Martin (1976)

Directed by George A. Romero [Other horror films: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Hungry Wives (1972), The Crazies (1973), The Amusement Park (1975), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Creepshow (1982), Day of the Dead (1985), Monkey Shines (1988), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar’), The Dark Half (1993), Bruiser (2000), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), Survival of the Dead (2009)]

Easily one of George A. Romero’s most well-known films I’ve not seen until now, I felt somewhat mixed about Martin come the credits. On one hand, it’s a pretty engaging look into potential mental illness with an interesting backdrop and occasionally solid scenes, but on the other, it’s drenched in the almost hopeless, gritty aura that 70’s films are so good at as to almost take any fun out of the experience.

Certainly I think the movie does some things really well. The attacks Martin perpetuates against multiple individuals throughout are all decent, the opening train attack being wonderfully claustrophobic, the later murders being good also. There was just enough gore to get the point across, and even more note-worthy would be the setting, a rather poor-looking city in bad condition (much of this was filmed in Braddock, Pennsylvania, which has suffered greatly since the steel industry disappeared in the 1970’s). Though never the focal point, I think the decaying city added something a little special to the film.

John Amplas (who played Martin) did a fantastic job with his role. He was often awkward, but given what his character’s gone through, that can be expected. Aside from Amplas, it’s hard to really pin-point other great performances – I think that Lincoln Maazel had potential, but I don’t really feel like we get a good enough grasp on him. The same is true for both Christine Forrest and Tom Savini (making this Savini’s earliest work with Romero).

To be sure, the focus of the film is Martin, so the fact that no one else really stands out doesn’t really hurt the film. I did enjoy Martin at least trying to experience a normal relationship with Elyane Nadeau’s character, and that little story had a pretty sudden and somewhat surprising conclusion, which is also true for the movie itself. It’s not as though it comes out of nowhere, but the build-up wasn’t really all that (which, it can fairly be said, makes the ending all the more sudden).

From my point-of-view, I think it’s fair to say that Martin dealt with a lot of mental illnesses, which wasn’t at all helped by the religious mania that seemed to surround him much of his life. Certainly Martin was sympathetic, and those segments which he’s speaking to a radio host on a call-in show really give him additional depth that I found welcomed. Being a 70’s film, there’s no hope for cooler and saner heads to prevail, though, and pretty much from the beginning, everyone in this film was screwed.

Martin makes for a pretty interesting movie, some of the more memorable scenes (such as the creepy foggy playground sequence with Maazel or Nadeau’s final on-screen appearance) coming across as really striking, but at the same time, I can’t really say I had an enjoyable time with this (in a somewhat similar way that I experience The Texas Chain Saw Massacre).

I don’t doubt that, for the smaller budget they had, Romero did a pretty good job with a story that goes beyond what the average vampire movie might attempt, and I think both the setting and aura goes to help with that, but it’s not a movie I wholly loved. I’d recommend it still, but for my personal take, I think there are plenty of other 70’s films I’d rather watch.

6.5/10

Author: Jiggy's Horror Corner

Fan of the horror genre, writer of mini-reviews, and lover of slashers.

5 thoughts on “Martin (1976)”

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