August 2017


Jaime looks at previously released films you may have missed
Directed by George A. Romero
Review By: Jaime Pina

Produced in 1978, George A. Romero’s fifth film is a radical revision of the vampire legend. John Amplas gives a brilliant and emotionally connecting performance as Martin Mathias, a youngish looking man who boards a train and in the first scene murders a young woman. Using a drugged syringe to put her to sleep before raping her (in his mind he is making love to her) and then slitting her wrist with a razor, he drinks her blood. He methodically cleans the murder scene to make it look like a suicide before returning to his seat and when arriving in Pittsburgh meets a man named Tateh Cuda. Cuda is Martin’s uncle from “the old country” and is now taking him in and promises to save Martin’s soul before destroying him. They take another train to the dying city of Braddock, PA where Cuda has a home and business. He taunts Martin by referring to him as “Nosferatu” and keeps a steady supply of crosses and garlic all around the house. In a brilliant piece of writing Martin gets a phone in his room and calls in to a radio talk show and discusses the modern problems an 80-year-old vampire encounters. He is a hit and the deejay refers to him as “the Count”. Life (or un-Life) becomes a battle of the wills as Martin tries to fit in to Cuda’s world and Cuda warns Martin that if he takes anyone from the town, he will destroy him immediately without salvation. As Cuda continues to taunt him, Martin retaliates by rubbing a crucifix on his face and taking a bite of garlic while telling Cuda, “There is no magic”.

For the master of the modern zombie film to make a vampire film many might assume this to be a gnarly, bloody yarn with plenty of action. Instead we get a somber study of religious fanaticism, mental abuse and sexual frustration with Martin in the center of it all, just trying to stay sane around all the “crazy people”. Martin is definitely a blood drinker and Cuda claims he was born in the late 1800’s and Martin later says he is over 80 years old. But is he really a supernatural creature or just a mentally abused young man? Romero adds in black and white period piece flashbacks with Martin as a classic, romantic vampire ala Bela Lugosi but are these memories or fantasies?

Not only is Martin a great film but it also served as the work that would prepare Romero to build the crew that would help him make DAWN OF THE DEAD the juggernaut it is. This is the film where Romero first worked with Christine Forrest who would become his wife and when he first worked with director of photography Michael Gornick, assistant editor Tony Buba and an actor/stuntman/make-up effects artist named Tom Savini who you may have heard of. George makes a brief appearance as a priest who seems uncomfortable when Cuda approaches him about an exorcism (“Did you see The Exorcist? I thought it was great!”).

Martin is currently out of print and the DVD’s by Anchor Bay (full screen) and Lion’s Gate (widescreen) command high prices on the Internet. Arrow UK released a box set featuring the Euro cut called Wampyr featuring music by Goblin.

“I have a friend… who I think is The Count…”

RIP George A. Romero


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