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)