Coffin Corner: I, Madman Is Just What the Doctor Ordered
Welcome to The Coffin Corner! Every week, Ian West will be delving into some of the best and latest Blu-ray releases, as well as focusing on the brilliant labels that keep the home video market alive and well!
Besides 1987s Monster Squad and 1985s The Goonies, which were always in constant rotation in my VCR, Hungarian-born director Tibir Takâcs was responsible for the two other movies I watched most frequently growing up: 1987s The Gate and its 1990 sequel, The Gate II: Trespassers. Sandwiched between them was the gothically-tinged, pulp-infused supernatural slasher film from 1989, I, Madman. During the first half of the decade, many genre offerings focused on escaped maniacs who went off the deep end years before, but after the huge success of Wes Craven’s 1984 classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street, many slasher films added the supernatural element like 1987s Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, and 1987s The Outing (killer genie slasher!!). Upon release, it didn’t quite make the same sort of splash as The Gate did, but I certainly remember its VHS box art at the video store. Over time it’s earned and maintained a fairly decent cult audience, and rightfully so: I, Madman is pretty bonkers and for all the right reasons.
Virginia (Jenny Wright of Near Dark fame) lives a fairly average life and works as a clerk at a local used book store where she can easily fulfill her needs of being an avid horror fiction fan. She gets excited when she discovers book that she hasn’t read before entitled “I, Madman”, a story about a deformed lunatic physician named Dr. Kessler, who seems to fancy surgically removing his victim's faces and sewing the skin to his own face in order to win over of the girl of his dreams.
As Virginia continues to read the book, the murders within the pages seem to be happening in real life, and she soon realizes that this work of fiction might actually be a true story written by an off his rocker writer, Malcolm Brand (also played by Randall William Cook). With each chapter she reads, the fictional beret wearing Doctor appears in real life, he’s preying on those close to her. She tries to explain the craziness to her boyfriend, a cop named Richard (Clayton Rohner), who is working these very same murder investigations but is hesitant to take the investigation down the “crazy person says book character is coming alive and killing” path. With her sanity slipping, Virginia begins to wonder if the scalpel-wielding madman has escaped from the pages of the book to finally acquire his dream girl and reek havoc on the streets of L.A., or if she’s really going crazy.
I, Madman is a pretty fun watch. It sets itself apart from your average slasher movie by not sticking to the usual Friday the 13th or Halloween formula, instead choosing to root itself in the classic horror vein of novels like The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein, all through the filter of sleazy pulp novels. Director Takâcs has always utilized the most out of low budget storytelling, great effects, and makeup work, and I, Madman is no exception, there’s some really cool imagery in this.
This film had eluded me for years, until it was finally released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory in 2015, giving us yet another little gem that seems to have floated under the radar. The special features include an Audio Commentary with director Tibor Takacs and actor & Artistic Supervisor Randall William Cook, a ‘making of’ documentary, interviews, trailers and other assorted goodies! You can purchase it directly from Scream Factory’s website or on Amazon.