Today marks one of the most anticipated release dates for Slasher fans, the debut of the new Madman DVD/Blu-ray special edition by Vinegar Syndrome. Not only are we getting a brand new transfer sourced from a new 4K scan, but all the previous extras are being ported over as well with a few new ones to sweeten the pot for those still holding on to their Code Red DVD release.
Produced in 1980 to cash in on the success of Friday the 13th, Madman is your by the numbers body count film as the counselors at the North Sea Cottages camp for gifted children, are hunted down one by one by the axe wielding maniac. In the beginning minutes of the film we are told the story of Madman Marz, a scarred farmer responsible for murdering his family who was hung for his crimes. When the town’s people went to cut him down the next day his body and the corpses of his family were missing. The legend says that if you say his name above a whisper near the woods by his home you will summon the Madman to kill again. Of course one of the camp counselors decides to test this out by yelling his name summoning the monster, who then relentlessly hunts them down one by one for the remaining 90 minutes of this very underrated gem.
Madman originally used the NY camp legend Cropsey for its antagonist, which the producers had to change at the last minute. While auditioning actors they found out by chance about another film currently in production was using the same legend; the Weinstein’s brothers penned The Burning. The script was quickly re-written and the legend was changed to Madman Marz, creating a new slasher for horror fans to fascinate with for years to come. I have to say honestly even with this change the two films feel vaguely reminiscent of one another.
What Madman lacks in budget, it more than makes up for it in charm and personality, which is a rare commodity among some of the other films produced during the 80s slasher boom. The cast here and their solid performances here is what sells this film, coupled with some inventive kills and fun gore effects proves just why it’s a still fan favorite. Madman was definitely a film I discovered due to word of mouth and while I dug the film in general on my first viewing the ending is what really sold me and made me a die-hard fan.
Needless to say thanks to Vinegar Syndrome this is the best Madman has ever looked. The new 4K transfer sourced from the camera negative really shows off one of the most underrated aspects of Madman, the amazing cinematography. Unlike most genre films that tend to use the day for night cheat, you can tell Madman is completely shot at night and the strong blacks and contrast in the transfer really show this aspect off. The transfer also appears to have fixed the color issue noted with the Code Red transfer and the blue hue is again present. Other than the deep blacks, color and great contrast I have to mention the damage on the print, while some see this as a negative, I personally applaud Vinegar for leaving these reminders along with the grain untouched, that prove this was an actual film print.
As far as releases go, this probably the most comprehensive one we will ever see of this title, combining the extras from the Code Red and Anchor Bay Releases with a few new surprises. Check out the rundown below:
-“The Legend Lives: 30 Years Of MADMAN” 90+ minute documentary featuring many cast members and filming locations. – All movies should have at least one special feature that is this damn good!
-MADMAN Alive At 35 featurette – A reunion of producers and actors as they fondly remember their time spent filming the movie
-Audio commentary with cast and crew
-Audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues!
-New interviews with Paul Ehlers, Gary Sales and Jimmy Steele
-Music inspired by MADMAN
-In Memoriam featurette remembering those we’ve lost since the film was made
-Reversible artwork done by Madman Marz himself, Paul Ehlers!
-DVD Copy of the film
The extras here are the icing on the cake and the fact that not only are all present and accounted for, but a few more have even been added. The Legend Lives: 30 Years Of MADMAN, is definitely my favorite here on the disc since it goes into exhaustive detail on production answering almost any question a fan could possibly ask about the film. The only negative here is the absence of Gaylen Ross (Dawn Of The Dead) who did the film under the name Alexis Dubin, I’ve even read some weird stories about her involvement in the film to the point that everyone was to refer to her as Alexis on set.
Needless to say even with that this is an impressive package and definitely worth picking up. Given Vinegar’s aggressive pricing, it even falls in the sweet spot as a blind buy for fans as well that may have missed this film in one of its previous incarnations. I love Madman and its great to see this weird little slasher get the respect it deserves, which will hopefully encourage more folks to check this great little film out.