Madhouse (1981) (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
Directed By: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Starring: Trish Everly, Michael MacRae, Dennis Robertson
Rated: UR/Region A/2:35/1080p/Number of Discs 2
Available from Arrow Video
MANY PEOPLE VISIT … NO ONE EVER LEAVES. Helmed by legendary producer/director Ovidio Assonitis, the man behind such cult favorites as The Visitor and Piranha II: The Spawning, Madhouse is a crimson-soaked tale of sibling rivalry taken to a terrifying and bloody extreme. Julia has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary… but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping hospital, where she’s recently been admitted with a horrific, disfiguring illness, Julia’s sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling this year – promising a birthday surprise that she’ll never forget. An Italian production shot entirely in Savannah, Georgia, Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl) fuses slasher elements with the over-the-top excess of ’80s Italian terror – resulting in a cinematic bloodbath so gut-wrenching that the British authorities saw fit to outlaw it as a “video nasty”.
What came first? Happy Birthday to me or the film I’m reviewing today, Madhouse? Both were released in 1981 and both have a whole lot in common. Both have very similar plots and both have just about the same “Birthday Party” scene. While Happy Birthday to Me is an old school American slasher movie, Madhouse was made in Georgia but was an Italian production and the Italian ways of it really shine through. To put a little more light on this movie let me start by saying it does the whole evil twin thing. That is made clear from the start. One twin has a disease that has made her deformed but she vows revenge on the other sister. Despite being locked away and on death’s door apparently, the evil sister escapes and we have a bit of a slasher on our hands until some twists and turns come to light. Oh, and did I mention that the evil sister has a dog that does a whole bunch of the dirty work for her? Nobody is safe! Not men, women, old women, or even deaf kids. It is really something to see at some points, but at others not so much.
The issue with Madhouse is it is about as slow as you can imagine. Stuff happens, but the excitement level and pacing is down and off. It starts off well enough but then slows down to a near stop a couple of times before finishing off things in a stronger style. The movie just felt like it was padding for time in between and one case of this is a scene where a woman seemingly is chased around forever before she finally dies. Yes, Madhouse was a movie that was on the infamous video nasty list and it does pack a punch or two in the gore department here and there, but the rest isn’t anything special to me. You’d never be able to tell it is a subpar film by the way Arrow has packed with the release. As always with Arrow, the film looks great and packs some cool extras that you can find listed below. But as far as slasher films go, and I’m a guy who LOVES slasher films, this one is pretty weak.
– Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
– Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
– Brand new interviews with cast and crew
– Alternate opening titles
– Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
– FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film
Quality of Transfer: 90%