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Madman (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Madman (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 11th, 2022.
    Director: Joe Giannone
    Cast: Gaylen Ross, Tony Fish, Paul Ehlers
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    Madman – Movie Review:

    Directed by the late Joe Giannone (his only directorial offering), Madman begins in true slasher movie fashion as a group of camp counselors at the 'North Sea Cottages' gather around a fire and tell spooky stories. Things intensify when one member of the group, the owner Max (Carl Fredricks), tells the tale of one Madman Marz, a behemoth of a man responsible for a rash of bloody axe murders years back. He was eventually captured and subsequently executed by the townsfolk for his crimes. Or so they thought. Marz made it away alive, his face horribly disfigured by his own axe, and ever since that fateful day those who say his name are cursed by a visit from the man himself!

    So of course, after the story is told, the legend's treacherous pitfall is invoked and when one of the counselors proves so bold as to toss some rocks at the old Marz home, well, all bets are off. Madman Marz is alive and well, and he's got a big old axe to grind with these guys. Oh, and he'll grind that axe, but thankfully not before Gaylen Ross (credited as Alexis Dubin) takes her top off and hops into a hot tub. But yeah, he'll get there. He'll kill a lot of obnoxious people and he'll do it with a fair bit of style at that.

    Yeah, it's another take on the Cropsy legend that was better exploited in The Burning but Madman has its own quirky, low budget charm and it has it in spades. The film takes a little while to get going but that's to its credit. There's a bit of a slow burn thing going on here and because of that once the kills start, the payoff has a bit more power behind it than it would have otherwise. On top of that, we get a nice mix of some fairly strong and effective gore scenes and some twisted black comedy that prove to be two great tastes that taste great together. Once Marz gets to his slashing he proves pretty adapt at it and the movie is all the better for it. This more than makes up for whatever complaints might arise from the film's more deliberate style of pacing.

    Of course, there are also the movie's more bizarre moments. Ross' hot tub scene is a stand out bit. It's completely unnecessary and adds nothing more than some (admittedly welcome) side boob 'hey did I see a nipple???' action to the movie. Given that this is an eighties slasher, nudity is a bit of a requisite, so hats off to the filmmakers for fulfilling that requirement but it's an odd scene given what's going on around our two lovebirds. But a big part of Madman's charm is its odd moments. Things make this movie stand out - the weird opening credits scene, the film's synth-heavy soundtrack, and of course the infamous refrigerator scene (that we won't spoil here) to name only a few. It's not all that scary, it's not all that original - but it's endlessly watchable and plenty entertaining.

    Madman – UHD Review:

    Madman comes to UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p 4k transfer with HDR10 “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative” and framed in its proper 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio. Some print damage shows up throughout, the most obvious being some scratches that appear in the middle of the screen in certain shots (which was present on the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases as well) but by and large this transfer is clean, clear, colorful and very film-like. And for those wondering, yes, the film's trademark blue tint has been restrained. Detail is quite strong here, noticeably improved over the Blu-ray edition with much better depth and shadow detail. Colors look really nice, not too hot or oversaturated and black levels are strong and deep. We get nice flesh tones here as well, and a lot of texture. The film retains its gritty, low budget look but it’s been very nicely cleaned up here, it looks really good.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix on the disc is also very good. There are a few spots here and there that sound less than perfect but these are infrequent and for the most part the audio is crisp and nicely balanced. Dialogue is, outside of one or two spots where things sound a little muddy, always easy to understand and hiss and distortion are never problems. There are no alternate language options but optional subtitles in English are provided (though not identified on the packaging).

    Extras begin with the first of two commentaries. Here we get producer Gary Sales, director Joe Giannone, and actors Paul Ehlers and Tony Fish. This track originally appeared on the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD release (sadly both Giannone and Tony Fish have both passed away since this was recorded) and it's a very active and informative track. New to this Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray disc is a track featuring the commentators from the Hysteria Continues podcast and cohort Johnny Krueg. This track is both humorous and informative, never getting into an MST3K style approach but still bringing a sense of fun to the talk. They cover the history of the film, its ongoing popularity, how it borrows from and simultaneously subverts typical early eighties slasher conventions and quite a bit more.

    The rest of the extras are found on the included Blu-ray disc, starting with I’m Not A Screamer, a brand new interview with leading lady Gaylen Ross that runs for just under twenty minutes. In this piece, Ross talks about her pseudonym used in the credits, how she landed the part in the movie through her friendship with producer Gary Sales, delays that wreaked havoc with the production schedule, filming on location at a camp in Long Island and having to live in the woods during the shoot, why everyone was constantly eating on set, having to basically be nocturnal for the duration of the shoot, getting along with the different cast members even if they didn't socialize that much, not having to do much preparation for the role, her thoughts on the film's ending, shooting the hot tub scene and her thoughts on how the film was received and its substantial cult following. She also talks about working with Romero and what she learned from him.

    Archival featurettes, all carried over from the 2015 Blu-ray release, kick off with the twenty-one minute featurettes Madman: Alive at 35. This is made up of interviews with omnipresent Gary Sales and cast members Tom Candela and Paul Ehlers. Not surprisingly, they talk together about their experiences making the film together, fan response to the film, the picture's sizable cult following and more. The Early Career Of Gary Sales is a fourteen minute piece where the film's producer talks about how he got into the film business, his school years, how he got his start in the film business only to make the move into horror and more.

    Carried over from the previous Code Red DVD release is the ninety-minute feature length documentary, The Legend Still Lives. This is an interesting mix or archival material, newly shot material acquired specifically for this documentary with various hardcore Madman fans from the internet fandom scene and interviews with cast and crew. It's well put together, very comprehensive and quite a lot of fun to watch.

    Vinegar Syndrome have also included a few shorter bits and pieces here - Music Inspired By Madman is a thirteen minute piece in which we explore various musical tributes to the film contributed but some pretty diehard fans of varying degrees of musical aptitude. In Memoriam is a nice six minute piece hosted by Sales that pays tribute to those involved with the film that are no longer with us: Giannone, Fish and Fredericks. We also get two Deadpit Radio interviews, the first a four minute piece with Sales and the second a lengthier five minute piece with Paul Ehlers, both brief but worth listening too, particularly as Ehler's piece talks about the proposed sequel to the movie. There's also a sizable still gallery included here made up of various advertising pieces, home video release art, publicity photos and more, complete with commentary from Gary Sales, which is a nice touch and something that should be done more often for still galleries.

    Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, five TV spots advertising the movie, a one minute optional intro from Sayles, menus and chapter selection.

    As far as the packaging for this release goes, Vinegar Syndrome offers up some reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first six thousand copies purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, a limited edition embossed slipcover designed by The Dude Designs.

    Madman - The Final Word:

    Madman isn't particularly tense or frightening but it is a pretty entertaining slasher that toys around with a lot of the conventions you'd expect it to and quite a few you might not. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but it does what it does well and Vinegar Syndrome's UHD/Blu-ray Combo Pack not only presents the movie in its best looking home video incarnation to date but it comes loaded with some seriously solid supplements as well, highlighted by a new interview with leading lady Gaylen Ross.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Madman Blu-ray screen caps!

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