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Anchor Bay presents
Madman (1981)

"Anyone alone in the woods, can't hear him or see him..."
- Max (Carl Fredericks)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: February 27, 2001

Stars: Alexis Dubin, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass
Other Stars: Seth Jones, Jan Claire, Alex Murphy
Director: Joe Giannone

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: R for (gore, violence, some language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:16s
Release Date: February 13, 2001
UPC: 013131161397
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-A-C+ B-

DVD Review

Here, we have all the required elements: a group of teenagers, a remote locale, and a strange psychopath. The end result is Madman, a film made right when the Friday The 13th movies were starting to take off, and Halloween had already freaked out the nation. While one might want to label Madman as a simple clone, it actually has a sort of dignity to it that many 'slasher' flicks don't have. Rather than imitating the worst things about the genre, it gets rid of all that baggage and just tells a straightforward story.

Things begin with a group of kids sitting at a campfire, listening to ghost stories. The leader of the group, Max, decides to tell a creepy story about an insane farmer who hacked up his family with an axe. He claims that this mysterious "Madman Marz", as he is called, can be summoned by simply calling his name. A smart-ass kid decides to do just that, and as you might expect, Madman Marz answers the call by slowly killing off all the kids throughout the course of the film. While there is a distinct lack of story here, that's actually more of a good thing. Instead of trying to put together some really complex idea in order to seem "smarter" than the average movie, this simple, boiled-down horror story provides an honest basis for what happens. The setting is a little unusual in that the kids are meant to be members of a gifted children camp. Of course, you'd think gifted children would be smart enough to avoid being the victims of a monstrous maniac, but I guess even the gifted have got to screw up eventually.

I will give some definite points to this film, though, for its direction and cinematography. There are some surprisingly smart moments where really clever techniques are employed to keep things fresh and stylish. This isn't the typical 'slasher' film where it takes an hour for the first death and we get 500 false scares in-between (how many times can a cat jump out of a closet?). Instead, Madman moves along with a high body count, lots of gore, and just about everything you'd want from this type of movie. In fact, it even breaks the cardinal rule of 1980s 'slasher' films: leave a sympathetic character for the audience to like. Even the most benign, good character gets hacked away, making the film fearless, for lack of a better term.

I can't say I enjoyed the film to any massive extent, but it certainly delivers what it promises with one of the shortest set-ups I've seen in this genre. If you're in the mood for a film of this style, Madman is definitely one of the superior choices, thanks to the fact that it's so simple and effective.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Other than some slight edge-enhancement and minor haziness in certain scenes, Madman looks really good here. Everything is sharp, and colors are rather vibrant and outstanding, which is good since much of the cinematography relies on heavy, colored lighting. Black level is good as well, with a clean source print. Anamorphic enhancement adds a noticeable depth and smoothness to the image. A definite thumbs-up here.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio is a little flat and harsh sounding. Voices often sound slightly muffled at times, as do certain sound effects. The musical score makes out OK, though, which is nice because it's a pretty weird, atmospheric, synthesizer score.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Joe Giannone, Gary Sales, Tony Fish, Paul Ehlers
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The commentary track features director Joe Giannone, writer/producer Gary Sales, and actors Tony Fish and Paul Ehlers (who plays the Madman). It's a very good, busy track that fills itself well with all sorts of making-of tidbits. The four have a sense of humor, but don't get too goofy. They mainly stay on topic and discuss how the film got made and get scene-specific on occasion. It's too bad these guys never really moved on to anything more high-profile. This is a good, enjoyable commentary.

One trailer and one television ad are featured (both in decent condition).

Presentation is pretty good, with some nice menus and a keepcase insert with the original poster and an essay about the movie (author uncredited).

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

I am aware that Madman has a sizable cult following, and I think I can say that those fans should enjoy the presentation of the film here. Madman traverses familiar territory, but it does it in about the most entertaining way it can. Recommended.


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