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With: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elyane Nadeau, Tom Savini, Sara Venable, Francine Middleton, Al Levitsky, George A. Romero, James Roy, J. Clifford Forrest Jr., Mike Gornick
Written by: George A. Romero
Directed by: George A. Romero
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/01/1976
IMDB

Martin (1977)

4 Stars (out of 4)

There Is No Magic

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

George A. Romero made this just prior to his masterpiece Dawn of the Dead (1978). That second zombie movie -- and indeed all his zombie movies -- overshadowed poor Martin at the time and continue to do so today. But aside from the zombie classics and taken by itself, Martin is also a kind of masterpiece.

It's technically a vampire story, though completely unusual and unique -- and still quite relevant.

Martin (John Amplas) thinks he's a vampire. Though he appears to be in his 20s, he claims that he's 84 years old and believes he needs blood from time to time. Though he doesn't have hypnotic eyes or fangs, he goes to elaborate lengths to drug his victims and extract their blood via a razor blade.

As the movie starts, he goes to live with his uncle (Lincoln Maazel) and his cousin (Christine Forrest). His uncle absolutely believes that Martin is a vampire -- due to some family "curse" -- and intends to cure him (or kill him). But every time the uncle, a strict old bastard lovingly referred to as Tada Cuda, tries to use garlic or mirrors or crosses on Martin, he scoffs and replies, "there is no magic."

Martin eventually calls into a talk show and confesses his "sins." Unlike the vampires of lore, Martin also appears to be sexually inactive -- by choice. A sexy housewife (Elyane Nadeau) comes onto him and he resists, but when he eventually succumbs, it leaves him unsatisfied. The lure of sex is everywhere, and Martin never quite knows what to make of it. Mostly he just seems sad and confused and out of place; is he a monster, or just like the rest of us? Or worse, does he understand something that we can't comprehend?

Romero occasionally uses black-and-white to reference Martin's flashbacks, but this device also refers -- indirectly -- to earlier vampire films.

DVD Details: I have the 2004 Lionsgate DVD, which comes with all kinds of great extras, but the Martin official website (www.thereisnomagic.com) claims that it's presented in the wrong aspect ratio. I didn't notice anything glaringly wrong, but purists might want to compare it with the other, out of print versions.

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