The Film (5/5)
At the conclusion of camping season for gifted children at North Sea Cottages, everyone is gathered around the campfire singing songs and telling stories. Head counselor Max tells the story of a beast of a man farmer that went crazy and killed his family. It took ten men to capture him and hang him but by morning when they went to cut him down, he had disappeared along with the bodies of his children and wife. Since that time no one dared say his name above a whisper in the woods: Madman Marz. That is until tonight when smart aleck kid Richie screams his name and throws a rock through the window of the Marz house. Naturally Madman Marz doesn't take too kindly to this.
Richie spots a dark shadow resembling a man in the trees and wanders off to the Marz house to explore while the rest of the counselors and campers head back to the cottages. Max goes into town and after discovering Richie's absence, T.P. (Tony Fish) goes back into the woods to find him. When T.P. doesn't return counselor Dave goes after him. When Dave doesn't return...you get the point. Madman Marz has come back and he's out for blood.
Madman was shot in 1980 around the same time as The Burning and Friday The 13th Part 2, with Madman and The Burning at least being loose adaptations of the Cropsey legend from New York. Madman which wasn't released until 1982 when the slasher craze was already starting to cool down actually bests the other two in terms of atmosphere. (Personally I'm not much of a The Burning fan. Friday The 13th Part 2, however, I LOVE. So for me to say Madman is more atmospheric is really saying something.) The film oozes atmosphere from the shadowy shots of Marz himself to the blue tinted hues that that the film is famous for. The stalking scenes are suspenseful, the kills are good, and the gore is palpable. It's also fairly unique in that it's set in the fall close to Thanksgiving.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the scenes between the adult staff. Betsy (Gaylen Ross from Dawn Of The Dead, credited here as Alexis Dubin; she isn't fooling anyone) and T.P. have a tumultuous, on again/off again relationship that culminates in a very odd hot tub scene where they slowly chase one another around the hot tub in a circle while the soundtrack plays a song performed by (T. P.) Tony Fish himself. While the scene is indeed ridiculous it's also endearing in a way and sticks with you. In slasher circles it's often one of the first things fans mention. There's also T.P.'s belt buckle which is giant and emblazoned with the initials: T.P. So we the viewers (and T.P. himself perhaps) never forget.
I find it interesting that Madman mostly concentrates on the adult side of the camp rather than the children. But in a way after Max leaves for town the remaining adults act as teenagers might with the authority figure absent. They get stoned, have sex and argue amongst themselves and then mostly one by one wander into the woods to meet their doom. Without Max's smooth hand at the helm, no one really takes charge until it's too late. Madman concludes with a not unheard of but somewhat rare downbeat ending, one that lingers on after the credits roll.
Madman has been previously released on DVD twice. Anchor Bay released it in 2002, a nice for the time, but nonanamorphic video presentation with correct color timing. It was also released in 2009 by Code Red in a 30th Anniversary dvd that was anamorphic but featured incorrect color timing. Vinegar Syndrome has removed both sets of issues and presented Madman in a great anamorphic and correctly color timed 1080p MPEG 4 AVC widescreen transfer taken from a 4K restoration of the film negative. The film's blue tint is back, blacks are solid and the picture is as sharp as I've ever seen it. There are still some vertical scratches in a couple of spots but that appears to be original film damage as they appear in both the Anchor Bay and Code Red releases.
Audio is presented in a DTS HD English audio track that showcases Stephen Horelick's excellent, thumping electronic score but never overpowers the crisp, clear dialogue. English subtitles are also included.
Vinegar Syndrome gives us an audio commentary from director Joe Giannone, actors Paul Ehlers and Tony Fish, and producer Gary Sales along with an audio commentary from slasher film podcast luminaries The Hysteria Continues! Also included: documentaries The Legend Lives: 30 Years Of Madman, Madman: Alive At 35, new interviews with cast and crew, a still gallery, theatrical trailer, music inspired by the film, tv spots, In Memoriam featurettes and a reversible cover by Madman Marz himself, Paul Ehlers! Vinegar Syndrome knocked the extras out of the park.
Vinegar Syndrome has released the slasher restoration of the year with Madman. Correcting issues from previous releases Vinegar Syndrome has done slasher fans a great service by releasing the definitive Madman on bluray. Combining a fantastic picture with lots of extras and a dvd copy to boot, the Vinegar Syndrome bluray is a MUST own for slasher fans. Madman has always been a favorite of mine and I'm very excited to own this.