Romero's Martin on DVD

Monday, 21 June 2010 05:51

Of all of George A Romero’s films, “Martin” is apparently his favourite, even though many people have probably never even heard of it. Made in 1977 on a tiny budget, it is an extremely unorthodox vampire movie; even today, when our TV screens, cinemas and book shops are crammed with blood-sucking tales for all corners of the market, it still feels fresh and unique.

Newcomer John Amplas (“Knightriders”, “Day of the Dead”) excels as the eponymous character, a troubled teenager who moves in with his much older cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) and Cuda’s daughter Christina (Christine Forrest aka Mrs Romero). Cuda, a staunch Catholic, is convinced that Martin has a terrible curse of vampirism passed down the family bloodline, and is determined to cure him and put stop to his activities. Martin has a bizarre addiction or complex that drives his thirst for human blood, which certainly seems to substantiate Cuda’s beliefs.

George A Romero's Martin on DVDHe sates it by stalking pretty women, drugging them by injection and then slitting their wrists with a razor blade so that he can suck their blood. He does not have fangs or display any of the other supernatural traits of a stereotypical vampire, such as having no reflection in mirrors or being unable to go out in the daytime. Martin can withstand his cravings for quite a while before he gets the shakes and his willpower buckles.

The nature of Martin’s affliction means that there is a fair amount of ambiguity over whether or not he genuinely is a vampire. Whilst Cuda is certain of the fact, Christina thinks Martin is simply mentally unstable, and - fearing they could do more harm than good - she tries to dissuade her father from attempting various rituals to exorcise or control Martin’s problem.

Uncertainty about his condition helps us feel pathos towards Maritn; although he preys on people in a most ghastly manner, he does try to resist his urges and is disarmingly gentle in the way he tries to calm his victims. He leads a very pretty tragic, lonely and disfunctional existence. He has no friends of his own age, just a few older acquaintances in the neighbourhood, and being a shy and retiring individual he tends to wander around doing nothing in particular other than a few favours for local people.

Romero’s direction is for the most part efficient and economical, though the film does contain some more exaggerated, fleeting black and white scenes that could be either flashbacks or dreamlike visions experienced by Martin. The constant harassment by his cousin, such as being called “Nosferatu” could be reinforcing Martin’s belief that he is actually a vampire after all.

The realism, ambiguity and seemingly aimless direction of the film generally make it disquieting and quite difficult to get on with. All that changes with the very sudden and shocking ending, an event that brings the message home and imbues the movie with more palpable substance. In an instant it all makes sense, and the viewer is left reeling in horror.

“Martin” comes with some interesting and quirky special features on the second disc. First up is an alternative cut of the movie in Italian with a soundtrack by the band Goblin. Then there is a 10-minute making of, plus a German documentary on Romero. Lastly there are some TV spots, a trailer and a photo gallery. Arrow’s usual bumper packaging bundle includes two reversible sleeves, a double-sided poster, an exclusive collector’s booklet and six poster art postcards.

“Martin” is out now, courtesy of Arrow Films. The running time of the main feature is 91 minutes approx; the two-disc set is certificate ‘18’ and retails for £15.99 or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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