MARTIN is sometimes subtitled "THE VAMPIRE". In fact it is left to the viewer to decide whether the titular character is more than a serial killer. Martin (John Amplas) comes across like any quiet, lonely, mildly dysfunctional teenager. But in addition to the usual teenage angst, he must cope with repressive relatives who believe he is affected by the old family curse of vampirism. While Martin himself refuses to accept his family’s beliefs, he still succumbs to his unfortunate urges to kill women and drink their blood. Although this might point the finger at vampirism, he has none of the other usual traits such as pointy teeth, lack of a reflection and inability to go out in sunlight.
Martin uses a syringe to suppress his victims, and although there is no suggestion that he turns it on himself, he spends much of the movie in a fugue-like state. His consciousness drifts in and out of reality resulting in frequent flashbacks to what may be an entirely imagined past; a monochrome Hammeresque world of puffy shirts in which villagers wield flaming torches. These sequences have strong parallels to events in his real world, and we can never be sure if he is recalling past memories or superimposing his imagination over reality. The film has a pervasive dreamlike quality, shattered periodically by scenes of violence. This violence, rendered by FX artist Tom Savini (who also appears as a character in the movie, without his trademark moustache), is far from glamorised. Instead it is depicted as clumsy, brutal, and messy, making it both shocking and believable.
Martin seeks ways to communicate with the outside world, even instigating his own “Interview with the Vampire” on a radio call-in show. Martin feels that sedating women is the only means by which he can get close to them. Indeed, it is only during moments of crisis that Martin sees the fragile humanity of those around him; in the struggles of his victims, and the weakness of the priest brought in to exorcise him. It would appear that only by causing conflict is Martin able to make his voice heard amongst those around him.
At its core MARTIN deals with the dangers of this eternal lack of understanding between a teenager and the surrounding world. Martin struggles to accept the basic mundanity of his life and begins to rebel. The adult world in turn sees him as a danger and only increases its apparent strangle hold. The people around him have their own baggage, from the frustrated suburban housewives to the cousin, Cuda (Lincoln Maazel), obsessed with his religious duty to ’save’ Martin, taunting him with sneering cries of "Nosferatu" while looking like a depraved Colonel Sanders. Each is in some way damaged goods, at once part of the insular society and suffering because of it.
Whether you perceive MARTIN as the story of a vampire, a serial killer or a teenager driven to violence by his family and society, the film remains both satisfying and touching, with strongly defined characters. As with much of Romero’s work, MARTIN carries a sense of timelessness that allows it to stay relevant where other similarly themed films have aged less gracefully.
This new UK DVD release from Arrow Films presents a very clean image although it is never absolutely crisp, but this almost certainly reflects the look of the original print. The muted tones of the interiors are perfectly reproduced, and the exteriors boast dazzling colours. The extras, however, are less impressive. A selection of stills with no explanatory text, and a German TV Romero documentary filmed on the set of DAWN OF THE DEAD which will be of interest to DAWN fans, containing plenty of behind the scenes footage. This documentary is mainly in German with English subtitles (even the English-speaking director is sometimes dubbed into German before being subtitled in English!). Also included are television, radio and cinema trailers and sleeve notes by the director (dated 1977).
Directed by George A. Romero
USA / 1977 / 95 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
An Arrow Films Release (UK)
All region. PAL. Dolby Mono