Martin (1977)

Director: George A. Romero

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel. Christine Forrest, Elyane Nadeau, Tom Savini, Sarah Venable, James, Roy, J. Clifford Forrest Jr.

As the opening scene shows passengers boarding a train, Martin (John Amplas) finds his attention caught by a woman travelling alone. When night falls, he creeps into her compartment armed with a syringe full of an unidentified fluid. Romero depicts the character's romanticized ideas of what will happen, resembling a seductive scene from an old vampire film, yet the reality is more brutal.

Things fall apart when the woman catches sight of the intruder, despite his attempted reassurance by creepily saying he's "always careful with needles". When she's unconscious, Martin uses a razor blade to slit the woman's wrists, climaxing on a blood spurt which feels orgasmic for the titular character. After basking in his actions, the killer cleans himself up and stages the scene to look like a suicide.

That attention-grabbing sequence opens George A. Romero's fifth feature film released, shot after the once-lost The Amusement Park. The story follows the titular young man that believes he is a vampire, moving to live with his elderly religious cousin, Cuda (Lincoln Maazel). Acting hostile to Martin, the superstitious man proclaims that he will save the young man's soul before destroying him.

Writer/director Romero offers an intriguing new take on bloodsuckers by approaching vampirism as a mental illness. Unable to fit in with even his family, Martin is an outsider who struggles to find somebody willing to love him. All he gets is Cuda treating him like a vile creature behind closed doors while talking about family curses, actions which worsen the situation. The only time Martin opens up to others are his nightly calls to a radio show, regardless of their evident mockery while playing up his vampire persona. 

The lead's desire to escape this lonely life is captured in his black-and-white fantasies, which play like a traditional vampire film that contrasts with the horrifying reality. Despite imagining he's an alluring seductress, his actions more resemble a serial killer. This comes to a head during a tense sequence, when a planned home invasion goes wrong and relies on improvisation. Aiding the film throughout are Tom Savini's fantastic effects and Donald Rubenstein's terrific score.

Martin finds comfort with Abbie Santini, as he begins an affair with the housewife trapped in a loveless marriage. The pair are unsatisfied with the life they're trapped in, resorting to dangerous methods just to feel something. While Abbie is clearly desperate for help, Martin is too focused on his own situation to offer aid or even speak to her. This extends to Martin's cousin, Christina (Christine Forrest), who's trapped in a disappointing relationship which provides a momentary escape.

For these people who've been dealt a bad hand in life, the deserted town they inhabit offers nothing but misery as they struggle to overcome their circumstances. The first time Martin appears happy is when he plays a prank on Cuda, as he struggles to believe he can live a happy life outside of what he grew accustomed to. All that's left is to give into such sadness or fall victims to others beliefs, in this haunting tale that's among Romero's masterpieces.

Martin is available on 4K UHD and Blu-Ray now from Second Sight