Overall | Dawn of the Dead (Umbrella) (1978) | Crazies, The: The George A. Romero Collection (1973) | Martin: The George A. Romero Collection (1977)

The George A. Romero Collection (1973)

The George A. Romero Collection (1973) (NTSC)

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Released 29-Sep-2008

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Overall Package

A trio of films from a master of horror, in very pleasing transfers, although there is some debate over the matting of Martin. Very little is gained from the 5.1 audio upgrade, but the commentaries are amongst the very best.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Dawn of the Dead (Umbrella) (1978) | Crazies, The: The George A. Romero Collection (1973) | Martin: The George A. Romero Collection (1977)

Dawn of the Dead (Umbrella) (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (Umbrella) (1978)

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Released 10-May-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-George A. Romero, Tom Savini And Chris Romero
Audio Commentary-Richard P. Rubinstein (Producer)
Featurette-The Dead Will Walk
Gallery-Photo-Montage
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-2
Notes-Original Reviews
Radio Spots
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 127:02
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By George A. Romero
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring David Emge
Ken Foree
Scott H. Reiniger
Gaylen Ross
David Crawford
David Early
Richard France
Howard Smith
Daniel Dietrich
Fred Baker
James A. Baffico
Rod Stouffer
Jesse Del Gre
Case ?
RPI Box Music Dario Argento
Goblin
Agostino Marangolo


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 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 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.

   George A. Romero's follow-up to his brilliant Night of the Living Dead is the brilliant Dawn of the Dead, a semi-remake of the first film set in an enormous shopping mall in which four survivors of the zombie-apocalypse settle to stock up. Trading the desolation and anxiety of the first film for a more over-the-top, saturated style, Romero finds subtext in his zombies flocking to the abandoned mall where the protagonists hide: the brainless succumbing to consumerism and the protagonists finding that the real enemy is not the brainless minions, but the dark elements of humanity itself.

Much longer and less focused than the original film, Dawn of the Dead is a great twist on the same theme with an entirely different style, very clearly inspired by Dario Argento and Italian horror. The gore is much more over-the-top and less realistic, often cartoonish, which is well matched by the score done by Argento's The Goblins. Never are Romero's films brainless horror - they're always endowed with smart characters, clever situations and fantastic themes that run far below the surface, and always carry impact.

As with Night of the Living Dead, I'd prefer to say as little about Dawn of the Dead as possible in case people are yet to see it, except that it's an excellent entry into Romero's Trilogy of the Dead and a must-see horror film for genre fans.

I must note, though, that three versions of this film exist - the 139 min "Extended version", the 127 min “U.S. Theatrical Cut”, and the 118 min “Dario Argento Cut”. The version included here is Romero's preference, the U.S. Theatrical Cut, which is also my favourite. The major changes are that the original Extended Edition was slightly rushed for Cannes and includes more humor, but also more horror elements and an altered score, while the Argento cut is basically full on horror with some other changes. They're all available in the R1 Ultimate Edition, which completists will demand, but general fans can be satisfied that we're getting the director's original vision and final cut with this DVD set.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   The video is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

   This is a very strong transfer that improves as the film continues. The colours are strong and vibrant, which is important as this is a very colourful film. The transfer isn't consistently sharp but is usually very detailed, except suffering from some darkness issues, in which detail is lacking but fortunately has no low level noise (see 18:13).

   There are occasional issues with interlacing, and sometimes cross colouration is an issue (see 21:49 for one example), however I believe that this is an issue with the film itself rather than the DVD as it is evident on other DVDs as well. There is very little grain and there are few film artefacts, that do not detract from the viewing.

   There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

   The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 (224Kb/s) and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

   The two audio tracks unfortunately offer little difference despite a change in volume, with the surround usage being very limited and next to no utilization of the subwoofer. The dialogue is fine, mixed well and perfectly in sync, but the lack of rear speakers used for the music and effects - particularly in crowded scenes - means that the overall presentation lacks atmosphere.

   The film's soundtrack by The Goblins still sounds great, even if it isn't delivered perfectly, building up the scenes with heavy beats and emphasising all the over-the-top violence that the film lavishes on the audience.

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

Extras

Animated Menus with Audio

   Genuinely awesome DVD menus, each menu screen takes place in a set from the film, slowing fading in and out complete with the atmospheric music. Lovely and non-intrusive, these are very fitting for the film.

The Dead Will Walk (74:55)

   This feature length documentary features recent interviews with all the cast and crew and follows the film going through the entire process all the way up to release. It's a genuinely entertaining watch, and it's very interesting to hear all of the talents speak. It's a much better, more streamlined making-of feature than the Document of the Dead, which is strangely awarded its own DVD.

Photo Gallery (2:25)

   An alternative to the usual DVD photo gallery, this is a slideshow of various photos from the set, put to an excerpt of the film's soundtrack. It's much more interesting than I'd expected, with various shots behind the scenes as well as on camera, including Romero interacting with the cast. Presented in 1.78:1.

Biographies

   Still biographies of the main cast and director.

Commentary by George A. Romero, Tom Savini And Chris Romero

   This commentary track focuses on a lot of the content covered in the previous documentary but is still a great listen, with plenty of friendly banter between the three. It's entertaining and informative, and they even discuss the (then) upcoming Land of the Dead, which I feel should be forgotten at all costs. An alternative ending is discussed that I'd have loved to have seen in addition to the current, somewhat uneventful ending.

Commentary by Richard P. Rubinstein (Producer)

   A lot less entertaining than either the documentary or the other commentary, producer Richard Rubinstein discusses a lot of previously uncommented-upon information, including the three different versions of the film currently available. He also talks about Dario Argento's involvement, and various elements of production. Serves as very interesting for fans and film students wanting to find out even more about how this film was made, and what went into it.

US Trailer (2:37), German Trailer (0:58), Radio Spots (2:42)

   The promotional material here is interesting as a comparison across different territories and formats. The original US film trailer features the same aspect ratio as the film and very clearly shows uncensored parts of the film, whereas the German trailer is much more censored and limited, in only 1.33:1. The radio advertising uses almost exactly the same narration as the film trailer, and is much less interesting than the trailers.

Original Reviews

   9 pages of the original reviews for the film finish up the disc.

R4 vs R1

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

   There is absolutely no contest that the R1 Ultimate Edition of Dawn of the Dead is the very best DVD package available. In addition to a ton of additional extras, it features all three available cuts of the film, plus a 5.1 DTS track on the US Theatrical Cut, and both of the making-of documentaries. Though this Umbrella edition is the best available in R4, and perfect if you don't require every cut of the film, R1 is the indisputable winner.

Summary

   Dawn of the Dead is an excellent horror film.

   The video is the best we've ever seen for the film on DVD.

   The audio is not as good, but still makes for an enjoyable viewing experience regardless of stereo or full surround.

   When there is no more room in hell...

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ryan Aston (Bioshock)
Monday, May 28, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG LH-D6230, using Component output
DisplayBenq PE7700. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationLG
Speakers B&W LCR 600 S3 (Front & Centre); B&W DM 600 (Rears); B&W ASW500 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Bit-rate? - AdamB
Different Release Date etc - Gizmo35 (The Biography ain't much to look at.) REPLY POSTED
Different Release Date etc - Gizmo35 (The Biography ain't much to look at.)

Overall | Dawn of the Dead (Umbrella) (1978) | Crazies, The: The George A. Romero Collection (1973) | Martin: The George A. Romero Collection (1977)

Crazies, The: The George A. Romero Collection (1973)

Crazies, The: The George A. Romero Collection (1973) (NTSC)

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Released 29-Sep-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Audio Commentary-Feature length by director George A. Romero
TV Spots-(05:46) A collection, with some damage.
Gallery-172 Lobby cards, publicity stills, production stills.
Biographies-Crew-Twenty screen bio of director.
Trailer-(01:00) Original Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer-(00:30) Original Theatrical Teaser
Trailer-(02:01) Spontaneous Combustion (Umbrella Horror)
Trailer-(01:52) Candyman (Umbrella Horror)
Trailer-(03:31) The Driller Killer (Umbrella Horror)
Trailer-(03:25) The Mask of Satan (Umbrella Horror)
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 98:48
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:19) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By George A. Romero
Studio
Distributor
Cambist Films
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Lynn Lowry
Lane Carroll
W.G. McMillan
Harold Wayne Jones
Lloyd Hollar
Richard France
Richard Liberty
Case Amaray Variant
RPI Box Music Bruce Roberts
Carol Bayer Sager
Melissa Manchester


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Minor characters
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Three minutes prior to credits, and during.

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

Plot Synopsis

   


    George A. Romero has built himself a reputation as a director of exploitation films, beginning with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Despite his first film being made on a shoestring, Romero's  flesh-eating zombies chilled audiences and walked again  ten years later in Dawn of the Dead, generally considered to be a masterpiece of its genre. In the years immediately following his auspicious debut, Romero's next three films, There's Always Vanilla (1971), Season of the Witch (1973) and The Crazies were less successful, but these titles are of genuine interest to admirers of this individualistic director. Fans of Romero will more than welcome Umbrella Entertainment's release of  the George A. Romero Collection, a three disc set which includes The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977) and Dawn of the Dead (1978).

    Romero's screenplay, with its origins in Paul McCollough's unfilmed piece called The Mad People, begins with a gripping precredit sequence depicting two children, terrorised by their father who has gone insane, who find their mother murdered in her bed.We learn that this family resides in Evans City, Pennsylvania. A military plane carrying a biological-warfare agent, code named "Trixie", had crashed in a field near Evans City, resulting in chemical spill entering the town's water supply. Evidently exposure to this chemical agent will cause death and/or insanity. A team of military specialists moves into the town to clean-up, while the possible dangers are concealed from the inhabitants of the town. The townspeople view the military "invasion" with hostility, and before long contamination from the spill has infected the residents and members of the military. Otherwise inexplicable outbreaks of extreme violence begin to occur amongst those infected while the white suited invaders attempts to maintain order, and their commanders suppress information. A small group of residents decides to flee from the town and hide on the outskirts, but, unknown to them, there are some in the group who are already contaminated by the virus.

    The plot of the film is its strongest aspect. Beginning with a sound basic idea, the effects of the spill on all concerned are explored interestingly, with us faced with the ultimate question of "who is madder", those infected or those in charge. With obvious parallels to Viet Nam, with invasion, chemical warfare, self-immolation and genocide, combined with the political climate of Watergate cover-ups and the general duplicity of government, there are strong allegorical elements which are obvious while not hitting the audience over the head with the parallels. It is a shame that the film was made with such a limited budget, only $270,000 we learn in the director's commentary.There are flashes of inventiveness and technical savvy, but more often than not the film is pulled down by a pedestrian filming style, with some set-ups totally stagey and stiff (40:30). Also detracting from the impact of the drama is extremely poor audio and some just plain bad acting. The "pros" are generally sound, with W.G.McMillan and Lynn Lowry (Shivers) laudable, but the recruited townspeople are extremely bad in minor roles and scenes as "extras". The rioting high school students is undoubtedly the worst sequence,  with a few instances of directly eye-balling the camera. What the film does have is an undeniable energy, undoubtedly stemming from the passion and enthusiasm of the thirty-three year old director, pushing his film along despite the pressures of time and money. These positive flashes occur in the opening, in one of the last scenes filmed around a structure of concrete masonry bricks, and a very well-handled exciting  helicopter chase sequence.

    The restored image looks very good. In the commentary Romero says it looks better than in its original theatrical release, and the image is certainly sharp, bright and consistent. Director of photography S. William Hinzman makes a major contribution to the success of the film, despite the occasional flat sequences.On the other hand, the music adds nothing to the film, whether the original "score" by Bruce Roberts, the commercial recordings used, or the theme song Heaven Help Us by Carol Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester, sung by the latter at the end of the film. The music is certainly not assisted by the general tinniness of the sound, in particular the at times relentless banging of what sounds like a child's tin drum. Perhaps this was meant to invoke Dr Strangelove, another film where the military is mad, but the device is grossly overused.

    In its initial release The Crazies was a box-office flop, Romero attributing the failure to bad marketing. The disheartened director turned to making documentaries for the next few years, not returning to feature films until 1977 with Martin. Interestingly there is a remake of The Crazies in the Hollywood pipeline as I type, to be directed by  Breck Eisner (Sahara). Undoubtedly this new version will be more polished, but I wonder if it will have the thematic integrity of Romero's flawed box-office failure.

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Transfer Quality

Video

         
    The video transfer  is very pleasing, restoration work having been done on the source material.
    

    The feature is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
    Generally the transfer is clear and sharp, except for some inserted stock footage, such as brief shots of aircraft.
    
    Detail is very good, with the extensive close-ups looking extremely sharp and clear. There is a pleasing slight cinematic graininess to the image and the shadow detail is fine. There is no low level noise, the solid black backgrounds of the night scenes looking excellent.
    The colour is attractive and vivid, having quite a comic book look at times. The outdoor scenes look most attractive, and skin tones are excellent.
    MPEG artefacts were rare. There was no aliasing but an occasional instance of noise reduction noticeable on the solid pastel walls behind some of the "military" scenes.
    Apart from one solitary blue chemical "blob" (18:39) film artefacts were  confined to very ocasional white flecks.
    
     

    There are no subtitles.
    The disc is dual-layered, with the non-disruptive change occurring at 72:19.

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 224 Kbps; and
                                                     Commentary track which is Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 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 little direction across the fronts, very little separation, and only ambient animal effects and some music in the rear channels. I doubt if the subwoofer ever came alive.
    The overall sound had a hollow, tinny quality, although there was no difficulty with the dialogue.
    There were no sync problems, no crackle, pops or dropouts.
    The extremely sparse musical score sounds hollow, and the militaristic drum sounds like someone banging on a dustbin lid.
    Romero's honest commentary spends much time lamenting the quality of the sound in the film, detailing the limitations imposed by his budget. Visually the film at times belies these restrictions, but sadly this is not the case with the sound.

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

Extras

   

 



Main Menu:
Presented 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced. There is no animation, but it does have audio of Sager/Manchester theme song.
Options presented are :
        Play Feature        
        Audio Setup : The options are : Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
                                                        Dolby Digital 2.0                        
        Select Scenes : Eighteen scenes listed on three screens, without any stills, audio or thumbnails.
        Special Features : As detailed below.
        
Special Features :

Audio Commentary : 

Feature length commentary by George A. Romero in an interview/chat situation.
This is an enjoyable, relaxed discussion recorded in August, 2002. It had been fifteen years since Romero had last seen his film, and at first he seems rather hazy about it all. As the discussion progresses he warms up, and he acquires total recall, resulting in some enjoyable and human insights into the problems and joys of film-making under severe budget restrictions. There are open acknowledgements of the flaws in the film, including the music and the sound recording. Evidently there were no post production facilities for sound recording at all. The logistics of getting a small flock of sheep to move cued to a death of a principal were fun to hear - it was the actress who was on cue, not the sheep. She died when they moved, not the other way around. After all that intensity of work Romero then had to see his film fail at the boxoffice. His name was not yet established, Night of the Living Dead not having built its following, and no successful marketing strategy was found. They even tried changes to the title. In frustration Romero turned to documentaries for the next four years.
    This is an informative, frank and unpretentious insight into the creative process - on a budget!

TV Spots (05:46) :
Presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this is a collection of TV spots promoting the film. There is some damage at the beginning but the condition then improves.


Stills and Poster Gallery :
A very comprehensive - a total of 172 -  collection of publicity photos, production stills, lobby cards, posters and reviews. The majority are black and white, while the final forty-four, with the title change to Code Name : Trixie, are in colour.

George A. Romero Biography :
This is a comprehensive twenty screen coverage of Romero's films from 1968's Night of the Living Dead through to Bruiser in 2000, with poster reproductions of all of his films.


Original Theatrical Trailers : (01.00 and 00:30)
* The original theatrical trailer presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. There is some damage at the very beginning of footage.
* The original theatrical teaser presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced.



Horror Trailers :
Spontaneous Combustion (02:01) :
Ratio 1.85:1, 4x3 transfer.
Candyman (01:52) :
Ratio 1.33:1, 4x3 transfer.
The Driller Killer (03:31) :
Ratio 1.33:1, 4x3 transfer. This is not an actual trailer, but one continuous sequence taken from the film.
The Mask of Satan (03:25) :
Ratio 1.85:1, 16x9 transfer. This is very nice quality, black and white, interesting cinema trailer.

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 release is a single title release which, in addition to the extras on the Region 4 release, has an interview with one of the stars of The Crazies. The interview featurette is entitled : The Cult Film Legacy of Lynn Lowry. This would be an interesting interview to see, particularly as Romero laments, in his commentary, that he has no idea what became of Miss Lowry. Still, the Region 4 release of the film, in a box set with two other desirable titles, is certainly an attractive buy.

Summary

    More than a "horror" film, this is an interesting allegorical examination of the aftermath of an accidental related to chemical warfare. Although the film is severely limited by its small budget, the final result resonates due to the subject matter itself and the integrity of those involved in its production. Coming with a pleasing set of extras, the film has been very nicely restored visually, although the sound is definitely below par.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, October 24, 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)

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Previous R4 release - Anonymous

Overall | Dawn of the Dead (Umbrella) (1978) | Crazies, The: The George A. Romero Collection (1973) | Martin: The George A. Romero Collection (1977)

Martin: The George A. Romero Collection (1977)

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

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Released 29-Sep-2008

Cover Art

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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