Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - I, MADMAN on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Scream Factory - I, MADMAN on Blu-ray

I, MADMAN (1989; Tibor Takacs)
There are lots of us who love the cinema of the 1980s. We latch on to certain actors and they become touchstones for us. Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, and Matthew Broderick all hold a special place for us. But then there are those actors who aren't as well remembered by some but who deserved to be. Jenny Wright and Clayton Rohner  are two of those unsung actors that I absolutely adore. Wright was in such cult items as NEAR DARK, OUT OF BUNDS, THE CHOCOLATE WAR and THE WILD LIFE, while Rohner headlined things like JUST ONE OF THE GUYS, MODERN GIRLS and APRIL FOOL'S DAY. Jenny Wright is a remarkably beautiful and talented actress who eventually dropped out of the profession sadly. Thankfully she made a good amount of movies and there are still things like this to discover from her filmography. Clayton Rohner is just a great everyman kinda guy that I've always gotten a kick out of in all of the aforementioned 80s movies.
In I, MADMAN, Jenny Wright plays a bookstore employee who becomes unhealthily fascinated by one particular author of old pulp novels. The author's name is Malcolm Brand and he writes books with tiles like Much of Madness, More of Sin and of course the titular I, Madman. As she becomes more and more involved with reading Brand's books, she begins to notice that there are things from the stories that are starting to intrude on her real life. She may have even released a psychopathic killer on the city. The movie makes great use of this blurring of reality and fiction as a stylistic device to jump back and forth and eventually blend the two. Some could easily make comparisons to John Carpenter's 1994 film IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and those would be apt. I am quite curious if I, MADMAN was a direct influence on that film as it seems probable that it was. I, MADMAN as film has this retro film noir vibe to it and truly has the feel of the kind of pulp fiction that is being featured prominently within. The noir side of things also allows for some fun, shadow-y photography throughout. It reminded me of a Val Lewton film or something (obviously with more gore than Lewton would ever have shown). Another thing that's neat about the movie is that it takes place in Los Angeles (mostly Hollywood actually) and that meshes well with the noir trappings. The makeup effects are great too. The stop-motion animation in the film is kind of wonderful. Special effects man/animator/actor Randall William Cook apparently used some of the same kind of techniques that Ray Harryhausen used for many of his most famous sequences. Tibor Takacs directed the 80s classic THE GATE prior to this movie and one of the more memorable aspects of that film is its use of stop motion for the creatures in it. Randall William Cook also did those effects so it's pretty striking to have that visual stamp in I, MADMAN as well. And the creature in MADMAN is actually quite freaky. It is a bit of a shock to me that I could find myself unnerved by a stop motion monster these days, but I must admit that I was. On the whole this is a fun little horror flick and one that I am very glad to have finally experienced for myself after having circled it for years. Bravo to Scream Factory for putting this gem out. It should take its rightful place along other such gems as DEATH VALLEY and DEADLY EYES in terms of movies I am very happy are now on Blu-ray. I, MADMAN will definitely be on my year-end list of favorite "Film Discoveries" from 2015.

Special Features:
Though not technically a Scream Factory Collector's Edition package, this I, MADMAN Blu-ray has an excellent collection of supplements:
"Ripped From the Pages - The Making of I, MADMAN" (33 mins) This very enjoyable new documentary features  interviews with writer David Chaskin, director Tibor Takacs,   and actors Clayton Rohner, Randall William Cook (who also did special effects) and Stephanie Hodge. All the participants share their memories of the production including their recollections of working with Jenny Wright (who is unfortunately absent from the doc). Since I'm just now finally discovering this movie and so I found it quite nice to have a cool retrospective piece like this one the Blu-ray. 
-Behind the Scenes footage with commentary from Randall William Cook (11 mins). He discusses how the video footage he shot was often to help with figuring out the insertion of the stop-motion effects. Cook also explains and illustrates how some of the other effects were done as well. He has obviously prepared a sort of free form essay to read from and it makes the whole thing feel more like an old Criterion laserdisc commentary in the best possible way. Educational and informative.
-Also included is a new audio commentary track from Tibor Takacs and Randall William Cook which is moderated by Rob Galluzzo (of Icons of Fright and Killer POV). Lots of great production stories and a solid track overall. 
-Lastly there is even a still gallery that has optional commentary from Randall William Cook.



2 comments:

John Carroll said...

Thank you. Huge Jenny Wright fan and wasn't aware of this. Terrific, underused, actress.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Good movie for Jenny Wright fans!