Sunday, June 7, 2015

MADMAN (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray) – You’re Never Alone. You’re Mad!

The slasher movie comes in many different packages. Sometimes the killer is a sophisticated maniac, well groomed, gloved and ready to kill all the topless girlies he can find. Others are children who wanted to be pure evil when they grew up because the dressed up as a clown on Halloween and knew how to wield a butcher knife. Still others come from a deeper, urban legend origin and these are by far some of the best. We think of Jason Voorhees first because he has a long running franchise with a catchy title. He has a great mask. He has a substantial kill list. If you watch horror movies regularly, perhaps you’ll then turn to good ol’ Cropsy of The Burning fame. Though his single movie did not make it to the franchise marketing phase, it is well revered and enjoyed by horror fans; the antagonist has some exceptional kills and the effects are done by Tom Savini. The Burning is a great flick, but its popularity sort of became a trend in the backlash against the Friday the 13th series in recent years (if you wanna be a cool kid, you like The Burning and trash Friday the 13th). Then of course there’s Madman which hasn’t necessarily kept up in terms of popularity with the other two. That’s not to say it lacks its supporters; Madman has a devoted fan base; it’s just a smaller fan base. While Madman has seen a DVD release from Code Red, that disc has gone out of print. This is where a company like Vinegar Syndrome thrives to give beautiful new transferred life to a cult classic and provide a smorgasbord of extras.

1981 was a powerhouse year for horror, but for the homicidal maniac running through the woods, it was the best damn year the genre has seen. Friday the 13th Part 2. The Burning. Madman. The killers that killed in the night based on campfire tales so close to our hearts, that they scared the ever-loving shit out of us. There were plenty of great horror movies in 1981 and plenty of slasher movies that have become must-watch releases. While many have the gore, they lack a story. The great ones give us a delicious origin story and of course the campfire is the best place to talk it out. Madman starts with a campfire retelling of the origin of Madman Marz, a murderer who was killed by a group of vigilantes… or maybe not. The film opens with a song written by Gary Sales that feels almost like a sea chanty that regales the cautionary tale that is the founding premise for Madman. It’s a unique and memorable way to begin a movie. You might even put it up there with the Ballad of Harry Warden from My Bloody Valentine. You might say that Madman works so well because it puts together a believable folk story with all the trimmings.

And what of Madman Marz? A gargantuan, brute of a man with giant monster hands, an axe, a banged up face and a lack of vocabulary. I like to think of Madman Marz as the influence for Victor Crowley from Hatchet in appearance (not origin story). He kills violently and the Vinegar Syndrome disc with all its gorgeous grainy goodness depicts vivid red hacks and explosions of flesh pounding through your television screen. It’s a step below a movie like The Prowler in terms of gore ferocity, but it’s ahead of Friday the 13th part 2 and The Burning. Madman Marz isn’t just a living killer; he is a supernatural, cunning force with stalking sense and no room for human error. In that way I almost hesitate to label Madman a true slasher film. It feels more like a monster picture, almost in the same way that Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse feels like a monster picture (but truly isn’t).

The Vinegar Syndrome disc shows the support and love offered to the film by its creators and star in the voluptuous extra menu. There are new interviews with Producer/Co-Creator Gary Sales (the man behind the music), Paul Ehlers (Madman Marz himself) and for the first time, actor Jimmy Steele aka Richie. The round table discussion by this crew is more like a casual conversation between friends than a forced interview to sell a Blu-ray. There’s a 90 minute, full length documentary. Let that sink in. You get the full, awesome movie of Madman and then ANOTHER movie that goes through the creation of this cult classic. There are multiple commentary tracks including one from my favorite commentators, Hysteria Lives! The Producer, Director and Cast do one as well, but after the commentary on Night Train to Terror from Hysteria Lives, I default to that track. There’s a 35 year anniversary featurette, a music inspiration featurette (I adore the music from this picture), TV Spots, Vintage still gallery, reversible cover art with the original artwork (a must for these kind of retro titles) and an In Memorium featurette. You’ll spend more time on the extras than you do with the movie.

This is a Blu-ray/DVD combo, region free and preserved in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It’s scanned in 4k from a 35mm original camera negative. It looks crisp and clear with generous blacks and vivid reds for you blood fiends. The grain structure is truly something to behold. This is typical Vinegar Syndrome where attention to detail matters and they treat it as if it were their own baby. Before this release there was a group who were concerned with color timing issues that could present. I have not noticed any issue in this regard. It’s one of the best Vinegar Syndrome transfers, and I’ve seen them all.

Madman wasn’t a favorite of mine growing up. I gave it a watch in my teens and didn’t really think twice about it. It wasn’t until this viewing that I realized why Madman is so effective, the campfire aspect and the legendary nature of the villain. That’s why I love Friday the 13th. That’s why I grew to love The Burning and why My Bloody Valentine haunted me from my first viewing (way too young). This disc is the perfect reason to revisit Madman. My initial viewing was on VHS, beat up, washed out… it pales in comparison to this offering.

Madman is available from Vinegar Syndrome now. Do not miss out on this. It’s perfect for your pre-campout ritual with your buddies. It truly holds up.


From Vinegar Syndrome:

Years ago, Madman Marz violently murdered his family only to escape into the woods before his execution could be completed. Legend has it that anyone who calls his name above a whisper can summon him back to continue his bloody rampage. But teenage Richie, away at camp, doesn’t believe the old legend and calls his name. As night falls, strange things start happening at camp and soon Madman Marz is back, axe in hand, to finish the killing spree he started decades ago. One of the true classics of 80’s slasher cinema, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents MADMAN on Blu-ray for the first time, newly restored in 4K from the camera negative!
Director: Joe Giannone / 89m / 1981 / Color / 1.85:1

Features Include:

+ Blu-ray/DVD Combo | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR
+ Scanned and restored in 4k from 35mm original camera negative
+ New video interviews with star, Paul “Madman” Ehlers, Producer & co-creator Gary Sales, and for the first time ever, “Richie” actor Jimmy Steele.
+ The Legend Lives: 30 Years of Madman documentary by Victor Bonacore (90mins)
+ Madman: Alive at 35 featurette
+ Commentary track with Producer, Director and Cast.
+ Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues!
+ Music Inspired by Madman featurette
+ In Memoriam featurette
+ Vintage Still Gallery
+ TV Spots
+ Original Theatrical Trailer
+ English SDH Subtitles
+ Reversible cover w/ original artwork (Designed by Madman himself, Paul Ehlers)
+ Plus more!

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