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    Ian Jane
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  • Martin

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    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: 6/28/2010
    Director: George A. Romero
    Cast: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, George A. Romero, Tom Savini
    Year: 1977

    T
    he Movie:

    George A. Romero's Martin follows the titular teenager (John Amplas) as he takes the train to head off and live with aging cousin, Tada Cuda (Lincoln Maazel). Before he arrives, he makes his way into a woman's car, drugs her, slits her wrists and sucks the blood from her bleeding arm. Tada meets him at the station and takes him to his home in the small town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Here he meets Tada's granddaughter, Christina (Christine Forest), who is kind to him even if her boyfriend, Arthur (Tom Savini) isn't the nicest guy on the planet.

    As Martin works at Tada's deli, making deliveries in the area, he meets up with a depressed suburban housewife, makes a few calls to a live radio talk show, and has to deal with Tada's obsessive religious behavior and attempts to purge him of the evil he sees inside him.

    Eschewing the splatter of his zombies movies in favor of quiet and contemplative character development, Romero has, with Martin, crafted an intelligent and wholly unique vampire movie the likes of which haven't been seen before or since. Martin's feeding habits may be vampiric in nature, but his worldly actions are not, at least as far as tradition is concerned. His ultra religious cousin hangs garlic on the doors and holds crosses to his face but it's to no avail, they have no effect on him and Martin refuses to 'believe in his magic.' On top of that, Martin (both the movie and the character) lacks the seductive qualities so often seen in vampire films. He doesn't lure his victims in with sexy charm, instead he drugs them and awkwardly tries to drink from them, generally causing an entirely believable panic on the part of his victims as opposed to any sort of sleepy, orgasmic reaction.

    Martin's imagination shows us that he aspires to be a handsome, gothic type able to lure women away to his mansion, and at one point he even dresses up in a Lugosi-esque cape to mess with his cousin, but the film coyly shows the reality of his situation. Martin's actions are more pathetic, even desperate, than they are sexualized or sly and there are aspects of the film that make us question whether Martin is an actual vampire or if he's instead just a deranged young man who believes himself to be a vampire. Martin's worldly vampire makes an interesting contrast to Cuda's old world values and belief system. You almost get the impression that Martin wants to be the monster that his cousin believes he is, if only for awhile and to escape his awkward physical shell and to experience the pleasures of the flesh as someone capable rather than the almost incompetent outsider that he is.

    Thanks to some interesting art direction the low budget film doesn't suffer from the lack of funds that a lot of indy and modestly made pictures do. The small town locations fit the story perfectly while the performances are strong across the board. Both John Amplas and Lincoln Maazel are completely believable in their roles, and the supporting cast is just as good. Look for Romero himself to make a cameo as a priest. This is one of those rare films where the location, a rundown and depressed looking town, really does a great job of reflecting the characters' emotions and in turn enhancing the story. The town and the people that populate it are all just as trouble as Martin, some in very different ways and some in ways that are eerily similar. Ultimately there's a very mature sense of sadness to the film that sets it apart from so many other vampire films. It's a smart and through provoking picture, and a bleak one, but certainly one that's easy to admire and appreciate not only in how it sets about telling its story but in how it plays against genre conventions and stereotypes to remarkably good effect.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Disc One includes both 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33.1 fullframe presentations of the film. Romero has stated he prefers fullframe for this film and the compositions seem to indicate this is the way to watch it as the widescreen version does crop off some heads in a few shots. Shot on 16mm, this has always been a grainy film but as far as print damage goes, there isn't a whole lot to complain about here aside from some minor specks that pop up now and again. The image is soft in spots and the colors are a bit faded at times but otherwise this generally looks pretty decent.

    English language audio options are offered up in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The 5.1 track doesn't sound so hot, really, it's almost timid and at times the dialogue seems a bit low. The 2.0 track sounds more consistent and has better balance and even a bit more punch to it in spots.

    The only extra on the first disc in the set is an audio commentary that gathers together director Romero, actor Tom Savini (who also did the stunts and the make-up effects in the film), director of photography Michael Gornick and the film's composer Donald Rubinstein for a fairly lively discussion of the making of the film. They cover all of the basics here, with Romero having more to say than the other participants. There's a lot of ground covered in the talk, from casting to editing to cinematography and to the film's effects work as well, and the track also explores some of the film's themes and ideas. They also spend a fair bit of time discussing Amplas' performance in the lead and about alternate ideas and bits that didn't make it into the final cut of the picture.

    The second disc includes the alternate Italian version of the film under the title Wampyre. It's quite a bit different than the U.S. cut of the film in that it puts all of the flashback sequences at the beginning of the film so that it all plays out in a much more linear fashion. It's also got a completely different score courtesy of Gobin that adds a very different tone to many of the film's scenes. It's not necessarily a better version of the film than the U.S. cut, but it's impressive in its own right and definitely a very cool curiosity item, particularly if you're a Goblin fan.

    The second disc also includes two featurettes, the first of which is Making Martin: A Recounting, which is just under ten minutes worth of interviews with Romero and a few of the cast members as they look back on the making of the picture. The second featurette is more substantial, it's a twenty plus minute documentary made in Germany on Romero, presented in German with English subtitles. Here it allows Romero to talk about all of the film's he'd made up through Dawn Of The Dead.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, a couple of radio spots, a TV spot, and a theatrical trailer. Both discs include some classy static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    This is an all around solid package for one of Romero's best and most underappreciated efforts. The film holds up well, the transfer is pretty decent, and the extras are outstanding.
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