Monday, 22 August 2011

Review - Hardcover (UK) / I,Madman (US) (1989 - Dir. Tibor Takács)

I can see how the meeting between Randall William Cook and the studio suits went for this film: "Now, Randall, can I call you Randy? Great. Now, Randy, I know you're not very happy about your stop-motion effects not being used in The Thing, so you can be the main villain in this new film we've got planned called I, Madman. What, you want to do some effects too? Okay, you betcha, we'll shoehorn an unnecessary weird dog creature into the script. Is that cool? Er... look, I'm going to have to say 'no' to the fifty naked Brazilian dancing girls, playing volleyball on a huge bouncy castle whilst simultaneously eating hotdogs, dripping with mustard, in a very suggestive manner. You're really pushing it now Randy."
Possibly not strictly how it went. 

He does make a severely creepy doctor/author though, one of the unsung villains of the late 80s. Dr Kessler goes round hacking features off unsuspecting members of the public and sewing them on to his self-inflicted facial wounds. General antisocial behaviour, that kind of thing. His antics are documented in two books read by our heroine Virginia (Jenny Wright - Near Dark) that gradually find a way of creeping into her reality. Her unbelieving cop boyfriend, Richard (Clayton Rohner - The Relic), rounds off our package of cuddly characters.

This is a very atmospheric film and the lighting and feel recall Dario Argento's Inferno. There are some genuine scares: Dr Kessler lurking around the bottom of stairs, Dr Kessler standing menacingly in the gloom at the end of a long corridor, Dr Kessler slamming a hypodermic needle into his victim's arm, Dr Kessler... oh, you get the idea, he's a scary fellow. He is also very photogenic in a disturbing way; there are loads of brilliant images involving our facially curtailed doctor.
Jenny Wright is a bit drippy as Virginia and Richard is basically a lovely haircut. This doesn't detract from the film too much, as they form a strong contrast for Dr Kessler and his unsavoury actions.
Now, we get to the dog creature. It pops up in the opening minutes and then again in the bonkers finale. It does smell suspiciously of someone trying to cram some stop-motion effects into a film that didn't need it. They were possibly trying to appeal to the audience that enjoyed The Gate from the same director. It's still a laugh when it starts charging about and the effects are well done. There is a slight blurring to some of its movements, that looks great. We really need more stop-motion in current films; smoothed out with CGI it would probably be more convincing than pure CGI creatures.
Sadly, this is only available on VHS or Region 1 DVD. Definitely worth getting hold of it, if you can. It's a diamond in the rough of Direct-To-Video horror.

If you like this you could also try:
The Gate, Phantasm, Inferno, Waxwork.


  1. This was one of the best things about the late 80's. NOT just in the crappy horror film field- in the time frame. It would be worth buying a multi-region dvd player just to watch this classic piece of utter tripe.

    1. Well said. Classic tripe it is then.