Martin (1978 film)
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Martin (also known internationally as Wampyr) is a 1978 American psychological horror drama film written and directed by George A. Romero, and starring John Amplas. Its plot follows a troubled young man who believes himself to be a vampire. Shot in 1977, Martin was Romero's fifth feature film and followed The Crazies (1973).
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George A. Romero|
|Produced by||Richard P. Rubinstein|
|Written by||George A. Romero|
|Music by||Donald Rubinstein|
|Edited by||George A. Romero|
|Distributed by||Libra Films International|
165 minutes (original cut)
Romero claimed that Martin was the favorite of all his films. The film is also notable as the first collaboration between George Romero and special effects artist Tom Savini. While a prosecution for obscenity did not result, the film was seized and confiscated in the UK under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the video nasty panic.
As the film opens, a young man, travelling on an overnight train from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, sedates a young woman with a syringe full of narcotics, slices her wrist with a razor blade, and drinks her blood. The next morning, he is met at the Pittsburgh train station by a mysterious man in white who escorts him away, whereupon the pair board a local train destined for Braddock, Pennsylvania. The young man, named Martin, has romantic monochrome visions of vampiric seductions and torch-lit mobs, but it is impossible to tell if these visions are real or imagined. The man in white is Martin's elderly grand-uncle, Tateh Cuda. Due to the death of Martin's immediate family in Indianapolis, Cuda has reluctantly agreed to give Martin room and board, sharing the house with him and his cousin Christine.
Cuda is a Lithuanian Catholic who treats Martin like an Old World vampire. He forbids his nephew from speaking to Christine and tries unsuccessfully to repel him with traditional methods: strings of garlic and holy objects like a crucifix and blessed statues. Martin mocks these attempts and says bitterly, "There's no real magic...ever." Martin also says forcefully to Cuda that he is a family member, not someone to be treated like a "Nosferatu". Cuda warns that if Martin murders anyone in Braddock, he will stake him through the heart. While making deliveries for Cuda's butcher shop, Martin meets several local women, most distinctly the lonely housewife Mrs. Santini. He runs from her attempts at seducing him but, curious, later returns to her. He seeks advice on women from a radio disc jockey, who calls him "the Count", and Martin tries to set the record straight about vampires, saying there is no "magic stuff". The DJ realizes that his listeners consider Martin to be a hit.
Eventually overpowered by his thirst, Martin sneaks out to Pittsburgh and targets a woman that he sees at a local market. Believing her to be alone while her husband is away on business, he breaks into her house, only to discover her in bed with a lover. Martin feeds on the man, then drugs and rapes the woman. Back in Braddock, Martin eventually gives in to what he calls the "sexy stuff" and begins a full-fledged affair with Mrs. Santini, losing interest in other women as victims to feed his hunger. Christine, frustrated by her disagreements with Cuda, as well as her unhappy relationship with her boyfriend, moves out of the house. On a feeding binge in the city, in which Martin targets two derelicts for the first time, he narrowly escapes the police. Safely back at home, he visits Mrs. Santini, only to find that she has committed suicide. Cuda, believing Martin to be the culprit, stakes him through the heart and buries him in the backyard.
As the credits roll, radio callers can be heard asking what has happened to "the Count". The final shot shows Tateh Cuda in his garden, placing a crucifix on Martin's fresh grave.
- John Amplas as Martin Mathias
- Lincoln Maazel as Tateh Cuda
- Christine Forrest as Christina
- Elayne Nadeau as Abbie Santini
- Tom Savini as Arthur
- Sara Venable as housewife victim
- Fran Middleton as train victim
- Roger Caine as Lewis (as Al Levitsky)
- George A. Romero as Father Howard
- J. Clifford Forrest Jr. as Father Zulemus
- Tony Buba as drug dealer shot by police
- Pasquale Buba as drug dealer shot by police
- Clayton McKinnon as drug dealer shot by police
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Romero wrote the script for Martin based on literary monsters and their orientation in culture; discussing it, he said:
Martin is designed to that all those supernatural monsters that are part of our literary tradition are, in essence, expurgations of ourselves. They are beasts we've created in order to exorcise the monster from within us...I tried to show in Martin that you can't just slice off this evil part of ourselves and throw it away. It's a permanent part of us, and we'd better try and understand it.
The film was shot on a budget of around $250,000 filmed entirely on location, and many of the supporting cast members were friends and family of the filmmakers. It was filmed in the Pittsburgh suburb of Braddock, Pennsylvania during the summer of 1976. Producer Rubinstein acknowledges that where he indicated a budget of $250,000, the actual budget was only $100,000, but he did not want anyone thinking that they could just commission a film for $100,000, so he inflated the figure to what he estimated would be a reasonable, independent budgeted amount. [Paul R. Gagne, "The Zombies that Ate Pittsburgh", 1987]
The original cut of the film ran approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. Romero, who shot the film on color film stock, had initially wanted the film to be black-and-white, and disputed with producer Richard Rubinstein over the matter. Romero stated that, to his knowledge, no copies of a full black-and-white cut exist. The final version of the film as it was released is in color, with only Martin's fantasy and dream sequences presented in black-and-white.
Martin was screened at the Cannes film market in 1977 in hopes of securing a distributor. Libra Films International purchased distribution rights to the picture, initially giving it a limited release in the United States on May 10, 1978 around the Washington, D.C. area.
Similar to Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Martin was edited for the European market by Dario Argento and released in 1978 under the title of Wampyr. Its score was performed by the band Goblin. Wampyr is now only available in an Italian-dubbed version.
In the United States, the film received a DVD release by Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film was re-released on DVD on November 9, 2004 by Lionsgate. In the United Kingdom, it was released by Arrow Video in a two-disc DVD set on June 28, 2010.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Martin holds an approval rating of 90%, based on 30 reviews, and an average rating of 7.61/10. It's consensus reads, "George A. Romero's contribution to vampire lore contains the expected gore and social satire -- but it's also surprisingly thoughtful, and boasts a whopper of a final act." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "generally positive reviews".
A review published by The Austin Chronicle noted: "Martin is relentlessly downbeat and has a molasses pace, but is nonetheless worthwhile to watch if you're in the mood for an uncomfortable, depressing Romero-style take on the vampire legend."
Variety staff wrote: "Pittsburgh-based auteur George A. Romero is still limited by apparently low budgets. But he has inserted some sepia-toned flashback scenes of Martin in Rumania that are extraordinarily evocative, and his direction of the victimization scenes shows a definite flair for suspense." Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader called the film "quasi-comic", and added that it "remains his artiest effort, and in some respects his most accomplished work." Robert Sellers of the Radio Times awarded the film four out of five stars, calling it "a neglected minor masterpiece", and praised the film's intelligent story, atmosphere, and humor. TV Guide gave the film four out of five stars, calling it "a shocking, thoughtful reworking of the vampire myth"
The film was not without its detractors. Judith Martin of The Washington Post criticized the film's depiction of violence as well as the critical assessments regarding the film's underlying themes (such as alienation and satire of the literary vampire), writing: "Martin is pretentious in a way that pornography is when it is dressed up for people who don't want to admit to their taste. We're not really coming for that, it seems to say; that is just there because it is an integral part of the story."
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In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who had worked within the horror genre. They were asked to vote for their top horror films. Martin placed at number 87 on their top 100 list.
British synth pop/avant-garde band Soft Cell wrote a 10:16 song entitled "Martin" inspired by this film. Only available as a 12" single bundled with initial copies of their 1983 album, The Art of Falling Apart, it was included as a bonus track when the album was released on CD.
- Romero 2011, p. 60.
- Romero 2011, p. 78.
- Martin - George A. Romero Film Movie Review
- www.Vampire-World.com - Filmreviews: "Martin", George A. Romero, 1977
- "Martin". American Film Institute. Catalog. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- RETE 4, 02.15: Wampyr | L'occhio critico Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
- Walker, David (November 28, 2004). "Martin". DVD Talk. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- Donald Rubinstein - George A. Romero's Martin (CD, Album, sou)
- "Martin (1978) – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
- "Martin Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
- "Scanlines: Martin". The Austin Chronicle. December 19, 1997. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
- "Martin". Variety. December 31, 1977. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Martin". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on December 10, 2017. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- Sellers, Robert. "Martin". Radio Times. Archived from the original on December 5, 2017. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- "Martin - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV Guide.com. TV Guide Staff. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
- Martin, Judith (May 12, 1978). "Four Excuses in Search of Some Gore". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
- Making The Art of Falling Apart by Mike Thorne Archived November 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine