Thursday, 8 June 2017

Madhouse (1981)

“Bonkers Slasher All’Italiana”

    I’m going to forego all the obvious and oft-quoted jokes about how the surname of producer-director Ovidio G Assonitis sounds like an especially painful condition of the nether regions and instead go straight to talking about this 1981 picture of his which is getting a new dual format release courtesy of Arrow Films.

    Julia (Trish Everly in her only film role) spends her days teaching deaf children and her nights worrying about her insane twin sister Mary who is locked up in a mental institution. To make matters worse (and much more Italian exploitational) Mary has recently caught a disfiguring disease that has affected her face to such a degree she could quite possibly be played by a different actress called Allison Biggers. 

    At the behest of Father James (Dennis Robertson), Julia goes to visit Mary in hospital, where her sister threatens her from her badly lit gloomy plastic curtain-surrounded bed. Understandably upset, Julia is in for some more unpleasant surprises when mad Mary escapes, seemingly hooks up with the pet Rottweiler she used to intimidate Julia with when they were children, and people around our heroine start to die. But is Mary really the one responsible or, in true Italian style, is this one going to go all bonkers and have one of those endings where nothing actually makes sense?

    Ovidio Assonitis has had an interesting genre career, from the crazy excesses of BEYOND THE DOOR (1974) to the stellar daftness of TENTACLES (1977). He also produced the supremely lunatic THE VISITOR (1979) so it's perhaps not surprising that while MADHOUSE has some interesting shots, overall it’s more of the same daft incoherence as the rest of his output. This one was banned in the UK as a Video Nasty because of the dog attacks but anyone watching it now will be bemused as to what all the fuss was about.

    Arrow’s disc is a beautiful transfer (in 2k). We also get interviews with Ovidio himself, his DP and one of the original cast members, all filmed last month. There’s also a new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues, an alternate opening title sequence featuring one of the several other titles the film was known under, a trailer, reversible sleeve, and a booklet featuring new writing on the film if you buy the first pressing.

Ovidio G Assonitis' MADHOUSE is out on dual format from Arrow on Monday 12 June 2017

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