George A Romero is legendary because of his popular Living Dead horror cycle, but his 1977-released arthouse shocker Martin remains one of my favourites among the director’s films. Too disturbing, bleak and personal to have been a hit at the time of its release, it is now considered a modern horror classic.
John Amplas made his film debut as Martin, a confused teenager who thinks he is an 84-year-old vampire. His grand-uncle Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) – who believes a family curse is responsible for Martin being the reincarnation of the Transylvanian vampire, Nosferatu – only reinforces this. Cuda takes the lad in, but warns Martin that if he tries to harm anyone, he will be destroyed. But Cuda’s old world attempts to rid Martin of his malediction with crosses, garlic and a trip to church merely irritates the boy – who is, in fact, a strictly modern sexual psycho who uses razor blades to drain the blood from his female victims…
The 2010 DVD release from Arrow Video is a dream come true to fans like me as it also includes the Italian-version of the film, Wampyr, a totally-different edit which excels because of the heart-pounding soundtrack by Goblin – the wizards behind many of director Dario Argento’s horror film scores. The English-language version begins with a ferocious account of Martin’s bloodlust in a railway compartment, but this happens mid-way in the Italian version, where the Goblin score makes this scene a standout. Also memorable is a scene set in a swish modernist house where Martin plays cat and mouse with his victims. Martin is certainly tough and ready around the edges, but Romero’s inventive hand-held camerawork, naturalistic lighting and creative editing gives the film a gritty, experimental look, which is quite an achievement considering its low budget.
A true original, Martin was amongt the first features to present the vampire as a supernatural being trying to exist among humans in the modern world (with all the human problems that comes with it like finding love, a job and acceptance). If you think about it, today’s teen-friendly supernatural TV shows just wouldn’t exist without the likes of Martin. It was also one of the first to equate the vampire’s blood thirst with addiction. Something that maverick director Bill Gunn explored in his 1973 indie African-American horror Ganja & Hess, which gets a UK dual format release this month from Eureka! Entertainment.
The special features included in the Arrow UK DVD release also include the documentary Making Martin: A Recounting, TV and radio spots, theatrical trailer, photo gallery, four sleeve art options, double-sided poster, collector’s booklet, and six original poster art postcards. What more could a fan ask for?
Martin is released by Arrow Video in the UK (click here for more info on Amazon)
This 1982 horror anthology, based on the classic EC Comics, was a big hit for director George A Romero, who’s best known for his visceral Living Dead franchise. Using animated comic strip opening and closing credits, Romero sets out to make audiences scream, cringe and shiver with five ghoulish tales penned by Stephen King.
In Father’s Day, a controlling patriarch (Martin‘s John Amplas) returns from the grave to claim his birthday cake from his horrid kin (Viveca Lindfors and Carrie Nye); The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill concerns a backwoods farmer (Stephen King) turning into a fungus after breaking open a meteorite; Something to Tide You Over finds a jealous husband (Leslie Neilsen) burying his wife (Dawn of the Dead’s Gaylen Ross) and her lover (Ted Danson) up to their necks on a beach; College professor (Hal Holbrook) gets rid of his embarrassing wife (Adrienne Barbeau) when his ‘friend’ (Fritz Weaver) discovers the living contents of The Crate; and They’re Creeping Up On You sees a ruthless tycoon (EG Marshall), who treats people like vermin, get overrun by cockroaches.
The fun in watching Creepshow isn’t in the ‘surprise’ endings, but in the crazy performances of the guest actors; the way in which Romero evokes the look and feel of the original comics; and the super special effects, especially The Crate‘s Fluffy (as the creature is affectionately known). It’s a curious mix of black humour and real fright, but well worthy of a Halloween revisit, especially now its been given HD makeover.
The Second Sight (Region B) Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with George A Romero and special effects creator Tom Savini; the feature-length Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow; a 26-minute featurette with Tom Savini; deleted scenes; trailer, TV spot and stills gallery.
It’s a must see every Halloween.