MADMAN (1981) Review by Steve Kirkham


MADMAN (1981)

3 stars
Arrow Films. Limited Edition 4K UHD. 24th June

Yet another relatively obscure slasher gets a new lease of life on 4K UHD.

The film opens round a campfire at a summer camp for gifted children. Max (Frederick Neumann), the head counsellor, tells a tale of a farmer who “for no apparent reason, went stark raving mad”. Something of an urban legend, and going by the name of Madman Marz, he chopped up his family with an axe – and if you say his name, he will hear you and come for you… Inevitably one of the other staff, Richie (Tom Candela), hollers out his name at the top of his lungs!

Well wouldn’t you know it – before long people are being sliced and diced by the psychotic nutter, in suitably gory manner, even if not always terribly convincing. The makeup fx are at the cheaper end of the scale, which is highlighted by the 4K. But not before the plot is slowed down to take in a gratuitous lovemaking scene in a hot tub, complete with terrible, cheesy song. In between each killing, the rest of the proceedings are a bit lethargic.

Considering how much is shot in dark woods, cinematographer James Lemmo keeps things visible, with the use of a blue tint to add atmosphere. The film looks fine in 4K though some scenes have some scratching on the image. Ultimately it never rises above the obvious, though it’s probably the sort of film that has no doubt gained a cult following over the years. The ending is ambiguous (did they run out of money) and it closes with a silly song – Song of Madman Marz by producer Gary Sales. Is it a long lost classic? Not really, but it is a good solid slasher.

Originally it was going to be based on the New York urban legend of Cropsey – until the filmmakers learned about THE BURNING being made at the same time, so they had rethink. Interestingly, they originally wanted Vincent Price as the titular killer – which I suspect was wishful thinking rather than an actual possibility. The only familiar face in the cast is Gaylen Ross – of DAWN OF THE DEAD fame – though she is credited here as Alexis Dubin.

Steve Kirkham

4 stars
2 x Audio Commentaries: one with writer/director Joe Ginnane, producer Gary Sales and actors Tony Fish and Paul Ehlers, and one with The Hysteria Continues

Introduction with Sales and Ehlers

A good 2022 interview with star Gaylen Ross taken from Vinegar Syndrome release (19 mins)

The Legend Still Lives! Thirty Years of Madman – an exhaustive feature-length archival documentary with Ehlers, Sales, Harriet Bass, Michael Sullivan, Carl Fredericks (Frederick Neumann) and numerous others involved in the film (91 mins)

Madman: Alive at 35 – Sales, Ehlers and star Tom Candela look back at the making of Madman, 35 years after it was filmed and reuniting Ehlers and Candela who haven’t seen each other for years. From Vinegar Syndrome release (21 mins)

The Early Career of Gary Sales – the Madman producer discusses his career in the film industry (14 mins)

Convention interviews with Sales (3 mins) and Ehlers (5 mins)

Music Inspired by Madman – a selection of songs inspired by the movie, including the track ‘Escape From Hellview’ from former CKY frontman Deron Miller. Rather odd extra – but hey fans will be fans

In Memoriam – producer Sales pays tribute to the some of the film’s late cast and crew, including director Giannone and actor Tony Fish (5 mins)

The usual Original theatrical trailer and TV spots

Stills & artwork gallery with commentary by Sales

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin and Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by critic James Oliver, illustrated with original archive stills and posters