MADMAN (1982)
Director: Joe Giannone
Code Red DVD

When production began on MADMAN in 1980, Joe Giannone and Gary Sales, the film's writers/producers, had no doubt that their original script would translate into the quintessential slasher. Little did they know that Harvey and Bob Weinstein were filming an eerily similar story just a few miles up the road. The thought of another film's crew shooting a story based around the campfire tale of the Cropsy legend never crossed Joe and Gary's mind but that is exactly where they found themselves and to make matters worse, not only did this other crew have more money and better resources, they were already several weeks ahead of them in production. With the similarities in both scripts too obvious to ignore, Joe and Gary halted production for one very long weekend and returned with a rewrite that veered away from the Weinstein’s project, which the brothers would release in 1981 as THE BURNING, and would instead create a whole new legend to terrify camp goers and entertain cult films fans for generations to come.

Gather round children and let me tell you a tale about a brutish and horrifying man known as Madman Marz. Marz was a farmer who lived with his wife and two children in a house on the edge of the woods. Now it was no secret that Marz was an evil man, as it was well known that he beat his wife and abused his children, but no one expected him to snap the way that he did. You see one night, much like tonight, Marz went down to the barn, grabbed his ax and returning to his family home, brutally murdered his wife and children as they slept. Unrepentant of his ghastly act, Marz walked into town and into the local tavern where with his bloody ax still in hand, he ordered himself a beer. Appalled by his brutal act, the town's people banded together and hung Marz from a tree in the woods close to his home, leaving him there to die. They next morning however when they returned to cut his body down, Madman Marz was no where to be found. Many say that he still roams the woods and that if you were ever to speak his name above a whisper, he will hear you, and he will come for you, and he will get you!

A slasher flick made in the early 1980s, MADMAN’s plot is exactly what you would imagine it would be. A small group of young Caucasians are watching over a group of younger Caucasians at a summer camp in the middle of the woods. Despite being warned not to, one of the kids calls out to the Madman to come and get them. Marz of course responds and kills as many white kids as he can get his hands on. Despite its familiar routine, MADMAN actually has quite a lot going for it. It’s shot competently (which is quite a feat given that the picture takes place only at night) the kills are quick and frequent (with Stacy’s (Harriet Bass) road side assistance slaying being the most memorable), and the acting is either over the top or so downright bad that it crosses over into B-movie brilliance. There are several scenes that are utterly ridiculous, such as T.P. (Tony Fish) and Betsy’s (Gaylen Ross of DAWN OF THE DEAD, billed here as Alexis Dubin) hot tub rendezvous where the two love birds do little but slowly circle each other like two potatoes bobbing up and down in a stew, but it’s just such random scenes that make this type of independent outing attractive to cult film fans.

Unlike its slasher brethren, MADMAN is relatively unknown to the general public but the picture has developed quite the devoted cult following since its release on home video. Fans still holding onto their Thorn EMI VHS tapes and out of print Anchor Bay DVDs will find much to enjoy here as Code Red has brought the Madman back to life to celebrate his 30th anniversary with an impressive array of extras, but don’t get rid of those past releases just yet. The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer used for this release was apparently provided courtesy of an HD master that the now defunct Monsters HD commissioned for cable airings. Overall the transfer leans to the soft side, dampening detail. Night scenes however, of which there are many, still hold up rather well. Gone is the blue hue present in Anchor Bay’s 2001 DVD release but other imperfections, such a series of random shots in which it appears that a cat clawed the print, are still present and accounted for. Thankfully, the mono audio track holds up better than its visual counterpart, giving the film's simple but effective electronic score its proper due.

A commentary track featuring writer/director Joe Giannone, Madman Marz himself Paul Ehlers, producer Gary Sales and actor Tony Fish kicks off this release's special features. The track, which has been ported over from the OOP Anchor Bay release is on hand next to the film's original trailer and five brief TV spots. The crowning jewel for this release however, and the reason fans may want to over look any aforementioned technical flaws and invest in the double dip, is a 92-minute documentary on the film, its cast and its most diehard of fans. “The Legend Still Lives: 30 Years of Madman” is an in-depth exploration of MADMAN, packed with interviews of cast and crew, a thorough examination of the film's production, a visit to the original shooting locations and love letters from fans eager to show off their Madman memorabilia. The only subject that the documentary didn't touch on was the character of Bill. I know the credits say that Alex Murphy played the part but I still think that Bill was played by John Oates' younger brother. I kept hoping he would grab a guitar and bust out a rendition of “Private Eyes”. Video quality on the doc varies as does its sounds (keep your remote close as you will be adjusting the volume frequently) but the overall product is a thoroughly enjoyable one that fans will no doubt treasure.

Other extras include a seven-minute montage of vintage photos and images with commentary by Gary Sales as well as a 10-minute featurette on various bands, including CKY, who have immortalized their love for Madman Marz through song. Gary Sales pops up again to ask that you join the Madman Facebook page as well as follow him on twitter as he is currently trying to gain enough interest up to get a 3D remake into production. There is also a brief "in memoriam" page for Joe Giannone and Tony Fish who passed away in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

While the picture's presentation is less than desirable, fans of the film as well as those who can’t afford to pay the high cost that the out of print Anchor Bay release is currently fetching online should find this release more than serviceable and perhaps the only way to enjoy MADMAN at home and relive the bygone days of early 1980s independent horror. (Jason McElreath)