Martin (John Amplas) is a modern sort of vampire--he gains his victims' cooperation with the use of a hypodermic needle instead of hypnotism, and uses razors in the place of fangs. "There's no real magic," he says. "There'... more »s no real magic, ever." He says this to his elderly Romanian cousin, Tati Cuda (Lincoln Maazel), a true believer in the old religion, and self-appointed keeper of Martin, who threatens to do away with the boy if the vampirism doesn't stop. According to Cuda, the boy is actually 85 years old--young for a vampire. Truly, the supernatural element of the film is always at odds with psychological explanations that make Martin out to be a sexually disturbed teen, not an ancient bloodsucker. Martin's vampiric episodes are intercut with sepia footage of similar exploits from some gothic era, which may either be Martin's memories or his imagination; take your pick. Garlic, sunlight, mirrors--these are devices of Hollywood, and have no effect on a hypo-toting vampire like Martin, as he explains the rules in his role of frequent call-in guest on a radio talk show where he's known as "The Count." These ambiguities are left teasingly unresolved by the film, which is more interested in establishing the relationship between the traditional vampire and the modern-day psycho. Along with the film's narrative economy, these ambiguities make Martin Romero's midnight-movie masterpiece. At the very end Romero borrows an image from Carl Theodore Dreyer's classic silent film Ordet, ratifying a moment of religious ritual. Knowing this as you watch the film only deepens the chill. --Jim Gay« less
Michael R Gates | Nampa, ID United States | 11/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Heir to the Blood Lust"
Horror master George Romero's 1976 film MARTIN is one of those studies in ambiguity where the edges of reality get pretty fuzzy. John Amplas delivers an engaging and affecting performance as the titular character, a young man who believes himself to be the victim of a family curse in which one member is every so often born as Nosferatu (i.e., a vampire). Romero's script, however, abandons traditional vampire lore--Martin isn't bothered too much by sunlight or Christian crosses, he eats garlic, and instead of fangs, he uses razor blades to access the precious crimson fluid of his victims. So is Martin actually a vampire, or just a severely disturbed young man? What, really, is the distinction? After all, he IS killing people and he IS drinking his victims' blood--so what if he doesn't have fangs? And his elderly cousin, steeped in the ways of the old country, definitely believes, and HE is determined to save Martin's soul or else destroy him.
Films like this don't come along too often, and they rarely come out of Hollywood. Produced a few years before DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), the first sequel to his magnum opus NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), MARTIN is one of Romero's more thoughtful and thought-provoking works. Characters stripped of cinematic romanticism, gritty on-location shooting in Pennsylvania suburbs, and brilliant use of grainy black-and-white footage for flashback sequences--actually, are they flashbacks, or has Martin blurred reality with sequences from his favorite films?--help to create a moving and realistic portrait of a young man who, in spite of his murderous habit, is both sympathetic and genuine.
The influence of this film on later indie filmmakers is obvious, most notably on the relative newbie Larry Fessenden. Indeed, Fessenden's 1997 work HABIT would make a nice companion piece--or perhaps the second of a double feature--for Romero's MARTIN, as both offer a slice from the life of a bloodsucker without making it really clear whether or not the preternatural is involved. In actuality, the two films differ in point of view only. MARTIN tells the story basically through the vampire's eyes; HABIT has viewers following things from the victim's standpoint.
Lionsgate's new DVD edition of MARTIN offers a crisp transfer of the film in its original aspect ratio (anamorphically enhanced for 16:9 TVs). In addition to the trailers and TV spots, bonus material includes both a featurette with filmmaker interviews and a feature commentary from Romero, FX man Tom Savini, and others. Well worth the price of admission."
Another Romero Classic
General Zombie | the West | 11/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Martin seems to be by far the most praised film directed by George Romero outside of his zombie films, but I never was all that excited about seeing it. As much as I like the Dead trilogy, the whole setup for this film just didn't sound all that exciting. However, I recently got around to viewing Two Evil Eyes and The Crazies, both of which surpassed my expectations. So I finally got around to seeing Martin, and it surpassed my expectations as well. I would dare say this film is pretty much on the same level as Night and Dawn,(though it is obviously very different from either of those films. which already aren't like each other at all) and is certainly mandatory viewing for anyone seriously interested in Horror films.
The titular Martin is a 17 year old living in modern America (well, the 70's anyway) who believes himself to be an 84 year old vampire. He's just crazy, naturally, and doesn't have any apparent physical powers or the vulnerabilities associated with vampires. He just kills people, has sex with them and drinks their blood and whatnot. Despite being very low-budget(I think Romero said it was about a quarter million) the performances are quite strong, most notably John Amplas as Martin, who is pretty much perfect. Well, his delivery of the lines occasionally leaves a bit to be desired, but his whole look and his body language are absolutely perfect. They couldn't conceivably cast someone better than him for the role, even w/o their budget and resource constraints. Martin is nicely characterized as well, as Romero doesn't try to hard to make us like him, and doesn't excuse what he does. He just lets us see how screwed-up and crazy and miserable he is, which makes him sympathetic enough without pandering to us or making us compromise the sorta basic moral notions which most people have. The other performances aren't as strong, but they are typically good enough, even if they aren't as good as what you'd see in a more expensive film.
This is quite easily the artiest and most contemplative of the Romero films I've seen. It's pretty much just a character study, following Martin's daily life, which means that there are some fairly long stretches where there isn't a whole lot going on. Still, I think the film manages to remain compelling throughout. (largely due to Amplas's performance) Fortunately, the more violent scenes are very strong as well, even if they aren't great in numbers. During the particularly vampire-related scenes Romero uses a particularly unusual and effective technique. What he does is he intercuts the modern color footage of what is occurring with grainy, black and white footage portraying vaguely similar scenes, but clearly in a more traditional, 19th century form. This provides some interesting juxtapositions, and gives us some nice insight into Martin as it shows both how he imagines these events, and how they really turn out. Martin's assailing of a woman at the very beginning the film is quite harrowing and creepy, particularly as it reveals Martin's bizarre methods. It's particularly effective when Martin just tries to keep the woman calm and quiet while the tranquilizer he injected into her takes effect. Amplas's performance in these scenes is particularly striking, as he is not angry or lustful or disgusted, just sort of quietly desperate, for the most part. Later in the film there's an extended setpiece wherein Martin attacks another woman in her house, in a scene which easily outdoes the earlier attack.(In the commentary Romero says it's the best setpiece he's ever done. I'm not sure if I completely agree, but it certainly ain't a bad choice.) I don't wanna give away too much, but I can't help but go into it a little. The way it's setup is particularly great, as Martin sneaks into her house through the garage, and tails her into the bedroom. This part uses some of the best intercutting of all, as it splices in black and white shots of him following another young woman, but one who is instead coyly leading him to the bedroom, rather than being secretly followed. Finally, he imagines that he enters and she willing starts to make out with him, only to enter the room and find out that she is actually not alone, but having an adulterous affair. From thereon things get a bit more complicated. Also. towards the end of the scene they bring in a voiceover of Martin talking on a radio talk show about what he does. I don't know why, but this is a very effective tactic, and it's used again a couple times in the film.
Sadly, the film loses some momentum after this central scene, but it doesn't ever become boring or drag itself out too long. The ending is fairly abrupt, but it's quite appropriate on pretty much all levels.
This film represents what I believe is the first collaboration between Savini and Romero. Naturally, there isn't nearly as much graphic violence as in your typical Savini gore film, but it's fairly nicely done for the era, and there's one very painful and stunning effect towards the end, which I won't give away in specific. Still, if you're looking for a gore film you're gonna be disappointed, though you probably coulda figured that out for yourself.
The Lion's Gate DVD is pretty nice. The transfer isn't as nice as some you'll see, even for other relatively obscure horror films, but I'm betting they did a pretty damn good job with the print they had, and with the low-budget look the film had in the first place. Also, the commentary is fairly interesting too.
It's pretty tough to describe just why this film is so good. You'll just have to see it."
One of the best and most moving vampire films of all time
Adam P. Lounsbery | New York, NY | 05/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"George A. Romero's "Martin" is a nearly perfect film. While firmly rooted in the postmodern, "Martin" also gives the attentive viewer a good idea of how vampire myths may have originated; with the hysterical superstitions of old Europe trying to come to grips with a serial murderer like the eponymous Martin, played convincingly and sympathetically by John Amplas. Filmed in an economically depressed steel town in Pennsylvania, this film echoes "Nosferatu" (1922) in its depiction of a moribund city devoid of youth and life. Shot in 16mm, "Martin" is strangely beautiful, and a perfect visual documentation of the mid-1970s. Amplas makes one of the most memorable vampire protagonists in the history of film. Even in a tight yellow t-shirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes, he exhibits as much sinister grace as Christopher Lee, Delphine Seyrig, or Max Schreck. "Martin" is easily one of the best and most strangely moving vampire films of all time."
George Romero's Nosferatu
James H. Marshall | Burlington, NJ USA | 10/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) wrote and directed this very dark and brooding vampire film.
Martin (played by John Amplas) is a teenage boy who may or may not be one of the notorious vampire monsters of yesteryear, but he sure doesn't have the powers. He drugs women, makes love to them and then slits their wrists and drinks their blood, leaving the victim to look like they committed suicide. He wishes he didn't have to drink their blood, Martin admits to a radio talk show host that he is a frequent guest on. He wishes it could only be the "sexy stuff". But if he there was any proof of his killings, his cousin and caretaker would kill him off quicker than you can say "Nosferatu!".
George Romero truly shows off his talents as a filmmaker, writer, and actor in Martin (appearing as the local priest). The movie drudges through waves of dread, and you feel as if you were watching a trainwreck occuring right in front of you; You can't remove your eyes away as you watch in horror of what befalls Martin and his victims. Romero also shows very vivid look at city life, especially the slums. He also has some interesting uses of space, form and placement within the frame.
This is my favorite vampire film, hands down. Fans of Interview with the Vampire and Near Dark will find Martin to be a wonderful purchase and a lovely addition to their dvd collection."
A very modern vampire movie.
darragh o'donoghue | 04/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Martin' begins with a sequence one might more readily associate with the overwrought films of Dario Argento, but filmed with the dispassionate intensity of a Robert Bresson. We see a gentle, shy young man boarding a train headed for Pittsburgh, eyeing a pretty young woman. Because this is a horror movie, we assume he is a serial rapist or killer, and his precise use of tools - an anaesthetic so that he can violate his unconscious victims - furthers the suspicion, as do the usual screams, tussles and shredding of clothes. But there are three breaks from the exploitative norm in this sequence. First is the unsettling meekness of the attacker: far from being shadowy, violent and menacing, he tries to genuinely soothe his victim. Secondly is that Bressonian style I mentioned - no camera movement; the dynamics of the action proceeding by clean, propulsive, interlocking editing that emphasises objects and the hands making ritual use of them. The style distances the exploitative content, and suggests a meaning or purpose beyond the generic norm. Thirdly, Martin is not a rapist or psychopathic killer, but a vampire - the moment his fellow passenger zonks out, he slits open her arms and gorges. Martin is being sent to his granduncle, an elderly Catholic shopowner who lives with his granddaughter, and who intends to save Martin's soul before destroying him, as if the boy were a drug-addict undergoing cold turkey. As he did with his classic zombie films, Romero takes a horror myth long made ridiculous by parody and camp, and firmly fixes it in the contemporary world, through which prism is presented a satiric view of modern captalism, consumerism, the media, gender, racial and class politics, work, families, a culture of confession etc. Though nominally 84, Martin is in his late teens; part of his problem is that his bloodlusting has diverted him from consummating the other kind of lust. Stuck in a town stale with old folk, the young having long emigrated in search of work, he finds himself an object of interest for bored housewives, with his pious grandfather more like a stern parent who won't let his son go out late. The familiar vampire myths are sent up, mostly during Martin's conversations with a talk radio host, but also in a paralell narrative iintercut with the modern story, a fey, grainy, monochrome pastiche full of candelabra, lipsticked Counts, nubile Hammer horror dames and rampaging vigilantes. The fragmentation of action instigated by the Bressonian editing soon transfers to the narrative itself, which splinters down bizarre byways, with Martin as a mysterious Fantomas-style haunter of pristine bourgeois homes, supple and fleet in a tight black costume. As ever with Romero, sobriety and earnestness are meticulously built up to such an intense pitch that the only release is in a baffling comedy that doesn't negate what went before, but renders the film even less graspable. He is aided in this by a brilliantly, flute-flitting score that switches between menace and mirth without ever revealing the joins."