Arrow Release Retro Review – MADHOUSE (1981)

Arrow Films is known for giving classic films and obscure gems the royal treatment and releasing them for a new generation of film fans, remastered and overflowing with special features. Tenderness of the Wolves, Island of Death, Bay of Blood, Slugs are just a few examples of unique films being re-released with, and well-deserving of, the VIP treatment. Amongst Arrow’s latest releases is an 80s slasher film called Madhouse

Julia (Trish Everly) is a teacher at a school for deaf children. Her twin sister, Mary (Allison Biggers), is hideously deformed via some kind of genetic defect and is confined to a mental hospital. But, as expected, she breaks out and begins killing people.

Madhouse was originally titled There Was a Little Girl. I’m guessing it was changed to a generic title to match the generic content of the film. While the film does boast one novel aspect – a Rottweiler serves as Mary’s weapon of choice – the film is completely generic in every other aspect. This is all the more surprising given the film’s Italian origins. Those looking for a prime slice of Italian sleaze are gonna be left sorely disappointed as Madhouse contains nothing more than the typical, anemic American slasher (minus a twist which has been done in many previous, and better, Italian productions). Case in point: they cut away before a kid is killed by the dog. The Italy that gave us the likes of Don’t Torture a Duckling is completely absent in Madhouse.

Gore is of the $1.98 variety, contrary to many of Italy’s great horror films. At best, it looks like someone got a little happy with a bottle of Hersey’s strawberry syrup. We certainly aren’t given the glorious throat-ripping effects as seen in Fulci’s The Beyond the same year. At worst, killings either happen off screen or, as after a protracted chase sequence I suspect was added merely to pad out the runtime, are obscured by some object.

Overall, Madhouse is nothing more than a time waster. Not bad enough to hate, not good enough to recommend, it rests firmly in that area of films whose viewing of them will have zero lasting impact on your life.

Given this is an Arrow release, a list of special features and specs is required:

  • Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
  • Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
  • Brand new interviews with cast and crew
  • Alternate Opening Titles
  • Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned

Artwork by Marc Schoenbach

  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film 

About Evan Romero

Evan Romero has been a horror fan since watching “Leprechaun” at the age of five. Aside from watching and writing about horror flicks, he delights in torturing friends with Z-grade movies. He’s also an unabashed Andy Milligan fan, God help him.

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