Madhouse – Blu-ray review
Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Stars: Trish Everly, Michael MacRae, Dennis Robertson
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Ah, Madhouse – is it a giallo? Is it a slasher? No what it is, is an Italian murder movie (written and directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis under the very American-sounding pseudonym of Oliver Hellman) in 1981 trying to cash in on that slasher wave that was so huge at the time. But does that make that a bad film? I mean StageFright (1987) is a mashup of giallo and slasher and that movie is awesome. Well, grab your gloves (knit this time instead of black leather) and your favorite doggie chew toy and let’s find out.
A young woman named Julia has a problem: she has a twin sister who is hideously scarred, totally insane, hates her guts, and committed to an asylum. Then one day the sister escapes from the sanatorium, as crazy twins always do. Next thing you know people start getting killed off who are close, both physically and emotionally, to Julia. What makes this film stand apart from similar fair is the choice of the killer’s signature weapon: a large Rottweiler. Yes, the murderer kills, mostly, with a trained dog. Interesting. They also like to wear gloves to hide their identity, but all too soon we’re shown the crazy sis stabbing someone. So yeah, you know there’s more to the story than that, and for the rest of the movie you’re just waiting for that other shoe to drop. When it does, when the big a-ha moment comes, it’s a bit of a headscratcher, as it makes no sense, comes out of left field, and is never elaborated on. So there’s that, but at least the actor playing the big bad looks to be having a whole lot of fun playing crazy, so that’s something.
Now on to the extras that Arrow Video included with the disc. First there is an audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues horror podcast which was a lot of fun. There is “Running the Madhouse” which is an interview with actress Edith Ivey that’s nearly 13 minutes. A second interview with cinematographer Roberto D’etorre Piazzoli runs 19 minutes. Yet a third interview is with producer, writer, and director Ovidio Assonitis that is almost eight minutes. There’s also an alternative opening and the ever-present trailer included as well.
Madhouse is your pretty basic giallo film. There is a mystery to be solved, but the protagonist doesn’t do much to uncover anything, instead being reactive to everything happening to her instead of proactive. Then answer as to why everything is going on is unsatisfyingly vague, it’s all left up to: “well that’s what crazy people do,” and nothing more. The dog murders was original, but not all that interesting for a giallo, although some were appropriately bloody. Finally for this kind of film, Madhouse is light on the sexy and prevision that usually goes hand in black glove in these type of movies. It’s an okay movie, but it’s clear why this movie has been mostly forgotten by time. For giallo lovers wanting to complete their collection, this will help with that, but for everyone else, if you miss this, you haven’t missed much.