“Martin” Limited Edition Second Sight Release Available at Amazon.com!
Martin, a young man from Indianapolis and upon recently lost his mother, travels by train to Braddock, Pennsylvania where he’s greeted by his elderly cousin Cuda, an old world believer that Martin has been selectively plagued by the family curse of vampirism and will take Martin in under his roof to cleanse his soul of evil, even if that means destroying him. Though he doesn’t believe in the vampiric superstitions and the movie depictions, Martin truly believes he’s an 84-year-old vampire and does kill young, beautiful women to intimately drink their blood. Being reserved and shy gives Martin an advantage to observe his potential victims from afar after gaining employment working as a delivery boy out of his cousin’s shop. Cuda’s granddaughter, Christina, believes her lonely cousin’s mental illness is being exacerbated by grandfather’s archaic and draconian beliefs, fostered by a family history based off tradition rather than science. When Martin meets an interested housewife on one of his delivery runs, the need to consume blood trickles when sex enters the picture, but also induces slipups in his well-oiled drug and drink operation whenever the need to feed becomes too much.
By now, “Martin” needs no introduction. The father of the flesh-eating zombie, George Romero, delivered a neo-realism take on the vampiric mythology nearly 50 years ago in 1977. “Martin” became the writer-director’s first all around filmic success after being royally screwed by the Walter Reade Organization for having failed to copyright the prints on the trailblazing and timeless classic “Night of the Living Dead,” the reason why you see so many Tom, Dick, and Harry remakes, revisions, sequels, and such of the 1968 black-and-white film that introduced zombies as flesh eaters, and a pair of box office failures that kept Romer in severe debt until slipping into business bed with producer Richard P. Rubinstein, the associate producer for Romero’s “The Amusement Park” and who would collaborate with Romero as a producer for the next subsequent decade years. Filmed on location in the societal and industrial crumbling Western Pennsylvania town of Braddock, “Martin” remains one of George Romero’s quintessential and provocative pieces of work outside The Living Dead series under Rubinstein and Romero’s The Laurel Group production company.
In the titular role is the introduction of John Amplas who was discovered by Romero after watching Amplas in a play and the entire lead principal was reworked to accommodate Amplas boyish youth. Amplas is instrumental to Martin’s success in a handful of ways: the Pittsburgh native knew how to properly slink in an unsuspecting manner, he also didn’t overbear scenes and costars with a larger-than-life presence and could dip into this awkwardly retrieved guilt for the premediated murder to fulfill a need that either’s supernatural or unnaturally mental. Amplas could walk that thin line that keeps the audience wondering how much Martin says and does is actually true or a misconception because of mental illness and this is coupled nicely with Romero’s direction, splicing in black-and-white scenes of gothic-laden, theater-esque vampire flashbacks that could either be a delusional reality or a very real backstory to Marin’s cursed heritage. Polarizing external family forces in his elderly cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel, “The Amusement Park”) and age akin cousin Christina (Christine Forrest) combat on an emotionally taut and verbal levels between their corresponding character qualities of superstition and science that parallel Martin’s eventual damnation or salvation. The principal trio are tightly compacted to strain the dynamic with a back-and-forth debate over which truth is behind Martin’s troubles. Romero pens a good case for both by never fleshing out a legitimate truth all the way through to the end; instead, it’s a battle of save Martin from himself who understands the problem, wants to deal with it, but barely takes up arms to combat or even face his issues. Special F/X legend Tom Savini, pre-trademark inky black mustache and goatee, makes his debut role as Christina’s boyfriend Arthur who serves only as a device to pull reason away from the table in a conflicted measure to pressurize Christina’s capacity beyond the limits of also caring for herself. Eventually, Christina has to make a decision and, ultimately, choses herself to save, leaving Martin to fend against a sternly superstitious and old world Cuda. Sara Venable, Roger Caine (“Dracula Exotica”), Donaldo Soviero, Francine Middleton (“The Love-Thrill Murders”), and Elyane Nadeau make up the supporting cast.
George Romero, again, redefines, or in a more fittingly descriptive – revamps, classic horror villainy that replaces the supernatural element with a realistic approach to weave the very fabric of horror into possibility while still hinting at something beyond the limits of reason. “There is no real magic. There’s no real magic, ever!” says Martin about the theatrical stereotypes used to display vampires in attempt by Romero to disenchant us from the ideologized mythos, the habitual characteristics, and the physiognomies of what we consider to be a night bloodsucker. During that scene between him and Cuda, the words are potently effective in disapproving myths about vampires, but the words are supported with fact as Martin casually debunks garlic, crosses, and sunlight as vampiric weaponry at the expense of humiliating and entertaining Cuda. “Martin” is at the forefront of being an allegory for loneliness and is a driving reason for presumably the real vampire’s gruesome habit to slice open wrists and drink blood. Martin only targets young, beautiful women and becomes intimate with them while they are limp under sedation. When he meets an equally lonely Mrs. Santini, a depressed housewife on the verge of an emotional collapse, and the two embrace each other with comfort against what dispirits them; disinterested in stalking her, Martin’s need to kill dampens and Mrs. Santini unhappy marriage in nullified by the young who listens more than speaks. Maturity and youth meld together in a moment of peace between them but their bond still shows micro fissures of incompatibility that puts doubts into Martin’s 84-year, carefully planned practice and also doesn’t save Mrs. Santini completely from her too-little-too-late despair. Braddock, Pennsylvania, a small town sinking into the slumps of becoming forgotten, is a once industrious backdrop integrated as a metaphor for being a forsaken place where things go to die. Martin is sent to Braddock to paradoxically be cared for by a cousin determined to destroy him because of a family curse that afflicts select generations in what can be perceived as butting of heads between the defiance of angsty youth versus the traditions of an older individual set in the world with their linear ways of thinking.
As aforementioned, “Martin” is a cult classic from one of the most notable masters of horror and as a film, “Martin” can stand on its own two feet on any format. However, with that being said, UK home entertainment distributor, Second Sight, celebrates this early George Romero razor-edged thriller with a definitive 3-disc, 4K and Blu-ray release jammed back with software and firmware bonus content that fans can really sink their teeth into for a lifetime. The limited edition UHD and Blu-ray O-slip box presents a 4K and 2K scan and restoration of a 35mm duplicate negative (note: not from the original 16mm source) that has been supervised and approved by director of photography Michael Gornick and presented in the Academy aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Considering the blown duplicated source of a 16mm grade, the 4K UHD scan on the BD66 won’t live up to 4K potential, as some may expect. There’s quite a bit of varying levels detail discernibility, some shots look better than others, but the overall restoration renders a better than it’s ever looked product with natural grain and damaged reduced to some blue stock flaring around the side and edges, especially during night scenes. Shadows looked deeper than previous versions, meaning that tenebrism isn’t lost amongst a softer image but rather creates depth with the additional of better sharpened edges to outline objects between the light source Some speckle debris filters through at times but not enough to cause major concern with the overall experience watching and enjoying the restoration that has HD enhanced grading to make blood that richer technicolor coral color used in my subsequent Romero “Living Dead” films up to “Day of the Dead.” The Blu-ray’s 2K works just as well due to the scrappy source equipment of what the budget allowed, delivering a fine product of the best transposed transfer known to fan kind and beating out the Lionsgate’s warming grading with a cooler, more hardline detail and delineation picture. The massive release comes with three audio options – an English DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound, an English DTS-HD 2.0 stereo, and an English DTS-HD 1.0. Though Martin audiophiles will likely gravitate toward a multiple channel output, “Martin” is one of those select features that does better in a less-is-more return by not forcing the limited and stronger signals, such as the dialogue and Donald Rubenstein’s experimentally spiritual score, to encoding competition with the milieu ambient and boom recorded sound effects, that for the most part, are background support for the bigger, better one-two punch of clean, clear, and presently full dialogue and a consciously curated soundtrack to walk with Martin every step of his journey. There’s a pinch of popping and a low-emanating droning that very discreet and negligible that won’t affect the experience on bite…I mean bit. English SDH are optional. Bonus materials are what shape the Second Sight releases to be greatly desirable amongst fans as the company continues to produce high-quality encoded bonus features as well as carefully and professionally organized tangible items inside the box. Both 4K UHD and Blu-ray have the same encoded bonus features that include four audio commentaries of old and new. The two archived commentaries include George Romero, John Amplas, and Tom Savini in one set and the other with Romero, Savini, Richard P. Rubenstein, and Michael Gorrick. The new commentaries are with Kat Ellinger, editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine, and the second with the recently deceased film curator, Travis Crawford. A vintage 2004 documentary from the Lionsgate release is included in the set with remarks from Romero, Savini, Gorrick, Donald Rubenstein, and Christine Forrest along with a new documentary echoing much of the 2004 doc, in collaboration with Severin Films, with John Amplas, Michel Gorrick, and Tom Dubensky strolling through Braddock, which hasn’t seemingly changed from the depths of poverty, on a raining day recalling nearly every moment of production during principal photography. The new doc includes other insights from Forrest, Savini, Tony Buba, and Sarah Venable in what feels like a complete celebration and overview of their entire journey through Romero’s personal favorite film. Donald Rubenstein also has a new interview discussing his score and meeting and working with Romero on a positive level. The disc features round out with one of Tony Buba’s short films “J. Roy – New and Used Furniture” revolving around the town of Braddock and the trailer, TV and radio spots. The third disc is the CD form of Donald Rubenstein’s soundtrack laid out in 22 distinct musical numbers. The limited-edition exclusive contents include a rigid O-slip case with a simple, yet effective sterile while and red font color contrast with MADE IN U.S.A. augmented razor blood with vampire teeth and blood dripping from the bottom right corner and a blood dripping cross squarely centered on the back. Inside the slipcase, a thick 104-paged color booklet with new in-depth essays and insights from Daniel Bird, Miranda Corcoran, Heather Drain, Kat Ellinger, Andrew Graves, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Elena Lazic, Stephen Thrower, Jon Towlson, Simon Ward, Tony Williams and an interview with Tony Buba by Travis Crawford. The booklet also contains colorized, behind-the-scenes photos of production and numerous one-sheets, promotion poster and ads, and a beautifully, expressionistic illustrated front and back cover. Adam Stothard illustrates 5 character lobby cards, including John Amplas’ Martin, Christine Forrest’s Christina, Tom Savini’s Arthur, Lincoln Maazel’s Cuda, and George Romero’s Father Howard. All 3 disc arts are the same as the front cover the release and contained a trifold, punch-lock case in reverse colors of the slipcase. The 4K UHD is region free but the Blu-ray is confirmed region locked B so you’ll need a region free or region B player. The runtime clocks in at 95 minutes and is certified 18 for sexualized violence and sexual threat. Second Sight must be a Disney fan with their monstrous beast of a limited edition that is also a thing of beauty; “Martin” deserves every square inch of this physical and digital display of expressionistic vampirism of underrated performances and from the mind’s eye of a dauntless George Romero, unafraid to take risks, show blood, and understand the human condition.