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Madman is a 1982 American slasher film written and directed by Joe Giannone and starring Gaylen Ross and Paul Ehlers. The plot focuses on an axe-wielding murderer named Madman Marz who, after accidentally summoned by a group of campers during a campfire tale, begins to stalk and murder the young adults.
|Directed by||Joe Giannone|
|Produced by||Gary Sales|
|Written by||Joe Giannone|
|Music by||Stephen Horelick|
|Edited by||Daniel Lowenthall|
|Distributed by||Jensen Farley Pictures|
|Box office||$1.3 million|
Originally based on the upstate New York urban legend of the Cropsey maniac, the film was conceived by Giannone and producer Gary Sales, both first-time feature filmmakers who had met in college. Their initial premise and main antagonist was changed last-minute due to conflicts with The Burning (1981), which featured the Cropsey villain and was in production at the same time.
Madman was released theatrically in January 1982 by Jensen Farley Pictures, and received largely unfavorable reviews from critics. Though not prosecuted for obscenity nor officially listed as a video nasty, the film was seized by police forces in Hampshire, England during the video nasty panic.
A group of senior counselors and campers, T.P., Betsy, Ellie, Dave, Stacy, Bill, and the middle-aged head counselor Max, are gathered around a campfire and tell the legend of Madman Marz, who murdered his wife and children with an axe. He was set to hang, before he mysteriously broke free, escaping into the woods. Max explains that anyone that says his name will awaken him and he will attack that person.
Richie, a cocky teenager, awakens Marz by shouting his name and throws a rock into his old home. Annoyed, Max ends the campfire session sending everyone to their cabins while he goes into town to stock up on supplies. Richie stays behind, and he sees Marz hiding in a tree, and sneakily follows him back to his house. While everyone is inside their cabins, Marz kills Chef Dippy. After the kids have gone to sleep, the rest of the counselors go to the rec room to relax; T.P. and Betsy kiss in a hot tub, unaware that Marz is watching them from outside. Meanwhile, Dave finds out that Richie didn't follow them back, and informs the counselors about this. T.P. searches the woods for Richie, and is hung by Marz with a noose up on a tree. T.P. is killed when Marz pulls down his legs and the noose snaps his neck. Marz later returns to the camp and grabs the axe out of the log.
While Richie tries looking for a way back to camp, Dave ventures out into the woods due to Betsy worrying about T.P.'s disappearance. Dave is decapitated by Marz. Stacy tells Betsy to watch the kids in the meantime, and gets Ellie and Bill back to the camp due to the disappearances. Stacey drives out into the woods and, panicking from discovering Dave's headless body, tries to escape in her car in which stalls.
She opens the car's hood, and Marz stands on top of the car just before he jumps down onto the hood, decapitating Stacy. Later, Ellie finds Madman Marz and screams, prompting Marz to flee and bringing Stacy's body with him. Bill soon arrives and consoles her while they try to head back to the camp using Stacy's car. Marz appears, and drags Bill out of the car to snap his back. Ellie is then chased back to the camp by Marz, and murders her with his axe.
Unable to find a way back, Richie goes back to Marz' house and is horrified when he discovers the corpses of Marz' victims stashed in the basement. Meanwhile, Betsy arms herself with a double-barrel shotgun upon seeing Marz running through camp, and quietly makes her way to the kitchen cabin. Marz then slams an wounded Ellie into a window, and Betsy accidentally shoots her. The gunshots awaken the children, and she tells them to pack up and get on the bus they took to camp to escape.
Marz briefly tries to get into the bus with Betsy, but she wards him off. She tells the bus driver to drive them out of the camp, and she chases after Marz to his home. Inside, Betsy is disarmed and attacked by Marz, who drags her down to the basement and impales her on a coat rack. She pulls out a hunting knife and stabs Marz in the shoulder, causing him to knock over a candle which sets the house on fire, including the bodies of his victims. Marz escapes, however, and disappears off into the woods.
Max drives to the camp, and almost hits a shaken Richie out on the road. He gets out to console him, and Richie tells him that Marz is real.
- Gaylen Ross as Betsy (as Alexis Dubin)
- Tony Fish as T.P.
- Harriet Bass as Stacy
- Seth Jones as Dave
- Jan Claire as Ellie
- Alex Murphy as Bill
- Jimmy Steele as Richie
- Carl Fredericks as Max
- Michael Sullivan as Dippy
- Paul Ehlers as Madman Marz
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In 1979, filmmakers Joe Giannone and Gary Sales, both graduates of Richmond College, were inspired to make a horror film after the commercial successes of recent low-budget horror films. In developing a screenplay, Sales recalled the urban legend of the Cropsey maniac which he had heard as a child, and suggested it as a possible basis for the story. The two devised the working title Madman: The Legend Lives, with Giannone writing the screenplay, while Sales attempted to find an investor to help fund the production. After numerous failed attempts at attracting an investor, producer Sam Marion agreed to help fund the picture.
By 1980, Giannone and Sales had secured enough financing to enter production; it was during this time that the filmmakers became aware of Harvey Weinstein’s The Burning (1981), also featuring the Cropsey maniac. Because the two films resembled each other too much—which would lead to a canceling effect for both projects—Giannone decided to halt production and rewrite the script. The idea of Cropsey was changed to the fictionalized "Madman Marz," a farmer who had massacred his family and lynched by an angry mob, whose presence is claimed to still haunt the woods near his home. With a Frank Sinatra tour entitled Frank Sinatra: The Legend Lives being produced around the same time, the filmmakers also decided to alter the film's name to simply Madman.
An advertisement in Backstage was placed to cast the film, and an open audition was held in which around 300 actors attended. Paul Ehlers, originally an artist designing promotional materials for the film, was offered the role of the villain, Madman Marz, by Giannone. Ehlers had trained in martial arts for many years and so had the requirements to play the killer.
For the role of Max, the middle-aged head counsellor, Giannone and Sales had originally wanted to approach screen legend Vincent Price, but with the movie being non-union, they felt that the actor would decline the offer. Gaylen Ross, who had previously starred in the zombie epic Dawn of the Dead (1978), was cast as the lead heroine, Betsy, and credited under the name Alexis Dubin. The rest of the cast were made up mainly of first-time actors.
During the summer of 1980, the producers had begun location scouting, eventually settling on Fish Cove in Southampton, Long Island, which provided all of the required locations in the script. Principal photography commenced in November 1980 at Fish Cove Inn in Southampton, for what was to be all-night shoots. As the leaves were starting to turn brown and fall from the trees, the production were forced to find as many as possible and paint them green to give the impression that the movie was set in summer. Fish Cove not only provided a large house to film in but also twenty-five cabins that the cast and crew could stay in. As it was out of season, the filmmakers had to hire out the entire camp. For the room and board that the complex offered, the crew was charged only $25 per head, with the staff having to work nights to accommodate for their guests.
The special effects in the film were created with practical methods, some of which were dubious and demanded the scenes being filmed quickly: The opening scene, which sees Max tells the story of Madman Marz around a campfire, actor Tony Fish was given only one night to memorize the song that he sings in an effort to creep out his fellow counsellors, as the prosthetics for Madman Marz were late arriving on set, and the director was forced to rethink his shooting schedule. Other practical effects included dummy heads made of condoms with fake blood, which, when hit with an axe, created the image of a skull being crushed.
On December 8, 1980, towards the end of the shoot, filming was abandoned for one day when news came over the radio that singer John Lennon had been murdered in New York. This senseless act of violence, carried out by an obsessive fan, took the entire nation by surprise and so as a mark of respect, the filming was put on hold for the day.
Original music for Madman was created by Stephen (Steve) Horelick with Gary Sales filling the role as musical director.
Madman remained in distribution limbo through 1981 until being acquired by Jensen Farley Pictures at the end of the year. In January 1982, the film screened in Wilmington, Delaware and Detroit, Michigan. It had its premiere in New York City the following year on January 7, 1983, and in Los Angeles on February 18, 1983. Over the course of the year, became a sleeper hit in the drive-in circuit, and ultimately grossed $1.35 million in the United States.
Linda Gross, of the Los Angeles Times, deemed the screenplay "predictable" and the film "another truly terrible and ludicrous horror movie about a crazy ax murderer lurking around a camp for gifted children." The Journal News referred to it as "the first moronic exploitation movie" of the year, deeming it "the sort of movie that parodies the frustrations of everyday life–the car that won't start when you most need it, the flashlight that refuses to light, the noose that won't untie once it's around your neck." The Baltimore Evening Sun's Lou Cedrone criticized the film's unoriginality, writing: "The butchery is the usual. There are decapitations and open gashes... There isn't a trace of intelligence in it." Bill O'Connor of The Akron Beacon Journal wrote that the film "takes the simple scenario of jump-at-you and plays with it again and again. There is no attempt to add mystery to the plot. We know whodunit." Variety awarded the film a favorable review, deeming it "a well-made, low-budget horror film."
AllMovie called it an "unremarkable slasher film", writing "only genre completists with completely undiscriminating tastes are likely to be frightened or entertained". Scott Weinberg of FEARnet gave the film a negative review, saying that Madman was "better left in the annals of your vague memory." TV Guide gave the film a negative review, complimenting the film's photography, but also stated that the film was "predictable" and "boring" calling it "[a] wholly derivative splatter movie".
Dennis Schwartz from Ozus' World Movie Reviews gave the film a grade D, calling it "Frightfully inept", and criticized the film's acting, execution, pacing, weak story line, and music. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Madman holds a 40% approval rating based on 10 reviews, with an average rating of 3.99/10.
Madman was released on DVD in 2002 by Anchor Bay Entertainment with a non-anamorphic transfer. The film was again released on DVD by Code Red on September 28, 2010. This edition, though anamorphic, and containing numerous bonus materials, boasted an inferior transfer that lacked blue hues present in the original negative. On May 12, 2015 the independent label Vinegar Syndrome issued the film on Blu-ray for the first time, featuring a new 4K restoration from the original negatives.
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- Mortician - Re-Animated Dead Flesh review - Metal Storm
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