Having revolutionised the horror genre with Night of the Living Dead in 1969, it was perhaps inevitable both that Romero would turn to a vampire film and that it would be unlike any other. Although less well-known, Martin remains his greatest achievement...
Martin [John Amplas] is a troubled young man with a craving for blood. He moves to live with his old cousin Cuda [Lincoln Maazel], who feels compelled to house him due to the "family shame". Cuda believes Martin to be an 84-year-old vampire, not the first in their family, while his daughter Christina [Christine Forrest] sees Martin as mentally ill and requiring care.
Romero strikes an existential note through the film, never explaining Martin's condition. The opening sequence shows him break into a woman's train compartment, syringe of sedative clutched in his mouth like surrogate fangs, slicing her wrist with razor blades. This is clearly no supernatural vampire of the old myths, but neither is Martin insane for his murders are meticulously calculated. Cuda addresses Martin as "Nosferatu" and takes on a Van Helsing-esque role as protector, his house filled with garlic and crucifixes, seeming unable to grasp the fact that these have no effect on Martin. "You see? You see!? It isn't magic. Even I know that." explains Martin, biting into a clove of garlic.
Christina (actress Christine Forrest would later become Romero's wife) offers the alternative view that Martin simply requires mental help, and indeed feels that Cuda's actions simply fuel Martin's dillusions, worsening the problem. Martin himself just describes a his condition as a mundane sickness. The shocking portrayals of Martin's attacks heavily contrast the meek and brilliantly underplayed performance from Amplas, leading us to feel such sympathy that we want him to escape. It appears Martin is beginning to change as he separates his sexual desires from blood-drinking through the advances of a lonely housewife. He finds a form of therapy through a talk-show he calls, where he is dubbed "The Count", trying to explain what vampirism is like. The radio delay reverberates around him like a metaphor for his inability to escape his dreams of the past. Ultimately, the urge to feed takes over once more.
The decaying backdrop of an often empty Pittsburgh is a world away from the gothic castles of previous films, although subtle touches of swirling smoke create the same dark atmosphere despite the fact it is the middle of the day as Martin steps off the train. The suggestion of Martin's roots come through black-and-white "memories" of cliche B-movie vampirism, which are brilliantly contrasted with modern-day reality, causing us to wonder whether they are true memories or whether in fact Martin is a product of society's fantasies and the mythic pressures of his family like Cuda. His very contrast with the booming Cuda, "First I will save your soul, then I will destroy you!", shows precisely why he is unable to adjust.
Another interesting element Romero adds is that Martin's attacks, while carefully prepared and despite his cleverness and agility, never run smoothly, always filled with complications and struggles, one escalating into a gun battle between police and drug dealers, an excellently surreal, if somewhat out of place, action sequence. This is very much Romero revelling in the surreality of the subject matter, making an extended cameo appearance as a priest who is far more concerned with social issues than Cuda's idea of vampirism. Special effects master Tom Savini also appears in the film.
Deeply ingrained in Martin is a sense of teenage alienation, the inability of society to deal with such problems and general suburban discontent. Martin remains a lonely figure throughout, from the moment during his first attack when he fumbles to wrap the girl's limp arms around him. Above all the film thrives on ambiguity in the way it is able to portray Martin's character from many angles since it never plans to reveal whether his nature really is as a vampire or simply a deeply troubled human being.
on 3 May 2006
I consider Martin to be one of Romero's greatest films and so was excited when this 2 disc edition came out however, whilst there is nothing wrong with this release, it promises more than it gives.
The picture quality on the feature disc is excellent, very well cleaned up although I'm not sure if the widescreen ratio cuts off some of the original framing (I believe that to be the case). When you consider how low budget the original feature was the image quality they've managed to get is commendable. I noticed an improvement over the previous Arrow Films release, anyway.
Where the package falls down is with the second disc. There is a good recounting documentary featuring key players which is interesting to watch, but this only lasts about 20 minutes. The other extras are theatrical trailers, TV spots, radio spots etc. Basically, my main gripe is that when you advertise something as a 2 disc special edition, you expect the second disc to include more than just some extras that could have easily been included on one disc and that don't really expand on the previous one disc version released a year or two earlier by the same company (apart from the 20 minute documentary). I'm not sure whether the audio commentary on the main feature is new or not, but that too is very interesting to hear for fans of the film.
When push comes to shove, you are buying a fine copy of a fantastic movie with this purchase, just don't expect quite as many bonuses as you would imagine a two disc special to contain.
on 15 October 2010
When young Martin(John Amplas) goes to stay with his elder cousin Tada Cuza(Lincoln Maazel), he is immediately greeted with crosses on the wall, garlic pinned to the bedroom doors and a hiostile rasping cry of 'Nosferatu!' from his cousin. Martin himself believes that he is an 84 year old vampire, but laughs at Cuda's clumsy attempts to test him with the sign of the cross and the sudden unveiling of a mirror. Martin gets a job working at Cuda's delicatessen, but seems uninterested, only coming alive at night. Another cousin, Christina(Christine Forrest) who is staying at Cuda's house, believes Martin to be mentally ill, and balks at Cuda's old time beliefs. One thing is for sure, and that is Martin has a craving for blood, a craving that is never far from the surface.
This superb horror from 1977 does a great job in debunking some of the romantic notions of vampirism, and is one of the first films to show the vampire as suffering from a sexual perversion, with arousal heightened by the letting of blood. Interstingly, 'Martin' owes a lot to the great surreal horror from the early 1930's, Carl Dreyer's 'Vampyr'. This is especially evident during the black and white 'flashbacks'. So it both a film ahead of its time and one grounded in the past, so you could say it represents both the characters of Martin and Cuda, one adapting to the modern world(Martin uses a radio talk show to talk about his affliction), the other unable to break free from the old world of family curses and hackneyed symbolism. It could be argued of course, that Cuda too has been afflicted with the family 'curse'.
One of my favourite scenes is when Cuda, clearly terrified, is pursued through a fog shrouded park by a caped Martin. He hits out in terror as Martin opens his mouth to reveal sharp fangs. Then Martin spits out the false teeth in digust, berating his cousin by saying 'it's only a costume'. That confrontation perfectly illustrates the old world and modern day vampire mythos.
It is a film that is quite tragic in places, shopwing the lack of jobs in Cuda's town, the dull discussions round the breakfast table and also in Martin's loneliness and inability to form any meaningful relationship. In fact, it is when Martin actually finds companionship that things take a turn for the worse, leading to a shocking, abrupt and unforgettable ending to the film. The scenes that show Martin indulging in his blood lust are made all the more shocking, in the restrained context of the rest of the film. Amplas is superb in the title role, as is Maazel as Martin's nemesis.
Some dvd releases claim to be 'Special' and then turn out to be the opposite. This lives up to its billing as a 'Special Edition', with three different versions of the film present, including the Italian version 'Wampyr' that has a great Goblin soundtrack that is also innapropriate for the film it is accompanying. There's also a nice little booklet written by Romero and a poster. 5 out of 5 for the whole package, but it's the film you should be buying this for, as it's both a bit different and also a bit special.
on 9 September 2015
Was this Romero's finest hour? Amplas is superb in the title role (as is Romero himself as the creepy, trendy priest). The pace is first-rate, never rushing to reveal the horrors, keeping up the suspense throughout. There have been few enough great vampire movies - 'Vampyr', 'Noseferatu', possibly 'Brides Of Dracula' - and 'Martin' can be counted up there with them. Imaginative, intelligent, non-exploitative.
I remember reading about it around the time of its release, but have no idea if it ever played in UK cinemas. Thank heaven for DVDs then.
on 26 December 2014
REVIEWED VERSION: Umbrella Australian DVD (Release date unknown)
Director: George A. Romero
Cast: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Tom Savini, George A. Romero, Elyane Nadeau
Production: US 1976
Martin (John Amplas) stalks young women, tranquilizing them with a syringe, then slashing their wrists with a razor blade and drinking their blood... he truly thinks he is a vampire.
He arrives in Pittsburg to stay with his uncle, who promises to save Martin's soul and destroy him...
THE PROS & CONS
MARTIN is a very different vampire movie, and that's what makes it so great. Martin is not a "real" vampire, but he thinks he is. The way this was executed, tranquilizing his victims, them cutting them with a razor blade and drinking their blood, is just brilliant.
The blood is typical light red 70s blood and looks rather fake, but hey, it was a 70s trend, so what do you expect. There are very few explicit scenes, but those scenes are still chilling by today's standards.
John Amplas (who also had a brief role in Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD and played Fisher in DAY OF THE DEAD) is very convincing as Martin, and Lincoln Maazel as Cuda is just brilliant!
George A. Romero did a brilliant job as writer/director on MARTIN, his vision of a "realstic" approach on the vampire myth is just brilliant. MARTIN focuses more on story than on gore effects, but there are a few really gruesome effects, well executed by makeup effects guru Tom Savini, who has a minor role in the film and did the makeup effects for several of Romero's older films.
I never was impressed with Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), but his 70s works (MARTIN, DAWN OF THE DEAD) and his 80s works (DAY OF THE DEAD) have been a mojor improvement. MARTIN certainly can be considered one of Romero's best films, it certainly is a very original film.
A highly recommended 70s classic horror film - not just for Romero fans!
ON A SIDE NOTE
- considered to be George A. Romero's personal favorite of his films
- the original cut of the film ran nearly 2 hours 45 minutes
- the razor blade scene had to be trimmed to avoid an X rating by the MPAA
- George A. Romero originally wanted the entire film to be shot in black and white, but the producers were against it
- Tom Savini did the stunts and special makeup effects in the film
- the Latin exorcism passages read by the priest during Martin's black and white flashbacks are authentic
- British pop duo Soft Cell released a song also titled "Martin" in 1983, which was inspired by the film
- actress Christine Forrest (Christina) later became George Romero's wife in real life
Feature running time: 94:39 mins. (MPAA cuts)
Rating: R (MPAA) / 18 (BBFC)
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 / 16:9
Audio: English 5.1, English 2.0
Extras: Audio Commentary, Trailer (2:42), TV Spot (0:33), Making Martin - A Recounting Featurette (9:31), Trailer Gallery, Photo Gallery
Picture quality: 2/5
Audio quality: 2/5
This is a low-budget film made in the 70s and it shows. Both the visual and audio quality are lacking, at least for this release. There is also several UK releases from Arrow, which probably have a better quality than this release.
There are not many extras on this DVD, but considering the age of the film, I guess it's OK.
on 2 December 2008
I suppose that given the ambiguity in the film - is he, or isn't he? - it's not surprising that the 'two disc special edition' turns out to be misleading.
As another reviewer says, this is one disc (and a DVD-5 at that!) spread over two in order to look better value. Given how little is on the second disc (I make it 12 minutes of actual material) and the fact that the although the commentary on the first is, for some reason, in an uncompressed audio format, it all still fits on a DVD-5 with room to spare, a more honest distributor would have put this on a single disc.
The film is great, the presentation has a whiff of the undead about it.
on 27 September 2003
Martin is a great film.
Easily another of Romero's classic's, it deals with a teenager called Martin who is forced to stay with an eccentric religious uncle, who believes him to be a vampire in a family with a long history of vampiric offspring. Is he really a vampire? or has he just some really messed up dysfunstional sexual desires?
The film centres on Martin and his confused acts of sexual violence, where he seaches out and drugs women in order to drink their blood. Carefully he hand-picks his prey, stalking them like a love-sick-obessive teenager, able to cover up his every act...but soon he falls for a lady in the neighbourhood who makes him desire more than he can handle and threatens his hidden secret.
With black and white dreamlike scenes of Martin living nearly a hundred years before in the same situation, it keeps you wondering if he really has lived a long bloodthirsty life...but the film essentially holds the basic confused teenager theme where the elders think they know better, making this film just a little more than your usual horror flick, and making you wonder till the end.
Either way its a must for fans of George A. Romero and vampire fans alike.
A 1970's budget horror but done in an art style that plays with the genre to tease out vampirism as less than a creed but a type of delusion. Sucking blood from people arises from a sense of complete alienated autism from the world. The young boy, Martin who makes up the tale is locked within his own mental state.
To satiate his perception of the world he feeds on blood, not before drugging his victims and then slitting their wrists. Socialised into the role by his elder cousin he tries to break out of his prison leading to the grand finale.
The film is anything but cliched as Romero goes out of his way to debunk every stereotype about vampires. It is less about horror and more about psychology and therefore only those of a certain disposition should watch.
Thrill junkies should avoid it, it deals with themes not excitation.
on 18 May 2015
Martin is a young man, however he says he is 84, he is also someone who kills people and drinks their blood, but after moving in with his elder cousin he tries to subdue his blood cravings.
Director George Romero's favourite of his own films is an interesting low budget modern day vampire movie. John Amplas stars as Martin and is frankly excellent, the unknown Amplas creates a character that is both likeable and horrific at the same time, it really is a wonderful performance, the rest of the cast are fine but no more than that, although Lincoln Maazel does stand out as cousin Cuda with a memorable scene. Romero directs the violent sequences expertly, he creates a fair bit of sustained suspense in the scenes and they do come over very well and the climax is a class above almost all of its vampire contemporary's. What didn't work so well for me though was its pacing, some of the set up scenes and the scenes in between the gore went on just a bit to long and my interest did start to wane very slightly. The modern day setting works for it and adds another layer of tension to an all ready creepy atmosphere.
Certainly one of Romero's better films though definitely not his best, its a chilling little bloody tale that'll keep fans of old school horror satisfied, more modern horror fans may not be as engaged as it doesn't have the usual stupid over the top gore, no story & lifeless characters. Unsurprisingly it found itself on the DPP's Section 3 nasty list, the blood lust clearly too much for them.
on 24 April 2005
Romero is the ultimate home movie maker of camp horror - and I mean that as a compliment because I think he is also a great movie maker. "Martin" is classic Romero, a totally fascinating movie poetically intercutting past and present to highlight the thematic conflict between old traditional beliefs and late 20th century western empiricism. And of course it has some of the usual Romero gore used to ironic ("I'm always very careful with needles." says Martin to victim in the film's brilliant opening sequence)effect as well as evoking an eery melancholy. The black and white flashbacks to a long gone past are almost like something out of Cocteau.