Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I, Madman (1989)

Title: I, Madman (1989)

Director: Tibor Takacs

Cast: Jenny Wright


Some directors make only one good film in their life and then they never repeat that success again, these are the ‘one hit wonders’ of the world of cinema. Was this the case with Tibor Takacs; the director behind the beloved 80’s supernatural horror film The Gate (1986)? Was The Gate Takacs one hit wonder? If you know the rules of a one hit wonder, then you know that bands that hit it big with one song always have one more follow up ‘hit’ before they disappear. For example, The Blood Hound Gang had a huge hit with their song “The Bad Touch”. They had the whole world singing about “nothing but mammals” but after that huge hit, they hit one more song called “The Inevitable Return of the Great White Dope” and then they quickly disappeared from the charts. They might still play around, and put out new albums, but they have never reached the level of success they reached with that one huge hit.  I guess I, Madman was Tibor Takacs one other ‘hit’ before disappearing into mediocrity. I say that because I, Madman was actually watchable and enjoyable piece of 1980’s horror. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s certainly a well made little b-movie, meant to be enjoyed with the lights of your living room turned off, during a stormy night.

I, Madman tells the story of a young book store clerk named Virginia who loves to curl up in her living room couch during dark stormy nights to read horror novels. Her favorite author is a guy by the name of Malcom Brand. The titles of his books? ‘Much of Madness, More of Sin’ and ‘I, Madman’, which by the way was the last book he ever wrote. Supposedly he wrote it while in an insane asylum! But Virginia doesn’t mind, she is enthralled by these trashy, pulpy novels and the grizzly situations she finds in them. Problems start when she starts seeing characters from ‘I, Madman’ in her everyday life. These characters seem to be coming alive and crossing into the real world. It isn’t long before Virginia starts seeing the titular ‘Madman’ following her around, trying to kill her. Are characters truly coming out of the book as Virginia suspects?

I, Madman made me think of a film called Jake Speed (1986). Don’t know how many of you have seen Jake Speed (a rare little flick I watched as a kid) but it’s a cheap Indiana Jones rip-off whose basic premise is that this character from these cheap paper back novels called ‘Jake Speed’ actually exists in the real world. In the film, Jake Speed and his partner, aid a woman in finding her kidnapped sister. The idea of the film being that this supposedly fictional character isn’t as fictional as we’ve been lead to believe. I, Madman is the Jake Speed of the horror world. It’s the kind of film that will have you on a loop guessing if the Madman is real or not. The other film it reminded me of was The Never Ending Story (1984), which also has this idea of having characters crossing from the fictional world into the real one and vice versa, which is a great concept. What I liked about I, Madman is that it applied this idea within a horror film.

Tibor Takacs was purposely going for a dark sort of ‘film-noir’ type of feel for this film, which of course goes perfectly with the trashy pulp fiction novels that the main character enjoys reading. The whole film takes place mostly during the night, within the bowels of a dark lonely looking city. And what would a film noir be without a cop/detective to try and figure out the crimes? In I, Madman Virginias boyfriend is a cop who is investigating the grizzly crimes that keep popping up in the city. Are the crimes connected to his girlfriend? Or is her mind playing tricks on her? This film reminded me a lot of some of   Mario Bava’s films, which is I am sure, what Takacs was going for. The vivid colors, the beautiful girl with bright red lipstick, the killer who is hidden in shadows…in many ways I, Madman is a homage to Mario Bava’s, Blood and Black Lace (1964), which was one of the very first slashers ever. The way that Takacs plays with the blues and reds and with the shadows is what leads me to believe that he was paying homage to Bava. So yeah, I, Madman is one of those slashers that’s heavy on the atmosphere and style.

The killer has a memorable look to him; again, he looks like something that might have jumped right out of Blood and Black Lace or Baron Blood (1972), a hideous looking being who hides his façade beneath hats and scarf’s. This mad doctor was Takac’s attempt at creating a horror icon similar to Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees,  but as we can see, that attempt didn’t go very well for I, Madman never went past the first film. Still, the killer has an interesting look going for it. The villain has some similarities with Phantom of the Opera, for he is a poetic/romantic soul, trying to find love at the hands of a beautiful actress, even though he himself is hideously deformed. This is a tragic character we’re talking about here. The object of the villains affections is played by actress Jenny Wright whom some of you might remember as the blond vampire chick named ‘Mae’ from Near Dark (1987). On this one she plays her character equal times sexy, and equal times vulnerable.   

Tibor Takac's fondness for stop motion animation shows up once again in I, Madman (1989)

The film does have a lot of cheesy sounding dialog, and some of the effects come of as low grade. For example, when we see one of the stories that Virginia is reading, we see this stop motion animation creature that looks completely unrealistic, but in my opinion it went great with the films b-movie feel. Speaking of b-movies, I, Madman is a unapologetic b-movie and it knows it. If you don’t like b-movies, don’t venture into this one because this one is purposely pulpy. Takac’s has had a fondness for b-movies from the very beginning of his career all the way to his current slate of films. Sadly, Tibor Takac’s career went downhill after this film. In my opinion he hasn’t made anything of note since The Gate and I, Madman. The guy has kept afloat directing crappy tv movies like Mansquito (2005), Mega Snake (2007) and Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006) amongst others low budget features that in my humble opinion are films a director will only make to pay the bills. He is currently working on something called Spiders 3-D which is apparently slated to premiere theatrically, but who knows how that will go; at least Takacs gave us I, Madman and The Gate, two cheesy and enjoyable 80’s horror flicks, and hey, that’s worth something.  

Rating: 3 out of 5    


Jack Thursby said...

Nice review. Haven't heard of this before but have seen and enjoyed Takacs' earlier flick The Gate. Will be picking up a copy soon.

Franco Macabro said...

Hope you enjoy it Jack! I, Madman's got an old school vibe going for it. I guess the best way to describe this one is "classy b-movie?"

Jack Thursby said...

DVD ordered and on its way.

Thinking about tracking down The Gate II: Trespassers too. Any chance you've seen it? Any good?

Franco Macabro said...

The Gate II is a terrible sequel, it's hard for me to grasp how a director can make The Gate...and then make The Gate II which brings the series down a couple of notches. In my opinion, it aint worth the time of day.

Larry Taylor said...

I love coming to horror sites like this for the sole reason they review films I have never heard of. Intrigued for sure, looking to expand my horror knowledge. Thanks!

Jack Thursby said...

Thanks for the warning I'll give it a skip.

Franco Macabro said...

Larry Taylor: Glad you enjoyed the blog, though I dont really consider it to be a 'horror blog' because I like to review films from all sorts of genres, but yeah, horror is one of my favorite genres, for sure!

RVChris said...

Good review! I liked The Gate (and Jenny Wright's performance in Near Dark) so I gotta see this! Takacs also directed a few episode of the 90s Outer Limits, a series I really enjoyed.

After reading your description of I, Madman the first thing I thought of was Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness with a horror writer's creations entering reality. Of course I, Madman was made several years before that movie.

Franco Macabro said...

RVChris: I had actually intended to mention Carpenter's film as well, I remember mentally noting the similarities between both films, but ultimately, I it slipped my mind while writing the review, but yeah, definetly, In the Mouth of Madness is a spot on comparison with I, Madman.

Thanks for commenting!

Kaijinu said...

Isaw this and I loved it! Love the jackal Boy creature and love the killer's ole MO!

Franco Macabro said...

The killer felt like something out of a Bava or Argento film, we see his hands a lot and he hides behind the coat and hat!

Unknown said...

I'm currently watching this for the first time and never even heard of this movie before. I took a gamble on the Scream Factory blu-ray (as I usually do since they release some solid horror films) that was released this year, and so far, I'm enjoying it. I was not expecting this to have so much style since Takacs first horror film was on a much lower budget. As for the film transfer (I didn't have the chance to see the DVD so I can't compare it) the film starts out a little too grainy and unclean looking but it quickly improves and seems to have aged pretty well. And the audio sounds very clear, Scream Factory provides this transfer with a 5.1 master audio and a 2.0 audio master. Overall, this is definitely a horror film that all cult/genre fans should check out. I give it 2* out of 4*.

Also... l, Madman (1989) (atmosphere and story) kinda reminds me of the Tales From The Crypt episode titled "Korman's Kalamity" from season 2.

Franco Macabro said...

I enjoyed the films dark film noir style, I hear ya about Korman's Kalamity, that was the one about the comic book artists whose drawings come to life, I can definetly draw some parallels as well, but I believe I, Madman is a bit more dark, with the creepy looking villain.


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