Madman (1981)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Alexis Dubin, Tony Fish
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots

I’ve been reading about this movie for years, but I’d never seen it. It certainly sounded good on paper. The film opens with a group of campers sitting around a fire telling scary stories. Max (Carl Fredericks) tells the legend of Madman Marz, a local farmer who supposedly slaughtered his family and disappeared after being hung by a lynch mob. The legend says that if you call Madman Marz’s name in the forest, that he’ll appear and begin killing again.

Of course, smart-ass Richie (Jimmy Steele) jumps up and yells Madman’s name as loud as he can. And, sure enough, Madman Marz comes down from the trees and begins to massacre the campers. From this intriguing beginning, the film turns into the visual equivalent of a bad joke. ’A guy goes into the woods and dies… and then another guy goes into the woods and dies… and then…’

The opening is interesting and the last few minutes offer some excitement, but the majority of the film is suspenseless and boring. For some reason, there are many fans who love ’Madman’, but I found it to be a sub-’Friday the 13th’ clone that offers little more than some (rather tame) gore. One interesting note is that Gaylen Ross of ’Dawn of the Dead’ fame, appears here under the name ’Alexis Dubin.’

’Madman’ arrives on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment, who, as usual, have done a great job of cleaning up an older movie. The film is letterboxed at 1.85:1, but, sadly, is not formatted for 16×9 TVs. The image is clear and sharp, showing only a subtle amount of grain at times. Unfortunately, the digital clarity of this transfer does uncover some flaws in the source print. It’s clear that one roll of film was damaged during production, as several shots has vertical ’scratches’ running through them. It gives the viewer the feeling of being in a movie theater where someone has cut the screen open. There are also some noticeable white spots and scratches. Still, these are minor complaints, given the age and relative obscurity of the film.

The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital Mono track, which provides clear dialogue, but sadly lacks the ambient quality of a surround sound mix. However, this may be a good thing, considering how annoying the ’electronic score’ is.

The ’Madman’ DVD features an audio commentary with writer/director Joe Giannone, writer/producer Gary Sales, and stars Tony Fish and Paul Ehlers. This quartet gives us a spirited conversation throughout the film, offering scene-specific anecdotes and many behind-the-scenes details about how the film was made. The theatrical trailer presented on the DVD is an R-rated ’Red Band’ trailer, and is in a full-frame format. We are also treated to three 30-second TV spots and two 10-second spots.

While I found ’Madman’ very disappointing, it did give me the chance to witness the strangest 4-minute hot-tub love scene ever. Watch as the young lovers go round-and-round, as if trapped in a whirlpool! Bizarre!