Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s also a great way to make a buck. Joe Giannone and Gary Sales were inexperienced, short on cash, but they had an idea for a flick based on an upstate New York summer camp legend, The Kropsy Maniac. It’d be the sort of film that’d be relatively inexpensive to make, and might easily tap into the booming success of Friday the 13th, and their favorite, Halloween. The duo’s combined efforts hit theaters as Madman (1981, 88 minutes).
The movie: A farmer murdered his wife and two children in their sleep, and then went into town for a drink. The townspeople were so angry with what he had done, they lynched him, and while he hung there, split his face with an ax. By dawn, he was gone and the legend of Madman Marz was born. His story would only be spoken of in hushed tones around campfires like the one at a summer camp for gifted children — conveniently within earshot of the Marz farmhouse. Seems if you speak his name above a whisper, he’ll come looking to string you up like he got done, and sure enough, one of the "gifted" starts screaming "MADMAN MARZ!" It’s very funny until the wild-haired and barefoot beastie answers the taunt by stalking the woods in search of camper meat and a late-night manicurist. Counselors wander one-by-one into the forest to look for the now missing loud-mouth and meet with gruesome ends. Including one poor gal who should have called Triple A instead of tinkering under the hood herself — in such a pressing situation, that’s a great way to break a nail, or completely loose your head. CineSchlockers will recognize Gaylen Ross from Dawn of the Dead. Here, she’s Betsy the nurturing blonde with the summer-of-love attitude (credited as Alexis Dubin).
Notables: Two breasts. 10 corpses. Homicidal-maniac cam. Diddling in a pup tent. Gratuitous campfire song. Refrigerator hideout.
Quotables: What not to say to your sweetie while nuzzling by the fire, "I love to feel the flames devour the wood. Who says there’s no beauty in destruction." Words that always signal impending doom, "Be careful!"
Time codes: First appearance of the menace (11:42). Hot tub lovin’ (23:40). Terrific severed head effect (53:50). Finally, a clear look at Marz (1:25:15).
Final thought: Marz inflicts truly gruesome carnage, and the audience isn’t spared the bloodletting. It also succeeds where many in the genre fail — with a great ending.