If Bloody Mary were a hairy, barefooted, overall wearing, pitchfork wielding, murderous farmer in the woods, she’d be… Madman Marz!
At a camp for gifted children ghost stories are told around a campfire. When an arrogant camper evokes a legendary killer by calling out his name, the whole population suffers at the bloody hands of Madman Marz! Let’s dig into 1981’s “Madman”, directed by Joe Giannone!
As I See It
Madman is the cream at the top of the Slasher genre glass. From its MIDI sounding opening theme on, there is little to hate. The acting can be rough in all the right ways for an 80’s movie. The killer is kept in the shadows or revealed for a few frames of light that make him seem like an overalls-wearing Yeti. The structure is clear and concise. You know what kind of freshly butchered flesh you’re chewing on.
I was transported back to my youth as a Boy Scout around the campfire.
If you dared to step away to go to the bathroom or grab something from your tent and braved the chill and darkness, there was an air of danger and a looming threat. Only a hundred feet from the fire — but with a forest’s worth of mystery and perceived evil gaining rapidly on your imagination. I couldn’t push the water out quick enough to get back to the warmth and temporary safety of the troop and the flames.
That recall of prepubescent fear is all the nostalgia I needed to be completely endeared with this beautiful slaughter piece.
My one and only gripe, which is a significant one, is the criminally short time allotted for Betsy (Gaylen Ross) to fulfill her final girl destiny. Stacy (Harriet Bass) ate up a chunk of silent screen time as she was stalked by Madman Marz that honestly should have been given to Betsy, who is one of the most bad ass and worthy characters to endure a climatic battle.
A must watch.
Gaylen Ross who plays Betsy is of course Francine from George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). She also starred in the “Something to tide you over” segment of Romero and Stephen King’s Creepshow (1982) before departing acting to birth a successful and poignant documentary film-making career.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Yes, sex and nudity are used in the traditional bridge to truss innocence and condign punishment, but the whole of the film is so tight I find it hard to declare anything out of place….
…besides killing Betsy. She deserved to survive. Gaylen Ross was too good to allow for her character’s demise. Missed opportunity.
Though plentiful with sexually charged counselors, it’s not until Betsy steps into her final girl role with such vigor that I paid attention. Strength and confidence are alluring, even if it ends up costing her dearly.
Ripe for a Remake
Revisiting Madman Marz in more of a sequel approach, the mythical killer still slashing and swinging all these years later, would be the most sensible route.
Though the ending was set up to provide an opening for a sequel, none have materialized.
Where to Watch
Vinegar Syndrome used an original print for a 4K transfer, which preserved some of the original damage to the film stock and adds an intrinsic retro charm. You can also stream it on Tubi or Hoopla.