Madman (1981) reviews and overview

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‘They thought they were alone.’

Madman is a 1981 American slasher horror feature film directed and written by Joe Giannone. The Jensen Farley Pictures production stars Gaylen Ross (CreepshowDawn of the Dead) under the name of Alexis Dubin, plus Tony Fish, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Jan Claire and Paul Ehlers as Madman Marz.

The film was originally supposed to be based on the Cropsy killer legend, but in August 1980, when word reached the production that the film The Burning was being based on the same legend, the script was re-formatted.

Madman was briefly in Variety‘s top ten best-performing movies when it was released on January 1, 1982, in New York, and it went on to rent well on home video.



Although passed uncut for UK cinema by BBFC censors, the VRO pre-cert video was briefly seized by Hampshire police during the 1980’s video nasties moral panic, although no prosecutions made. It was later released fully uncut in Britain on DVD by Anchor Bay in 2002.Madman-Arrow-Video-blu-ray

Buy Blu-ray:

On August 4, 2015, Arrow Video released Madman as a Blu-ray/DVD combo in the UK. The special features are:

  • Brand new 4K transfer from the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with director Joe Giannone, Madman stars Paul Ehlers and Tony Fish and producer Gary Sales
  • New Audio Commentary by The Hysteria Continues
  • The Legend Lives: Thirty Years of Madman – 90 minute documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • New Interview with producer Gary Sales
  • New Interview with actor Jimmy Steele
  • New Interview with Madman star, Paul Ehlers
  • New Rare Acoustic Recording of the song inspired by his first viewing of Madman, ‘Escape From Hellview’, written, produced and performed by former CKY frontman, Deron Miller
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Stills Gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film, illustrated with original archive stills and posters


On May 12, 2015, Vinegar Syndrome released Madman as a 4k Blu-ray in the USA. Special Features:

  • New 4k restoration from the 35mm camera negative
  • The Legend Lives: 91 minute documentary on the Making of Madman
  • Cast/Crew interviews
  • Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues!
  • TV spots
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Buy Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray from |

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Gaylen Ross

Opening plot:

A group of counsellors at a summer camp gather around and one of them tells the story of Madman Marz, a farmer who one night butchered his wife and kids and disappeared into the woods never to be seen again.

Rumour has it that if you say Mr Marz’s name out loud, then he will come and get you. So that’s exactly what one bright spark does, and sure enough, the young things soon have an axe-wielding maniac on their hands…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The urban legend is interesting, there is some suspense, and a few of the deaths may unnerve. However, in terms of story, this is a clone. There is almost nothing unique about this film. It almost feels like a copy-and-paste of other movies in the genre. If you’re still interested, I’d say its worth a rental or cheap purchase for horror fans.” Cinematic Addiction

“Yeah, I know, the ’80s, particularly the early ’80s, were awash with low-budget slashers, but even in this glutted field, Madman stands out as something special, a slasher film with heart. A solidly old-school, above-average entry in an often-maligned genre.’ DVD Verdict

“The tense build up works well to support this feeling of age-old dread, and the original theme and music (Stephen Horelik) will get stuck in your head for days after watching. The main ‘problem’ with the film is that it all too often goes into slo-motion, with Marz occasionally reaching parodic levels of plodding around.” Flickering Myth

Without being as iconic as the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Madman may be the most archetypal ‘80s slasher film […] as played by Paul Ehlers, the long-haired, mountain-bearded Madman Marz makes for an outstandingly memorable villain.” Mike “McBeardo” McFadden, Heavy Metal Movies

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“This movie has everything you could want in a horror movie; a truly formidable maniac, victims who make questionable survival choices, multiple grisly deaths and a jarring synth score complimented by a legendary theme song that should have been a number one pop hit across the country. And I have to say, the cat-and-mouse stalking scenes are still pretty darn effective. Sure, it has flaws but they are enjoyable flaws.” Kindertrauma

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‘Story and structure-wise, Madman is pretty much a by the books slasher film with the bulk of the time spent with the killer stalking his victims and disposing of them in creative ways. And while some may be turned off by the simplicity of what transpires on screen, the basic premise is strong enough and the kill scenes feature an ample amount of gore are all well executed.’ 10k Bullets

“Alternatively cheap and cheerful, and sometimes even a little creepy … Despite some of the cheesiest performances ever committed to celluloid, it manages some fairly suspenseful sequences – particularly when one of the counsellors chooses to hide inside a fridge. ” J. A. Kerswell, Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut


Buy: |


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Buy Madman 30th Anniversary Special Edition Code Red DVD from


Filming locations:

Fish Cove Inn, Southampton, Long Island, New York

Image credits: Scenes from the Morgue

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4 Comments on “Madman (1981) reviews and overview”

  1. I have no idea what these other people were watching but watched this back to back with the first Friday The 13th movie with a bunch of friends recently and we were all in agreement that this was the better and more creepy movie. Criminally underrated,

  2. I know this one has gotten something of a reputation as a ignored classic in some quarters, but I don’t see it. There are far better killer in the woods films out there.

  3. I thought this was absolutely abysmal. As derivative as they come – it’s bog toffee like this that make the slasher genre the “much maligned” slasher genre.

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