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I, Madman (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Scream Factory
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Tibor Takacs
Jenny Wright
Clayton Rohner
Randall William Cook
Bottom Line: 
Click to Play

Up until a few years back, MGM would release a slew of horror titles on DVD every October as part of an annual Halloween event. The majority of these flicks were either old catalog titles we’d seen before dressed up with new covers or thrown together as double-features with similar films, but, on occasion, an obscure little gem would sneak its way in, as was the case with a little-seen film called I, Madman. As a hardcore horror fan, there were very few American entries in the genre that I hadn’t seen, and that number is scaled back even further when it comes to the eighties. You see, I'm a child of the "me decade", and I’d made it my business to borrow, buy, or rent pretty much anything that came out during that period. Of course, there were a few that slipped under my radar here and there, and 1989’s I,Madman was one such film. I was actually thrilled to find proof that there were still some treasures from the decade of decadence I'd yet to discover, and, now, Scream Factory gives me the chance to rediscover the film in glorious HD with their new Blu-ray release.

Virginia (the yummy Jenny Wright) is an aspiring actress who spends her days working in an antique bookstore, and her evenings curled up with a good scary read. When the bookstore receives the contents of an estate sale, among them are a pair of novels by an obscure author named Malcolm Brand (Cook). Virginia becomes obsessed with his Lovecraftian style and seeks out his only other book, I, Madman. When the book shows up on her doorstep, she assumes her co-worker Mona had delivered it for her, and digs right in. The novel tells the story of a lovelorn doctor who removes his own facial features in a fit of hopeless rage after being turned away by the object of his affection, Anna. Virginia begins seeing a strange man following her around the city, and as she gets deeper into the book, the crimes from its pages begin to occur in real life, down to the last grisly detail. Virginia realizes that the madman from the book is now flesh and blood, and thinks she's Anna. Now he's now come to claim her heart, one way or another!

Originally released as Hardcover, I, Madman is a really fun little horror flick that wears its pulp novel influences proudly on its sleeve. I can understand how this film didn't really prosper in the waning days of the slasher fueled 80's, seeing that it's a somewhat tongue-in-cheek affair that has more in common with the old EC Comics style chillers of the fifties and sixties, but it's a shame that it didn't catch on in its video afterlife. Director Tibor Takacs certainly showed a flair for fright, with lots of wonderfully staged suspense sequences and a clever execution of Virginia's fantasy world and reality intertwining. Jenny Wright, who’s apparently fallen off the face of the Earth since 1992's Lawnmower Man, is perfect as the bookishly sexy Virginia, as is Special Effects Wizard Randall William Cook (an Oscar winner for his creature design in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) as the tragic "madman", Malcolm Brand. Cook had designed the make-up appliances and convinced director Takacs that he was the man for the role, resulting in a wonderfully realized antagonist that seems straight out of the golden age of Hollywood horror. Even the film's dated effects work plays to its strengths in that it somehow enhances the cheerily low-budget pulp feel.

Scream Factory presents I, Madman in its correct theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is a welcome bonus unto itself as MGM’s DVD presentation was the cropped fullscreen affair made for the VHS market. The transfer is a touch grainier than I would have liked, but the image is crisp and vibrant, with minimal evidence of print damage. Fine details are evident in close-ups, but are a bit muddied in darker scenes. Surprisingly, Scream Factory offers two soundtracks for the film; a 2.0 DTS Master Audio track and a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track, with the latter proving a robust and very welcome addition.

While this is not one of Scream’s Collector’s Edition titles, the film does feature a really impressive assortment of extras (as well as a reversible cover!) including a lengthy all-new HD retrospective featurette entitled Ripped from the Pages - The Making of I, Madman, which features cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and all manner of reminiscences. We also get a collection of vintage VHS footage shot during production by visual FX artist/co-star Randall William Cook (with entertaining commentary from Cook, himself), a new feature-length commentary track with director Tibor Takacs and Cook, stills galleries (HD), and both theatrical and VHS trailers (HD). It’s a really excellent collection of goodies that actually tops a few of Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition releases, so it’s a bit puzzling why this one didn’t join their ranks.

It's always nice to throw in a movie with zero expectations and find yourself grinning with satisfaction upon its conclusion, and I found that the case with I, Madman when I first viewed it in its initial DVD run. Now presented as the director intended, in its true cinematic aspect ratio, and with hugely improved picture and sound quality, Scream Factory’s extras-packed Blu-ray makes the experience all the more satisfying! I’Madman is good, solid fun, and earns high recommendations! 

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