Martin – or where it all went wrong for George A. Romero

Martin (1977) was the film that revealed director George A. Romero’s desire to emulate the middle-brow success of ‘horror’ author Stephen King. It is the tale of a teenage boy who believes he’s a vampire. Obviously, and as Romero confirms in a making of documentary you’ll find on the Arrow’s ‘2 Disc Special Edition’, he isn’t; in ‘reality’ he’s just an alienated psycho. The central character comes from a dysfunctional family who believe they suffer from a vampire curse. Despite this, Martin can eat garlic, attend church and walk about in sunlight. His main problem is he is confused and the only way he can get laid is by drugging women; he also murders his rape victims by slashing their wrists with a razor, and then drinks their blood. Eventually he meets a bored housewife who is just gagging for it and whose double entendres are laid on with a trowel.  They get it on and Martin’s urge to rape and kill lessens, and when he does murder he switches to male victims.
Although there are a few jokes and the odd stab at satire, essentially this is a straight and serious film with one-dimensional characters and a terrible soundtrack; and because it isn’t particularly trashy – like say Jess Franco’s Female Vampire – it quickly turns into a snore fest. I really hate movies like Martin, films that go out of their way to project themselves as being better than exploitation efforts but at the same time are so desperate for an audience that they steer well clear of genuine cinematic experimentation.
All the films Romero made before Martin are interesting, afterwards he made nothing of worth seeing apart from the curious but flawed Knightriders (1981). With Night Of The Living Dead (1968), Romero reinvented the zombie movie. He went on to wreck the genre with various re-cuts and remakes of his first film, not to mention the tedious follow-ups. Romero’s sophomore feature There’s Always Vanilla (1971) is a perfectly watchable second-rank attempt at an underground movie; it’s about guy who doesn’t really know what he wants to do but lands a top advertising job to keep his girlfriend happy. It isn’t as good as Hi, Mom! (1970, Brian de Palma) or David Holzman’s Diary (1967, Jim McBride), but it is a lot better than The Wedding Party (1969, Brian de Palma).
George Romero’s third flick Hungry Wives AKA Season of the Witch (1972) has at its centre a bored housewife who gets into witchcraft as a way of spicing up her life. In the middle of Hungry Wives there is a beautiful montage of the main character purchasing magical implements cut to Donovan’s song Season of the Witch. This is the best single sequence in any Romero film, and the movie is perhaps his finest too. With The Crazies (1973), Romero successfully returned to the horror genre. This time a virus that turns people into psychotic killers leaves those without the disease fighting for their lives against the swelling ranks of the infected who have it. And that’s that, after The Crazies Romero turned into a bore obsessed with appealing to middle-America. Post T_he Crazies,_ even his zombie films suck!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Bela Lugosi on 2009-12-23 12:50:17 +0000

All these modern horror films are rubbish, the genre won’t recover until it finds room for directors of real talent like my old friend Edward D. Wood!

Comment by Cesar Romero on 2009-12-23 13:21:09 +0000

This Romero so called director/actor guy is a real loser, he’s been trying to muscle in on my act for years. He hopes people think he’s family but he’s not, he’s just some old joker!

Comment by Zen Master K on 2009-12-23 13:56:13 +0000

You’re wrong, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead are classics!

Comment by Lucifer Vegas on 2009-12-23 14:01:32 +0000

Romero sucks, Fulci is where it’s at !!!

Comment by Alan Wicca on 2009-12-23 14:20:24 +0000


Comment by Dave Kelso-Mitchell on 2009-12-23 14:56:41 +0000

I’m too squeamish to watch horror films. Nowadays I can only watch Scooby Doo cartoons or Yellow Submarine.

Comment by Lon Chaney Jr. on 2009-12-23 16:12:28 +0000

I used to be a werewolf but I’m alright nnnnnnnnoooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment by The Almost ‘Intelligent’ Person’s Genesis Porridge on 2009-12-23 16:36:18 +0000

I’m a Zyklon B. Zombie….I got no brains at all and my fans have got even less brain cells between ’em all than me! Gimmie the cash! Gimmie the cash! I got no talent but I got all my fan’s dosh! Bosh bosh bosh! Loadsa money!

Comment by The All Nude & X-Rated Jean Rollin on 2009-12-23 17:23:05 +0000

The actors and actresses in Martin just ain’t as good looking as the ones Jess Franco uses, let alone those I put in my films, so why bother even watching it?

Comment by Mario Mentrup on 2009-12-23 17:28:32 +0000

Russ Meyer sucks even more!

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-12-23 19:16:18 +0000

…but at least Meyer sucks with unfeasibly large boobs (even if more than a mouthful’s a waste…)

Comment by Dave Kelso-Mitchell on 2009-12-23 19:48:12 +0000

First time I saw Dawn Of The Dead I missed the opening credits and was half an hour in before I realised it wasnt a documentary about the January sales.

Comment by lrak ekalb on 2009-12-23 21:51:43 +0000

booo! its been a while – but i did like ‘MARTIN’ its a debunker in its plotline i think – and surely its ‘message’ that is its people who do ‘bad things’ – not ghoulies and ghosties – and thats a pretty pertinent message. Also , i seem to remember that Pittsburgh was also a fine drab backdrop for this movie – adding to its dispirited [double useage for that in this context] mood.
And i liked ‘the crazies’ too – it was copied for a tv. film i saw once featuring i think – tim matheson – anyone shed any light on this? both had the taboo-breaking incest bit that was really quite creepy.
i don’t think romero was really doing a s. king – whose early stuff i like a lot [the horror often didn’t transmit to screen especially if king had too strong a hand in the production it seemed] kings a kind of mark twain for 20th c. america.
the ‘season of the witch’ film you mentioned i saw a bit of and really didn’t like it and thought it drab in a bad way. but it reminded me of the Carpenter vehicle sharing part of the same name which was surrealistically bizarre and a glorious mess to boot – and should be twinned with the equally loony ‘PHANTASM’ [‘featuring angus scrimm as the tall man’] – ‘ten more days to halloween – silver dollar’.
the question arises though of the added dvd interview – this can really spoil a movie if the director or whatever shows themself to be what i believe is known as ‘a doofus’ – one such example is ‘donnie darko’ – you realise that the success of the film is at best a happy accident because you are helped to ‘get’ what the director is on about – and its not much – its like Jon Anderson saying that he didn’t know what he was singing about in Yes even though he wrote the words – i blame it on those cold mornings on the milk float; i wonder if he ever slept on his arm to make it go dead so as he could pretend it was someone elses…stop right there, fellow!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-12-23 22:54:06 +0000

We’ll just have to agree to disagree about Martin – but I just don’t go for it. But Phantasm is fantastic, love it to death! And of course I agree with Mr Vegas above that Fulci is our man for Zombie moives since Zombie Flesh Eaters and The Beyond are two of my favourites. But then I also love Fulci for Don’t Torture A Duckling and New York Ripper and even Cat In The Brain…..

Comment by Mark Parry on 2009-12-23 23:47:15 +0000

Have you checked this on Internet Movie Database? The Romero fans seem to love it, but maybe they got no critical sense.

Comment by Jeff Ward on 2009-12-23 23:53:49 +0000

I can eat garlic, chilli, curry and a lot of other hot food, and I can burn down churches as well as sit through a church service if I’ve taken some downers… so that must make me considerably more thrilling that Romero’s Martin!

Comment by C. P. Lee on 2009-12-24 00:45:02 +0000

Romero approached my band Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias wanting to make a film based around our song “Italians From Outter Space: Fistful of Spaghetti” but we turned him down. He came back with an offer to make a movie of our “Snuff Rock” play but we turned that down too. We sent him a Barbara Cartland novel – “Revenge of the Heart” – which we considered more appropriate for his film-making style. Sadly, Romero never even sought out an option on “Revenge of the Heart”, in which intriguing Nadia survives danger on all fronts to find a most healing love with the Marquis of Buckwood! Had Romero made a film of this Cartland romance, it could have been his making. Instead of which he churned out dreary horror film after dreary horror film, when he was working as a director – but don’t forget, his work became so boring few people were interested in financing it, so he went for long periods doing other things!

Comment by Old Rope on 2009-12-24 02:08:15 +0000

The Horror! The horror!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Films!! The horror!
Happy xmas / Hanukkah (I cant bring myself to say ‘holiday season’. Call me a pished cliched fool, but no matter how secular it is… It’s so walmart, so Hallmark innit) anyway………. have ahappy whatever Trip – so much to read on here… so few days before I fuck off abroad for a bit…. eeep! I’ll read it over turkey butties and leftover veg as I tonk back to many les and wonder where we all went wrong/right*
**left, baby!

Comment by Dave Kelso-Mitchell on 2009-12-24 02:10:23 +0000

Stephen King is a (technically) good writer who chooses to write masses of shit books for the marketplace. The short stuff he did in ‘Night Shift’ was great fun. After that his books became like those frozen chickens you buy in Tescos that have been injected with gallons of water to make them look more substantial. Why write one page when you can meander on about nothing very much for 500plus?
Horror films are pretty shite for the most part but SF movies are even worse. Can anyone think of a really good one?

Comment by rp__ on 2009-12-24 10:04:11 +0000

“Post The Crazies, even his zombie films suck!” … Aha.
Everybody loves “Dawn” — why can’t you just be normal?

Comment by The Cheese Dipper on 2009-12-24 18:56:22 +0000

Romero’s films are classic examples of cinematic cheese!

Comment by King Zombie on 2009-12-24 20:17:51 +0000

Forget Romero, he doesn’t have strippers in his zombie films, and as you advised in an earlier blog forget “Zombie Strippers” too – the answer is of course “Zombies Zombies Zombies”with its tag line of ‘zombies versus strippers’! And I guess some Fulci! But not “Zombie Beach Party” which Romero was gonna act in but pulled out of at the last minute.

Comment by I Was Born To Be Your Anti-Unicorn on 2009-12-24 20:51:18 +0000

Zombie films give me the horn! Zombies are the proletariat risen from the dead come back to take revenge against the rich!

Comment by Rosa Luxemburg on 2009-12-24 21:20:38 +0000

Everyone knows that the zombies in Italian horror movies are the most class conscious, and that those in American films like Romero’s tend to be lumpen (the refuse of all classes).

Comment by Raya Dunayevskaya on 2009-12-24 21:53:52 +0000

The British section of my News and Letters group is made up entirely of zombies, at least one of the two of them believes that Mister Trippy wrote The Complete Works of Shakespeare while posing as a high class call girl and simultaneously founding modern science. They must be nuts!

Comment by Claude McKay on 2009-12-24 21:56:55 +0000

When I went to New York I saw far more zombies that I’d ever seen at home, they seemed to be concentrated in the financial district. Same story when I was in London too.

Comment by Charles Denby on 2009-12-24 22:11:20 +0000

I’ve never met a zombie on an assembly line, but I’ve met plenty of zombies who claimed to be ‘independent’ journalists and ‘investigators’.

Comment by Conrad Black on 2009-12-24 22:20:40 +0000

But do you know what makes Mister Trippy writing The Complete Works of Shakespeare while posing as a high class call girl and simultaneously founding modern science even worse? He did it in the nude! That’s right, while writing all those plays and books and doing all those experiments he wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing! He had nothing on but a smile! No right thinking person would have anything to do with someone sick enough to do that!

Comment by Mrs Mills on 2009-12-24 22:51:48 +0000

I like those old 1930s and 1940s zombie movies with people like Bela Lugosi in them, you know the ones I mean. Much better than all this modern rubbish. They knew how to make films in them days. And if you want to see strippers you should go to the pub for them, they shouldn’t be in films, especially not zombie films which is what I think of being family entertainment.

Comment by lrak ekalb on 2009-12-26 21:43:24 +0000

…the call-girl stuff was nonsense – but i’ve seen the [nude] modern dance stuff with SH – maybe in my dreams i’ve seen it – but i have!
oh, and ‘house of mortal sin’ was a fine brit horror movie – sci fi? quatermass!!

Comment by hammond organs on 2010-01-08 17:22:58 +0000

No love for Dawn of the Dead? Blasphemy.

Comment by m morgan on 2010-02-16 02:04:07 +0000

The score in Martin is haunting and great. It IS dated but that comes with watching seventies films. I thought John Amplas did a great job playing Martin, his character had alot of social anxiety along with his confusion most horror films don’t give you that much in a character, especially the villian.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2010-02-16 13:13:29 +0000

I like a lot of seventies and older films, that isn’t my problem with this – I just much prefer Eurosleaze or proper art cinema… this is too much like bad Hollywood….

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