Release Date(s)1989 (July 21, 2015)
Studio(s)Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Released in 1989, I, Madman tells the tale of a young librarian who reads ultra-violent pulp novels and begins to realize that the killings that she’s reading about are actually taking place in reality. She quickly figures out that the killer is inching his way closer and closer to her, and it’s up to her and her policeman boyfriend to stop him.
My first glimpse of I, Madman was from a home video trailer I saw when I was about 10 years old, and it looked scary as hell to me. Watching it now all of these years later, I can safely say that whoever cut that trailer together did a hell of a good job selling the movie. It’s certainly not as scary a movie as it appears to be. It’s also not a movie that intentionally mixes tones, yet it attempts to mix a serial killer story with a pulpy, noirish aesthetic set in modern day. It’s an idea that seems like it could work if done well, but there are some elements that make it fall a little flatter than the filmmakers intended, at least for me.
Most assuredly, the score kind of ruins the atmosphere that they’re trying create, making the plot seem a bit more silly than they projected. That mixed with Jenny Wright’s performance, which is lackluster except for a couple of smaller moments, make it come off a little light. Obviously, the reason that the movie is so well-remembered is because of its villain, played by Randall William Cook. Him and director Tibor Takacs had worked on The Gate previously, as well as The Gate II: Trespassers later, but in this instance, Cook was hired to play the antagonist and not just do the special effects. His wonderful make-up work, as well as the brief inclusion of some of his stop-motion animation techniques, gave the movie a longer life.
Unfortunately, I, Madman barely made a dent at the box office, only bringing in a little over $151 thousand. Yet it’s still a movie that continues to be held up by genre fans many years later. It’s clear that the director had a clear idea of what exactly it was that he wanted, and he certainly achieves some visual greatness as it’s a very well-shot movie, but it’s just not a perfect formula. The make-up effects and the sped up dolly shot in the hallway revealing Cook’s character with a large syringe are still effective to this day, so it’s a low budget movie with some problems but with some very memorable aspects.
For Scream Factory’s presentation of the film, they’ve utilized a very good transfer of the film but with some drawbacks. It’s a very grainy presentation, with the stop-motion sections softening it up a bit (of which there are few). Fine detail is quite good, mostly in close-ups. Colors are very strong, although slightly faded from time to time. Black levels are quite deep, but there does seem to be a bit of crush during some of the much darker scenes. Shadow detail suffers a little because of this. Contrast levels are satisfactory, however, and there are no leftover signs of digital tinkery. There is, however, some minor film debris left behind, but nothing too intrusive. The opening credits are also a bit wobbly, but the picture straightens up after that. As for the audio, you get two tracks: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. Both tracks prove to have plenty of merit, especially the 5.1 track. Dialogue is always clean and clear, and both score and sound effects have some room to breathe in the surrounding speakers. Dynamic range is very good, with some minor low end moments sprinkled in from time to time. Both tracks represent the film quite well. There are also subtitles included in English for those who might need them.
As for the extras, there’s some good stuff worth checking out. There’s an audio commentary with director Tibor Takacs and actor & artistic supervisor Randall William Cook; the newly-produced documentary Ripped From the Pages: The Making of I, Madman; a set of behind the scenes footage with audio commentary by Cook; the movie’s original theatrical trailer and aforementioned home video trailer; and a still gallery, also with audio commentary by Cook.
I, Madman may not be in the top tier of horror movies, but it certainly has a bit of style and some good (as well as weird) ideas floating around in it. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray treatment of it should bring fans old and new out of the woodwork for a look-see.
- Tim Salmons