We play the ‘ol switcheroo here a lot during Shocktober. Originally, I had an Ozploitation flick planned but I wanted to group that with another Ozploitation film I’m doing later. Instead, I’m going to say a few words about an underrated flick from one of the greats, George A. Romero. The film? Martin. Never heard of it? Well, you should, and you should try and see it as soon as possible.
In a time when vampire movies were gentleman wearing capes, living in haunted castles, Martin was something completely different. Martin was modern, following none of the pre-established monster movie conventions. Not only that but Martin was funny. Martin was as much a dark comedy as a horror film, which is possibly the reason it has been mostly forgotten by the general public. But don’t let that fool you, there’s nothing that sucks about this bloodsucker.
Martin Mathias (John Amplas) is a peculiar young man who wishes he was a vampire. No, he’s not a vampire he’s just a fan. Martin is so infatuated with vampires that he has visions of attacking women and feeding on their blood. The disturbing part? The audience doesn’t know if these are real or an illusion. Martin doesn’t perform these “feedings” in the conventional sense. He uses a syringe and razor blades to sedate and feed on his victims but he’s not the only monster in the family.
Tadeh Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) is Martin’s uncle. Though he’s not a monster in the supernatural sense, he is through his undying devotion to his bizarre Lithuanian Catholic upbringing. Martin moves in with his uncle in Braddock, Pennsylvania at the beginning of the film after the death of his parents. At Cuda’s home, Martin also meets his attractive cousin Christine (Christine Forrest) whom Cuda forbids him to speak to. This is all because Cuda is convinced Martin is a real old world vampire and constantly threatens him. Between troubles at home, Martin’s delusions and Martin’s urges, growing up for Martin is a real pain in the neck. I’m very sorry for writing that.
In some ways Martin feels like a coming of age film disguised as a horror film. I’d compare the film to Harold and Maude if Harold and Maude was strictly the suicide scenes. That’s not to say the film isn’t scary, Tom Savini provides excellent blood makeup effects and the film’s end leaves you cold in the best way.
I’m also a fan of the young John Amplas, who would reteam with Romero several times again for supporting roles in Day of the Dead and Creepshow. I actually had the pleasure of meeting John Amplas once. I have nothing but nice things to say about him, good guy. As for the movie, it’s one that deserves more attention. I wouldn’t mind a remake if it was done bloody well right. Martin is a great story from one of horrors greatest storytellers.
Once bitten, twice shy…