By Ray Schwetz
Anchor Bay Entertainment, Commentary, Trailer.
Between the classic "Night of the Living Dead" and its equally classic sequel "Dawn of the Dead," director George Romero made a few experimental horror films including: "Season of the Witch" (no, not the third "Halloween" film), "The Crazies," and "Martin."
Martin is the film, of these three, that stands out to me. Not that it's a particularly great film, it's not, but rather that it's the most interesting thematically. The film is centered on a disturbed young man who believes he's a vampire. He goes on systematic killing sprees, selecting different women and drinking their blood. Is Martin a vampire or isn't he? Romero purposely keeps the story ambiguous. It can be interpreted either way.
I find the film interesting as a study of a person with an identity crisis. It seems obvious to me that Martin does not fit in, so he creates this vampire persona to have purpose. He romanticizes his various encounters with his prey. He sees the murders he commits as black and white montages of vampire seduction, reminiscent of the Universal Studios classics, rather than as the ugly and violent confrontations that they are.
There are other interpretations one can make of this film, but this is the theme that struck me. Thanks to Tom Savini's expert effects, the murder sequences are very realistic and disturbing. John Amplas is excellent in his key role as Martin. Amplas can also be seen in John Russo's "Midnight."
Anchor Bay rules. "Martin" looks like it was filmed yesterday. The clarity of the picture on this DVD, keeping in mind the low budget source material, is astounding. There is some noticeable grain and compression artifacting, but I'm fairly confident this is the best "Martin" will ever look. Romero claims, on the commentary track, that the film was transferred from a 16mm original, and that this full frame version is correct in its aspect ratio. A matte would simply mask off visual information. The colors seem washed out, but that may be intentional, as it gives the film a documentary quality.
The audio is digital mono. It does the job. There isn't much that a 5.1 remix would do for this film, as its primary power is its visuals. Dialogue and score can be heard clearly.
Supplements include a trailer and a commentary by Romero, Amplas, and Savini. The commentary is not groundbreaking, but it is highly entertaining. There's a lot of reminiscing by all three. Savini proves the most adept at conveying the more technical information. The trailer is in decent shape. It's nice to see it included.
Romero is capable of great things. "Martin" is not Romero's best film, but it does hint at great things to come. Personally, I prefer the "Dead" trilogy, "Creepshow," and "The Dark Half." Vampire film fans will definitely enjoy this unique take on vampire lore. Romero and "Martin" fans are also sure to enjoy.