Plot: What’s it about?
The legend of Madman Marz is well known, but on this last night of summer camp, the tale is told once again around the fire. The name means little to them before the story is told, but by the time all is said and done, they will never be able to forget Madman Marz. The legend tells of Marz, a farmer who simply snapped one day and brutally killed his entire family, then vanished into the woods and was never seen again. Now most people think he died out in the timbers or just moved on, but some folks believe he still lurks in the woods and he could return to kill once again. But as long as his name is said softer than a whisper, he is unable to hear the speaker and remains hidden in the eerie trees and brush. If someone calls his name louder than a whisper however, Madman Marz hears them and soon enough, he will come to hunt them down. This sounds like horsefeathers to the campers, but when one of them begins to yell the killer’s name, strange things begin to happen and bodies start to turn up…
I know Madman is an unoriginal slasher movie, but do you think I care? Of course not, as it offers a lot of fun and some eerie moments, which is what we expect from a solid slasher flick. So what if the storyline is rehashed, as long as the elements we love are present and some new stuff is tucked in there, it will all be good in the end. I won’t claim Madman is the finest slasher picture in the game, but it is one of my personal favorites and one I can watch all the time. The new twists and turn work well enough, which means it does stand out from other slasher flicks, at least to a certain degree. I’ve seen some terrible slasher clones in my time and Madman is not one of them, so don’t expect a low rent stinker here. I admit it was a low budget picture that lifted a premise from other films, but that happens all the time and as such, I can recommend this movie without hesitation. If you’re a fan of slasher movies and want another good one to check out, then Madman would make a terrific rental or purchase.
As I mentioned above, this is a low budget slasher movie and as such, I don’t think you’d watch Madman to see gifted performers. The acting is decent on the slasher scale, but in terms of normal cinema, these folks can’t hold a candle to much of anyone, aside from maybe Chris Klein. But the screams are well done, the fear seems real enough, and the jerks seem like jerks, which is enough in the realm of slasher flicks. Some of these workers went on to other projects, but for most of them, Madman was the start and finish of their careers. Even so, I think all those involved should take pride in their work here, as Madman has become a real cornerstone of the slasher subgenre, which makes it nothing to sniff at. The cast of Madman includes Paul Ehlers, Tony Fish, Gaylen Ross (Creepshow, Dawn of the Dead), Harriet Bass (An Empty Bed), Jan Claire, Seth Jones (White Hot, Big Night), and Alex Murphy.
Video: How does it look?
Madman is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. I am unsure why an anamorphic option wasn’t included, but this image is still better than previous releases even as is. I do think it could have looked a little better with the added resolution, but enough with my whines, let’s check out the visual treatment. As I said, I think this is the best the film has looked on home video, but some flaws still surface and spoil some of the fun. The darker scenes often seem very grainy and not well defined, which can obscure some detail level and we don’t like that business. But I do think this edition uses better contrast than the previous releases, so all is not lost for fans of the film. Some darker scenes actually look good and on the whole, the lighter sequences look terrific in this presentation. Don’t be fooled by the score however, as this is the best home video edition of Madman, even if not up to the usual standards of our beloved format.
Audio: How does it sound?
The mono track included here has some problems, but manages to be on task most of the time. The volume balance seems a little off at times though, as the music tends to overpower the other elements, which isn’t good. But the sound effects come across well enough, save for the lack of range allowed by the mono format. I was let down a little by the dialogue, which wasn’t as crisp and distinct as I had hoped. But when you consider the film’s low budget origins, I suppose this track isn’t too bad, though a new remix would have been welcome.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc houses the film’s theatrical trailer and five television spots, but the best bonus is still to come. Once again, Anchor Bay has recorded a commentary track for a slasher film and as usual, it is well worth a listen. The track features director Joe Giannone, producer Gary Sales, and performers Tony Fish (T.P.) and Paul Ehlers (Madman), all of whom have a lot to discuss in terms of the picture. The topics range from how the film was financed to where it was shot to some humorous anecdotes and all things in between, everything you could want to know about Madman is here. I commend Anchor Bay for giving this movie a commentary track, as fans will love it and I think other studios would overlooked the chance.