Martin: The George A. Romero Collection (1977) (NTSC)

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Released 29-Sep-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Menu Animation & Audio-Animation, live action and music theme.
Audio Commentary-Outstanding! Feature length with director and crew.
Featurette-(09:32) : Martin - A Recounting : Short but excellent.
Theatrical Trailer-(02:42) Ratio 1.33:1, 4x3 : Orig. theatrical.
Gallery-Photo-Twenty-nine colour production and publicity stills.
Theatrical Trailer-(02:42) : Original theatrical, 1.33:1, 4x3 transfer.
Trailer-Sequence : Night of the Living Dead (1.48) : 1.78:1, 16x9.
Theatrical Trailer-Original : Dawn of the Dead (2:49) : 1.33:1, 4x3.
Theatrical Trailer-Original : Thirst (1:47) : 1.78:1, 4x3 transfer.
Theatrical Trailer-Original : The Crazies (3:04) : 1.66:1, 4x3 transfer.
TV Spots-(00:34) : Presented 1.33:1, 4x3 transfer.
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 94:40
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (94:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By George A. Romero
Studio
Distributor
Laurel
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring John Amplas
Lincoln Maazel
Christine Forest
Elyane Nadeau
George A. Romero
Tom Savini
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual
RPI Box Music Donald Rubinstein


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, In character
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Title, first murder, then credits 8 minutes in.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   


    After his initial 1968 success with Night of the Living Dead, director George A. Romero had three disheartening boxoffice failures, resulting in his switching to making documentaries for four years. In 1977 Romero returned to feature film making with Martin, his study of a troubled youth who may or may not also happen to be a vampire. Over the past thirty years Romero's vampire work, his personal favourite, has attracted a strong following of admirers who will welcome its inclusion in the three-disc The George A. Romero Collection recently made available by Umbrella Entertainment. It is undeniable that this 1970s reworking of  vampire mythology is a multi-layered achievement which demands serious consideration.

    We first meet Martin (John Amplas), a slim young man  on a railway station about to board a train. He watches an attractive young woman as she boards ahead of him. He appears pale and delicately sensitive, not the conventional image of the young male.We follow Martin as he in turn follows the young woman onto the train. We see Martin alone playing cards, a frustrating attempt at solitaire, a symbol of his emotional isolation. The young man packs up his cards and makes his way through the train, passengers bedded down for the night. With meticulously stealthy care Martin breaks into the girl's compartment, drugs her, strips off his clothes, has intercourse, cuts her wrists and drinks her blood. What have we just seen? Is this yet another deranged young social misfit, or is Martin actually a modern day vampire? Is Martin a blood drinking bat, or simply bloody batty? Sadly for our solitary youth, there is a basic difference between him and  the vampires of yore. Nosferatu and his ilk  found companionship in isolation, with  the victims, having felt the sensual sting of his fangs, joining the master in sharing the undying lust for the blood of others. After his comparatively passionless drinking of  blood, Martin's victim remains dead, leaving him once again isolated and unable to share his lonely difference with a like soul.

    Martin's father had died, and his family, convinced that a recurring family curse had been visited upon the young family member, despatched him to Braddock, an economically depressed steel town in Pennsylvania. There Martin is to live with an aged cousin, Tada Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) and his grand-daughter Christina (Christine Forest). Martin does indeed believe himself to be an eighty-four year old vampire, and on his arrival  is told by his cousin that he intends to save the young vampire cousin's soul, and then destroy him. Garlic is strung up to protect Christina at night, although she sees Martin merely as a young man with fairly "normal" adolescent problems. The economic problem of employment for Martin in this decaying town is solved by Tada Cuda who takes him on as delivery boy for his small grocery store, a position which gives the young vampire the opportunity to locate further victims. Despite the dire warnings of Tada Cuda, Martin continues to satisfy his appetite while he nightly confesses his evil secret to a passive talk-radio host. Ultimately there is a final confrontation between the two opposing sides of the generation gap, Martin and Tada Cuda.

    As with other Romero works, genre is here used to explore wide social and emotional issues. Martin is totally removed from the traditional world of the vampire film. Instead of the traditional romantically gothic Transylvanian setting, with castles, counts and capes, Romero sets his tale is his contemporary world. The 1970s is depicted as a turbulent decade of isolation and alienation, with Vietnam and Watergate as shameful catalysts. He shows us a crumbling, decaying society and economy, with its churches in ruin, its factories and mills closed and families disintegrating under the pressure of the desperation contained withing the walls of their dreary, soulless homes. Indeed, Martin's family has turned on him, while his cousin has announced that he intends to kill him. In addition the "couples" that Martin encounters are involved in infidelity and adultery. Streets are anarchic and there are ever increasing cultural and generational gaps developing. Martin is alienated on one side of the gap, and the rest of the world seems to be opposing him from across an emotionless void.

    Is Martin really a vampire, or is he yet another unsettled, "different" youth, twisted by his difference into becoming a deranged Norman Bates, or a malevolent version of Edward Scissorhands? This loner craves sexual intimacy and companionship, the "sexy stuff", and we are drawn to care what happens to this shy, skinny awkward youth who is so riddled with angst and anxiety. He does not have the trappings of Count Dracula. He does not fear mirrors, water, garlic or crucifixes, and the fangs he wears in one scene are from a novelty store. His slayings do not involve erotically sinking into his swooning victim's neck, but the cold steel slicing of wrists, suggesting suicide.Yet Martin tells us he is a vampire. Is Martin deluded in this belief? Romero shows us black and white versions of Martin's attacks, and these suggest that perhaps the youth's grasp on reality has been perverted by his exposure to old black and white horror films. Maybe it is all Bela Lugosi's fault? One thing is sure, George A. Romero is not going to give us the answer. It is the ambiguity of this tale of the young vampire/youth that gives it its tantalising fascination.

    In the years between The Crazies and Martin, Romero certainly became a more accomplished filmmaker. Working from his own tight screenplay - originally Romero started with a three hour cut - there is much more assurance in his handling of actors and situations, and there is considerably more technical expertise. Still having to work under a strict budget, this is technically a much more accomplished work, with considerable editing skill shown by the director, particularly in the suspenseful and horrifically erotic opening pre-credit murder sequence.This is despite the fact that the film was originally shot on 16mm and was intended to be shown full-frame.(The framing question will be discussed further below.) Sound is greatly improved, as is the use of music, with Donald Rubinstein's sparse, stark score eerily haunting with its striking use of strings and a female chorus.Working with a much smaller cast, Romero has more effective control over his actors, particulary successful with Lincoln Maazel in his only screen appearance. Romero's future wife, Christine Forest, is effective as Christina, but as her boyfriernd, Arthur, Tom Savini should have stuck to his day job - makeup and special effects. Romero even pops up as a benign priest. That darn budget again! Finally, we have John Amplas who really does a remarkable job as Martin. Rarely off screen, he manages to create a sympathetic character, without ever ingratiating himself with teenage gawkiness or similar gimmicks.

    Martin is a unique film experience. It is one of those films in which minor deficiencies are overlooked because of the central, driving energy of what is on the screen. Once seen, Romero's little "vampire" film cannot be forgotten.

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Transfer Quality

Video

         
    This is not the transfer issued in the U.S. by Anchor Bay in 2000, but the Lions Gate version released in 2004.
    This time round the feature is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Originally shot on 16mm, full frame open matte, Romero's preference is for the film to be seen as filmed, but he has given his blessing to this cropped version. For anyone interested the internet offers hundreds of words of debate arguing the pros and cons of this controversial issue, with Home Theatre Forum offering comparison frames side by side. As someone who considers himself sensitive to image composition I was not consciously aware of any problem while viewing the film.

    Despite the fact that Martin was originally filmed in 16mm, the quality of the image is surprisingly good.
    Generally the transfer is clear and sharp, although there is a considerable amount of grain. If anything, this adds to the atmosphere of the drama, lending a starkly graphic look to the unfolding dark deeds on the screen.
    
    Detail is generally good, with the close-ups looking sharp and clear.
    Shadow detail is lacking in many dark scenes, but the blacks are deep and solid.
    The colour is attractive, though generally subdued. The black and white segments are starkly grainy  and effective
    MPEG artefacts were rare. There was no aliasing or edge enhancement, but there were occasional instances of noise reduction problems.
    There were only very slight instances of film artefacts, with a couple of very minor scratches and an occasional instance of flecking.
    
    There are no subtitles.
    The disc is dual-layered, but there is no layer change within the feature itself.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio streams:   Dolby Digital 5.1 stream encoded at 448 Kbps;
                                                     Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 192 Kbps; and
                                                     Commentary track which is Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 Kbps.
    
    The entire feature was watched listening to the 5.1 stream, and the 2.0 stream was sampled, with little difference in the impact of one over the other.
    There was little to indicate that this was a 5.1 listening experience, with no direction across the fronts, very little separation, and only extremely soft ambient sounds in the rears. I almost had to get into the rear speakers before I could hear any effects for the opening train sequence.
    
    The overall sound was quality was that of quite acceptable mono.
    Dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand, with no sync problems, crackle, pops or dropouts.
    The fittingly sombre musical score by Donald Rubinstein was quite nicely reproduced, particularly the hauntingly eerie female chorus.There was extremely low level use of the rear channels, though a threatening substance was added from the subwoofer, as in the opening sequence (01:38).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   

 



Main Menu:
Presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. There is live action, animation and musical theme from the film.
Options presented are :
        Play Movie        
        Setup : The options are : Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps
                                              Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 192 Kbps
                                              Audio Commentary with writer/director George A. Romero, producer Richard Rubinstein, cinematographer Michael Gornick,
                                                                             music  composer Donald Rubinstein and special effects and makeup artist Tom Savini.
        Select Scenes : Twenty scenes on five screens with thumbnails and music audio.
        Special Features : As detailed below.
        
Special Features :

Audio Commentary : 

This is a joyous feature length commentary by George A. Romero in a discussion/chat situation with producer Richard Rubinstein, cinematographer Michael Gornick, composer Donald Rubinstein and special effects/makeup artist Tom Savini. This is even better than the two-handed commentary on The Crazies, with Romano and his collaborators in a free-wheeling gabfest about the pleasures and pain of making Martin. These commentaries give a wonderful, humorous insight into the making of Romero's features, and a totally new perception and appreciation of the films themselves. This is about as good as a commentary track can get, though it is a pity that John Amplar did not participate, as he did with the previous commentary on the Anchor Bay release.

Featurette (09:32) :
Presented at 1.78:1 in a 4x3 transfer, the only thing wrong with this is that it is too short.It provides a very enjoyable insight into the making of the film, with behind the scenes footage, sequences from the film and new interview footage of very nice quality. Participating are all who contribute to the audio commentary, with additional input from Christine Romero and Angelina Buba. The director describes himself and his co-workers as "guerilla filmmakers" involved in "a family affair", while Savini comments upon the necessity of "inventing ways to do what George had written".


TV Spots (00:34) :
Presented 1.33:1, 4x33, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio encoded at 192 Kbps.


Photo Gallery :
A collection of twenty-nine full colour production and publicity stills, all framed in a colourful graphic and presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced.


Original Theatrical Trailer : (02:42)
The original theatrical trailer presented 1.33:1, in a 4x3 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Quite good quality with direct to camera narration by John Amplas.


Trailer Gallery :
Day of the Dead : (01:48) :
A sequence from the film, presented at a ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio encoded at 192 Kbps.
Dawn of the Dead (02:49) :
The original theatrical trailer presented in the ratio of 1.33:1, in a 4x3 transfer.
Thirst (01:47) :
The original theatrical trailer, presented in the ratio of 1.78:1, in a 4x3 transfer.
The Crazies (03:04) :
The original theatrical trailer presented in the ratio of 1.66:1, in a 4x3 transfer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 Lions Gate stand-alone release is identical to that which is locally available in The George A. Romero Collection, a three-disc set which also contains The Crazies and Dawn of the Dead. For Romero fans the local Umbrella set is a good buy.

Summary

    This is one of the best vampire films - whether or not Martin is indeed a 1970s Nosferatu. The shoestring budget forces Romero into starkly graphic areas, stripping his production of the mind numbing gloss of many "horror" films, and it is only on reflection that the true quality of the film becomes apparent. Martin contains social comment and observation that make it much more than just a vampire flick. The film, and its sad "hero", demand more than one viewing. Though imperfect, this is probably the best looking Martin we will see, and the extras, particularly the commentary, add to the whole experience.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Good review, but a couple of small corrections - Pearce REPLY POSTED
Technical glitch in Trailer Gallery? - Ed