Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans

MARTIN *****


Directed by George A. Romero.
Starring John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Elyane Nadeau, Tom Savini, Christine Forrest.
USA 1976 95 minutes Certificate: 18.

Released by Second Sight in Limited Edition 4K UHD / Blu-ray Box set & Standard Edition 4K UHD
Standard Edition Blu-ray on Marcy 27th 2023.



“There isn’t any magic”. The title positions it in the pantheon of post-PSYCHO American horror about lonely, disturbed young men, a la WILLARD. The romanticised, candelabra-laden monochrome interludes reference the outmoded brand of Gothic horror it subverts. And the opening train assault suggests another rough, post-LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT exploitation movie toying with our paranoia about public transport, junkies and sexual violence: John Amplas’ eponymous character uses a hypodermic needle and razorblade to knock out (and drink from) a young, stripped woman in her train car. Working with Tom Savini for the first time and knowing the impact of razors slicing through flesh (c.f. UN CHIEN ANDALOU and NEW YORK RIPPER), George Romero startles us from the get-go.

Martin is swiftly humanised from the (apologetic) predatory deviant of the prologue. A long-maintained “family curse” casts a shadow over his socially awkward existence in a rundown industrial town long past its best. Elderly cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) insists Martin is an 84 year old “Nosferatu” from a long family history of vampires – and promises to both save his soul and destroy him. Cuda’s granddaughter (Romero’s future wife Christine Forrest) dismisses the “bullshit” and strives to help the young man who, regardless, is compelled to drink blood from strangers while not living by the usual “vampire” rules of literature and cinema.


Amplas’ authentic, empathetic portrayal of this complex character, and Maazel’s imposing self-styled Van Helsing sell the conceit, though the supporting cast excels. Elyane Nadeau is poignant as the insecure, unhappy housewife with whom Martin bonds: somewhere between a maternal figure and an unlikely lover, she observes he reminds her of an old cat she once had (indeed, there is something cat-like about Amplas’ performance). Romero himself is great fun as a wine-quaffing priest guffawing at the notion of “demons” and, in his affection for THE EXORCIST, reflecting MARTIN’s overarching self-awareness: the ultimately tragic character study runs parallel with a vigorous debunking of earlier genre portraits of bloodsuckers.


Romero’s editing skills and Savini’s nascent FX talents are highlighted in an intense home invasion and a bloody shootout that plays like a preview of Dawn of the Dead’s action set pieces. The wide-ranging social commentary extends to Martin’s regular calls to an all-night radio show as “The Count”, offering further observations on the alienation of modern life that pay off with the very last line. A mist-enshrouded playground sequence ranks among the creepiest things in any Romero film – and, like MARTIN as a whole, swiftly undergoes a bold but seamless tonal shift.


Second Sight’s new 4K master brings visual lustre, vivid colours and detail to a hitherto washed-out looking picture. It endures as one of its director’s greatest achievements – as ahead of its time as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and offering a witty, moving depiction of relatable characters stuck in toxic relationships, familial or otherwise. The bitterly ironic conclusion is as powerful as Ben’s final stand in Romero’s iconic debut.


Extras - The limited edition includes Donald Rubinstein’s evocative soundtrack, a 108-page book of essays and 5 collectors’ art cards; all editions are adorned with a fabulous array of extra features. Two archival audio commentaries feature Romero, Amplas and Savini while two new chat-tracks showcase Travis Crawford and Kat Ellinger. The highlight is “Taste the Blood of Martin”, a new 70 minute documentary eking out fascinating, amusing insights from all the surviving key players and incorporating a location tour.


Steven West.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans