Saturday, June 11, 2011

MARTIN (George Romero, 1977, USA)

A troubled young man is confounded by the anachronism of memory, juxtaposing sexual desire for bloodletting, his existence devoid of magic but ripe with superstition. George Romero propels the vampire myth into the 20th century as a tale of adolescent angst corrupted by archaic family values, where sex becomes violent penetration (a hypodermic as substitute for his manhood), a thirst slaked not only by blood...but the power to control.

The film opens with a brutal rape on a train, where an ordinary young man sneaks into a locked compartment and subdues a woman with a hypo full of sodium pentothal, has sex with her unconscious and unresponsive body, then cuts her wrists with a razor blade to drink the blood. He then arranges the room to make it seem like a suicide. As the camera follows the perpetrator from the train we soon realize that he is our subject, the story’s protagonist that has only earned our outrage. It is to Romero’s credit that Martin eventually becomes a sympathetic character, a victim of a family shame who treads precariously in the thorns of his uncle’s Old World. His vociferous uncle Cuda taunts Martin believing him to be “Nosferatu” and vows to destroy him but will save his soul first...unless Martin kills again. Cuda hangs garlic on the doors, crucifixes on the walls, and even has an Catholic priest perform a meek exorcism. Martin is profoundly disturbed and acts out these vampire tropes by mundane means: without the use of “magic”, he utilizes drugs to control his victims and a razor the cut their veins. Romero uses black and white scenes to portray either Martin’s distant past (he believes himself to be over 80 years old) or his fantasy world tainted by classic horror films: Martin has fulfilled his uncle’s prophecy.

The killings decline when Martin finally discovers a willing companion to satisfy his sexual urges, a depressed and drunken married woman, but her suicide is ironically pinned on him; or more precisely, pinned through him.

Final Grade: (B)


Shubhajit said...

"... but her suicide is ironically pinned on him; or more precisely, pinned through him." Ha ha, well said. Ironic too, huh?

Thanks to your suggestion I too watched Martin and quite liked it. The movie is difficult to classify as it isn't a horror movie in the classic sense of the term.

He drinks blood, but he isn't a vampire; he doesn't get affect by the presence of crucifix, but dies instantly when it enters his body (like any normal person would); and the film's unhurried pacing is singularly devoid of an ominous tone - the kind associated with the horror genre.

Perhaps one of the reasons behind the film's ability to intrigue and interest is its "against the type" nature.

Alex DeLarge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks Shubhajit! I hope I made my point....bad-um-bup.

I've been watching some vampire flicks recently (no TWILIGHT, I swear!) and have reviews for DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS and VAMPYRES in the can. My Hammer blog also has TWINS OF EVIL and I'm working on COUNTESS DRACULA and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE.

I just finsihed re-reading Stoker's DRACULA last week because I haven't visited that bleak country since my High School daze. I loved the book and was able to peel away the skin to see the hidden naked truth: Stoker was scared of sex. Someday I'll write an essay on DRACULA but I have so many films that demand my attention.

Rick29 said...

I think it's easily Romero's best, most complex film. And, hey, his acting in it ain't half bad.