DirectorOvidio G. Assonitis
Release Date(s)1981 (June 13, 2017)
Studio(s)Megastar Films (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
From the director of Beyond the Door and Piranha II: The Spawning, Madhouse (aka There Was a Little Girl) tells the story of Julia (Trish Everly), a woman whose twin sister Mary (Allison Biggers) who used to torment her when they were children. After suffering a horrible skin disease in a mental institution, Mary escapes with the intention of making Julia and the people around her suffer with her murderous attack dog. However, Mary has a diabolical surprise for her and Julia’s upcoming birthday.
Banned in Britain as a part of the original video nasties list, Madhouse is amongst those obscure 80s slashers that’s actually a little better than you might expect, but is no lost masterpiece. The movie looks quite good and is well-shot, but for slasher fans in general, it might be an exercise in tedium. Besides the dialogue being a bit laughable, including most of the things spoken by the lead Trish Everly, it also goes for more of a slow-burn thriller feel that’s ultimately ineffective because the pace is so overly lax. Some decent kills and spooky visuals are there to be seen, including a gory and bloody conclusion, but the journey through all of that will exercise your patience, including your ability to grab the remote control and shut it off. Madhouse isn’t a bad movie, but it’s definitely a little light on the thrills and chills needed to make it less so.
Arrow Video’s presentation of Madhouse is sourced from a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. It’s a solid film-like transfer with excellent depth and mostly smooth grain reproduction, outside of a couple of random shots where the grain is a little heavier. It also retains a slightly soft look, which is inherent in the original cinematography. Texturing and fine detail are abundant, including both background and foreground elements. Colors, especially skin tones, are much warmer than previously seen on DVD, and are much more rich, particularly reds. Blacks are deep with excellent shadow detail and brightness and contrast levels are quite good. There’s little to no film artifacts leftover, but there is a bit more information on all sides of the frame. It’s also had a strong encode that looks even throughout. The audio comes in two options: English 2.0 LPCM and English 5.1 DTS-HD. Both tracks are solid, but the 5.1 might have a slight edge over the 2.0. There’s a little more room to breathe in the surrounding speakers, making it feel less crowded by comparison. Dialogue is precise with overdubs sticking out a little more, while score and sound effects are strong with excellent separation. The 2.0 is good on its own and is perhaps more representative of the film’s original sound design, but the 5.1 gives the it a bit of a sonic boost. Subtitles are also included in English SDH.
For the extras selection, most of it is brand new. There’s an audio commentary with the folks from The Hysteria Continues podcast (Justin Kerswell, Erik Threlfall, and Joseph Henson); an interview segment Running the Madhouse with Edith Ivey (actress); Framing Fear, an interview with director of photography Roberto Dettore Piazzoli; Ovidio Nasty, an interview with producer/director Ovidio G. Assonitis; a set of alternative opening titles with the film’s original U.K. title; the theatrical trailer; a DVD copy; and a 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by John Martin. Not present from the Dark Sky Films’ DVD release is an additional interview with the director.
Madhouse serves as another resurrected slasher from the depths, but being that it’s mostly sluggish and tiresome with only minor bits of spark to it, only hardcore enthusiasts who want to see absolutely everything that they can will probably get something out of it. With amazing picture and sound quality, plus a nice bevy of extras, Arrow Video’s release gives the movie a top notch presentation.
- Tim Salmons