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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Madman  (1982)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
1.5 Stars
(Release Date: May 26, 2015) – Originally based on the urban legend of the Cropsey Maniac, "Madman" had to tweak its lead villain when 1981's higher-profile Miramax release, "The Burning," beat it to the punch. Thus, Cropsey has now become Madman Marz, a farmer who went crazy, murdered his family, and escaped into the forest when the locals tried to make him pay for his crimes. A campfire tale that becomes all too real, Madman Marz shows up at a lakeside retreat for gifted children and goes about dispatching the counselors (who, oddly enough, outnumber the young campers). Directed by Joe Giannone, "Madman" fits the '80s slasher blueprint to the letter. It's only adequately made, but it features moody cinematography draped in shadowy moonlight by James Lemmo and holds a handful of scenes so knee-slappingly bad that the film ranks as a party favorite (alcohol is recommended). Particularly memorable (read: amusing for the wrong reasons) is a hot tub love scene so cornball and amateurishly conceived that it has to be seen to be believed, and a chase sequence where soon-to-be-victim Ellie (Jan Claire) opts to hide in a refrigerator, tossing the food onto the floor behind her. Jan Claire (in her one and only motion picture credit) is a standout as the adorably absent-minded Ellie, overacting with the best of them. Meanwhile, overaged camper Richie (Tom Candela) deserves to be the first one knocked off as he wanders around the woods asking for trouble for the entire film, but somehow manages to be the only soul who evades Marz's wrath. "Madman" is deliberately paced and far from frightening, but for slasher aficionados and viewers looking for solid laughs of the unintentional variety, there are few bloodied romps of its type with quite the same level of charm.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Madman" chops its way to Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome with a very good 1080p transfer, newly restored in 4K from the camera negative. The image itself is on the softer side, but this is inherent to the source material. The frequently gorgeous cinematography, however, has never looked so impressive on any home video format, with lush blue and red hues, sturdy black levels, and an evenly distributed grain field. Vinegar Syndrome has taken obvious care in putting together this transfer, which makes a series of colored vertical scratches that arise in the middle of the frame a handful of times all the more disconcerting. There is likely little that could have been done to correct this particular case of film damage, but the rest of the picture looks so strong that these trouble spots threaten to pull the viewer out of the film every time they pop up. The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio overcomes its limitation with a surprisingly potent sound mix. The memorable music score and recurring horror stingers are a sonic force despite only coming from the front channels, while dialogue is always clear. All in all, "Madman" is sure to please fans in the A/V department.

Blu-ray Features
  • Blu-ray Introduction with producer Gary Sales (0:50, HD)
  • Audio Commentary with producer Gary Sales, director Joe Giannone, and actors Paul Ehlers and Tony Fish
  • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues
  • "Madman: Alive at 35" Featurette (21:00, HD) - Interviews with producer Gary Sales and actors Tom Candela and Paul Ehlers
  • "The Early Career of Gary Sales" Featurette (14:15, HD)
  • "The Legend Still Lives" (91:42, SD) - A feature-length 2011 documentary featuring interviews with select cast and crew
  • "Music Inspired by Madman" Featurette (13:17, HD)
  • "In Memoriam" Featurette (5:46, SD)
  • "Dead Pit Interviews Gary Sales" Featurette (3:37, SD)
  • "Dead Pit Interviews Paul Ehlers" Featurette (5:15, SD)
  • Stills & Artwork Gallery (7:20, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:48, HD)
  • TV Spots (1:59, SD)
Bottom Line
Vinegar Syndrome continue to be a competitive force in the high-def video market alongside other top genre distributors Synapse, Scream Factory, Grindhouse Releasing and Blue Underground. Their long-awaited Blu-ray release of "Madman" does not disappoint, providing solid picture and sound and a collection of special features so extensive it would take almost six additional hours to get through them all. Is "Madman" an underappreciated horror classic? No. But it does have its historical place among early-'80s slashers and remains a fairly essential entry. For horror fans of this era, "Madman" on Blu-ray comes highly recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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