Considered by many to be George Romero's greatest work, MARTIN is a shocking, thoughtful reworking of the vampire myth set in a dying American steel town. Martin (John Amplas) is a shy, alienated 17-year-old who thinks he may be a vampire--a theory which seems to be confirmed by the opening
scene. Aboard a Pittsburgh-bound train, Martin waylays a female passenger, injects her with sodium pentothal, and, while she is in a stupor, violates her. Lacking fangs, he then cuts her wrist with a razor blade and drinks her blood. (The gruesomely realistic special makeup effects are by Tom
Savini, here working on the first of his many films for Romero.) When Martin arrives in Pittsburgh, he is confronted with his elderly Old World cousin, Tata Cuda (Lincoln Maazel), a religious zealot who is convinced the boy is an 84-year-old vampire, the product of a family curse. Calling Martin
"Nosferatu," Tata Cuda is determined both to save the boy's soul and to destroy him. Martin has no friends in his new life; he only gets to experience a sense of community by becoming a regular caller to a radio talk show. He spills his guts (figuratively) over the air but the host assumes he's
just another colorful kook. However Martin becomes popular and earns a playful nickname: "The Count."
Writer-director Romero leaves Martin's true status up in the air. At times the boy is convinced that he is the monster Tata Cuda believes him to be, seeing himself in sepia flashbacks as a Count Dracula-like vampire eluding angry villagers. Other times he seems able to differentiate fantasy from
reality, as when he tells his grandfather "There's no magic." For the most part, Martin is shown to be a severely troubled teenager with deadly psychosexual problems, a nightmare version of the kid next door whose only way of relating to attractive women is by drinking their blood. At times,
Martin's condition is compared to drug addiction, though the horror of vampirism is shown to pale by comparison to the brutality of a police raid on a den of drug dealers.
Combining the well-worn elements of countless horror films with the harsh realities of life in a depressed contemporary industrial city, Romero creates a resonant, multifaceted, and, at times, surprisingly lyrical film that works both as insightful social commentary and as a fascinating
rumination on the conventions of the genre. Well worth a look for anyone with even a passing interest in horror, and essential viewing for serious fright fans. Romero himself appears as a priest and Savini plays the fiance of Martin's cousin.
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- Released: 1978
- Rating: R
- Review: Considered by many to be George Romero's greatest work, MARTIN is a shocking, thoughtful reworking of the vampire myth set in a dying American steel town. Martin (John Amplas) is a shy, alienated 17-year-old who thinks he may be a vampire--a theory which s… (more)