martin appears to be a normal kid. Uncle Cuda however, knows better, insisting that Martin is a decades-old vampire who has been part of a long family curse. Cuda threatens him with garlic, crosses and mirrors, but seems unable to grasp the fact that none of these things have any effect on Martin.
Despite the low budget, George Romero filled Martin with several able actors. A young John Samplas is a real find, and went on to star in several other Romero features. His subtle performance is enhanced by other effective performances including the one by Lincoln Maazel as the creepy, supernaturally-obsessed Uncle Cuda, and Christine Forrest (George Romero's wife) as Christina, the confused granddaughter. Effects artist Tom Savini pops up in a small role, and even Romero himself gets in on the act, appearing as a priest. All of the character portrayals add to the realistic feel of the film.
Being set in Pittsburgh creates a more down to earth atmosphere, steering clear of the traditional Gothic settings of most vampire films. The somber and fitting musical score by Donald Rubenstein appropriately underscores this dimension, as well.
George Romero blends this darkly comic story with enough surrealism, creating a many layered effect. At face value, Martin is a subtle satire of typical vampire movies. Go deeper though, and there are various interpretations that can be applied. In many ways the film is a strange metaphor for teenage alienation and suburban discontent, or the telling of a large city being changed for the worse due to the problems inherent in modernization. Ambiguity is the style applied here and Romero manipulates it for all it's worth.
What makes Martin interesting is its subtlety. As MArtin stumbles through his unstable life, the question that begs to be asked is, "Is Martin really a vampire?" Well, don't expect any answers here. The element that truly defines Martin is its complete unwillingness to explain anything.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Martin is presented on this disc in a full-frame image, it's original aspect. It's clearly obvious that age has taken its toll on the original negative, as the film contains many print defects, and is extremely grainy. These don't really take away from the movie however, since this is pretty much the way the film has always looked. Digitally, the film has very few signs of compression artifacts or pixelization. The restored color balance and increased sharpness in the image from it's older incarnations is definitely a plus. As usual, Anchor Bay has produced a DVD that gives the movie the best visual incarnation possible (and the grade here reflects this). Putting the aging print problems aside, Martin looks astounding.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Martin is Dolby Digital Mono, and is very well mastered and balanced. I do not think a 5.1 upgrade would have gone over very well. As it is, the mono track has very clear dialogue and good musical balance. A very good mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by George Romero, Tom Savini, John Samplas
Listening to this track I've come to realize that ultimately Martin is about what you weant it to be about. George Romero sternly refuses to give any direct meanings to or answers for it. Some people get frustrated when movies aren't wrapped up into nice, neat packages. In fact, during the commentary, Tom Savini talks about how he is often harassed to speak out about the actual point of the film. Frankly, I find this a little sad. While I fully support movies that spoon-feed the audience, there's something special about a film that really makes you think about it, relying on your interpretation of it.
The disc could have had no other features at all, and the track would carry the whole thing.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsIn retrospect, Martin is a revolutionary film, experimenting with the genre by removing the vampire from its classical surroundings. The bleak, yet funny nature of the story adds an entirely new sheen onto the vampire myth, creating an inescapable draw more powerful than other films like The Addiction and Vampire's Kiss that also sought to play with the genre, with less success. Rather than drown characters in moody atmosphere, Martin avoids becoming overloaded with angst. Martin is unquestionably one of George Romero's finest movies. Any fan of dark comedies should see it. Highly recommended.
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