Thursday, 21 May 2015

May Sucks: Martin (1977)

Martin (1977)
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, and  Christine Forrest
Running Time: 95 min

  This is a lesser known film by George A. Romero (There's Always Vanilla, Bruiser) but in my opinion, this is truly one of his best works.  Now I haven't seen it in years, so maybe it really doesn't hold up that well by todays' standards but I'm willing to dig through my boxes of VHS tapes to find out if this really an underrated masterpiece or a Romero flop. C'mon masterpiece!

  A young looking man named Martin is traveling by train to Pittsburgh and on his way he gets a bit peckish, so he gets his needle kit ready and during the night, he breaks into a young womans' room on the train.  Fortunately, to Martins' surprise she is in the shower and so this gives him time to hide in the shadows until she comes out.  She does and Martin pounces on her and injects her with his needle.  Then they struggle until the drugs kick in and the whole time Martin tells her that he wants her to just go to sleep and he's not going to hurt her.  Once she is passed out, Martin takes off his clothing and caresses the defenseless woman and pulls her naked torso on top of him.  He pull out a razor, slits her wrist and drinks her warm blood.  When he's done, he washes up, gets dressed and makes this death look like a suicide.  He then leaves his poor victims compartment and heads back to his own to sleep the night away.
  The next morning, he reaches Pittsburgh and is picked up by his cousin Cuda, who refers to him as Nosferatu or "the family curse".  Cuda, who looks like he's in his 70's, tells his cousin that there will be no murders in the city, while Martin is staying with him and if he hears of anyone dying from mysterious causes, then he will stake Martin immediately with no questions asked.  Also, Cuda tells Martin that his granddaughter, Christina is staying with them and he is not to talk to her, ever.
  Later that day, while Cuda is at work, Christina arrives home or wakes up and meets Martin.  She tells Martin that she thinks that Cuda is crazy and that she doesn't believe this family curse bullshit.  She asks Martin how old he is and he simply responds, 84.  She shakes her head mentioning that this whole family needs psychological help and then realizes that she is late for work.  As she rushes out the door, she asks Martin if he would like a phone because she is getting a phone installed in the house, even though Cuda doesn't believe in them.  Martin doesn't agree but just stares blankly at her and she wishes him well and leaves. creepy.
  That night, there is banging on Martins' door and when he goes to see what the noise is, he finds Cuda hammering an alarm system of bells and chimes on his doors.  Cuda tells Martin that now he will now know where you are at all times, Nosferatu.  Frustrated, Martin tells his cousin that vampires are not real and that there is no magic, then he tells Christina that he would like a phone.  Trapped in the house and only allowed out to work as a delivery boy for his cousin, Martin feels his thirst for blood growing and growing but he knows that any mysterious deaths in the neighbourhood while cause him to die.  Can Martin sustain his lust for blood while staying at his cousins' home or is there a way that he can escape and feast on the flesh of others without Cuda finding out?

  This is still has to be one of my favourite films.  Writer/Director George A. Romero spins an fascinating vampire tale that throws the usual tropes right out the window.  Martin can walk in the daylight, isn't afraid of crosses, there are no fangs and at one point, he even goes to church with Cuda and Christina.   The character Martin tells us that there is no magic, but things are just as they are.  However, Martin does claims that he is 84 years old and he does drink blood, which he keeps to himself but is this insanity brought on by other members of the family, who believes in the old ways or is this a crazy truth that Christina and the audience (us) may not want to accept.  This is the push/pull of the movie that I think makes it so great because you never really know.
  Also, Romero makes this Martin character incredibly likeable, which is strange because he is the villain in the film.  Seriously, he is killing people but for some reason you feel bad for the character and want him to escape these perilous situations that would actually stop him from murdering people.  John Amplas (Day of the Dead, Creepshow) plays the role brilliantly and seems to have a lot of fun with the character at times.

  Besides the first murder on the train at the beginning, the rest of the film has a very slow burn feel to it.  This isn't an action packed, running around vampire flick but a more a thoughtful look at the sanity of this Martin character and the struggle with his addiction or need to drink blood.  There are some very memorable deaths scenes, Tom Savini does double duty as an actor and as a special effects artist on this film, but it is not the central focus of the film.  This may put genre fans off but once you get into it, then you might dig it.

  With that said, I think that this is probably one of the most underrated and least talked about horror films out there and it really shouldn't be.  This is a outstanding story of alienation, insanity and vampires, all rolled into one.  Romero is at the top of his game when he created this and this is a true hidden gem that will surprise and entrance any horror fan.  So, if you're looking for a vampire film that was ahead of it's time and extremely under appreciated, then find a copy of Martin, if you can, and put away your razor blades.

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