Arrow Video is certainly no stranger to slashers, as fans of their Blu-rays can attest. Madhouse (original title: There Was a Little Girl; also known as And When She Was Bad) tries to cash in on the early 80’s craze. Considered an Italian horror/slasher due to the director, cinematographer, and composer etc… it was filmed in Savannah, Georgia with an English cast. You can actually book your wedding in the hotel it was shot in. Once classified as a video nasty in the UK, Madhouse comes fully uncensored in its first Blu-ray release from Arrow.
The Movie Itself (2.5/5)
Madhouse is one of those films where at the time of release it could have been scary and disturbing, but now it just feels almost comical. Julia (Trish Everly) is a schoolteacher for the deaf who has a good life, friends, and a rich doctor boyfriend named Sam. The film counts down the days to Julia’s birthday which would normally be a fun time, but this is a horror movie of course. Julia’s uncle, a priest named Father James, tells her that he twin sister is ill and in the hospital. We then learn that her twin Mary was rather mean to her growing up and especially torturous on their birthdays. Mary also somehow has the ability to control dogs and have them help do her bidding.
Honestly, the story wasn’t all that bad and had some interesting elements. Including her school children in both the violence and aftermath of it gave the story a little realism to go with the outrageous. Sam and Julia’s relationship was decently done and they had some good scenes and chemistry. The side characters like Mr. Kimura helped flesh out the script. The hotel (apartment) setting worked really well as that house was huge and was able to play off with having a murderer so close and the occupants not knowing.
Many of my problems with the film stem from the execution. The puppet for the dog was laughable as it dispensed with Mary’s enemies. Possibly a downside from high definition world we now live in. This kind of goes back to the nostalgia and what you would watch the film for now, because I don’t think Madhouse would scare many present day viewers. Mary’s character and actress seem out of place even with the little screen time she has. The accent she employed made me shake my head every time she spoke.
I think with a little more budget/polish/time Madhouse could have been a film that would be more revered today and better received when it was released. It is certainly watchable for anyone that enjoys slashers and the time period. It probably won’t be a good pick to scare the significant other with, like other horror films, but could be fun with some friends.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
Overall the transfer looks marvelous. There are some soft spots that lose detail. These mainly happen when there are story relevant lighting changes, such as someone flipping a switch. Seems like the scene was lighted for both shots and just used the one setup. This doesn’t happen often and won’t detract from viewing. The colors are well done with nice saturation. The overall visuals and aesthetics of the house make a great setting. From the transfer notes Arrow provided in the booklet (see picture in the packaging section), there was a lot of love and effort put into this Blu-ray release and it definitely shows on the video portion.
Score/Audio Quality (3/5)
The score was created by famed Italian composer Riz Ortolani. His music for Madhouse was hit or miss for me, mainly because it was all over the place. It would start with some nice creepy string instruments and then jump to some sort of sci-fi keyboard synth. It certainly seems like he was trying something different and for some it’ll work just fine, but the differences are quite noticeable and can take some out of the scene. Arrow has graced us with the original presentation of a LPCM 2.0 track and also DTS 5.1 surround. The surround adds to some of the more intense scenes and fills out, but I found the 2.0 had clearer dialogue and was the overall better mix. (Packaging picture has transfer notes about audio.)
Mini rant incoming. I usually never watch subtitles except for foreign films, as I would assume would be the case for most people. However, since I am reviewing I like to have at least checked out all the options so I watch even the English subs for review copies. If you have bought Arrow Video in the past you know they put a lot of thought and effort into the final product. Many would say they are the “Criterion” of B movies.
That’s why I find it rather disappointing that they have so many errors in the subtitles for this film. It would be one thing if they were translating another language I could see some thing slipping through and unless the viewer knows both languages none would be the wiser. That’s why I can’t fathom that an English speaking company transcribing and English speaking film would have so many mistakes.
To be clear I’m not talking about differences between UK and US English as I could see those being a judgement call. There are quite a few misspellings and words spoken that are completely missed. Luckily, there is nothing major that those hard of hearing would miss in context, just overly sloppy work from a company I rather like and would not expect this from.
Special Features (3/5)
Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues (01:33:20) This being the last feature I’m watching, I wish I had just skipped it. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts so I am not familiar at all with The Hysteria Continues. They know basically nothing of the film and seem very ill-prepared. There are 4 guys, who unfortunately says “umm” every few seconds. I hate to even bring that up in the review, but it sticks out throughout the whole commentary (though it does get better). I’m not sure if they are just nervous or this is how all their casts go. Multiple times there are mentions that they couldn’t find information on a person or scene. They do talk about plenty of similar films, but I would think the Blu-ray buyer would want to know more about this specific one. Very head scratching when coming from the director interview where he seems very passionate and spoke English very well.
Running the Madhouse (12:40) A fantastic interview with Edith Ivey, who plays Amantha in the film. She starts off talking about her life, but quickly gets into the trials and tribulations of working with the Italian crew. It’s interesting to me that the actors were given almost no direction about their performances. It’s also nice to hear that she has fond memories of making it and doesn’t look down the fact that it is a slasher.
Framing Fear (19:32) Well Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli certainly doesn’t hide his feelings about the film. The cinematographer gives a mini biography of the films he has worked on. He does talk about a few of the scenes in the film, but doesn’t provide much detail. It is interesting that he is has no love for Madhouse and treats it like a minor footnote in his career. Quite the stark contrast to Edith Ivey in the previous feature. I did like the cinematography and wish there was more about that for this feature. In Italian with English subtitles.
Ovidio Nasty (07:44) A short but very enjoyable interview with director Ovidio Assonitis. He talks about a lot of different aspects of the film. His English is very good and I am now curious why he wasn’t part of the commentary. he sounds like he has many more stories to tell about the film. I also appreciate the way he talks about the cast and crew, he shows a lot of respect and seems to have had fun making Madhouse.
Alternative Opening Titles (03:01) Just has the opening with the title change.
Original trailer (03:04)
- Disc Art
- Reversible Liner
- Clear Non-ECO Case
- Booklet Essay (First Pressing Only)
- Blu-ray & DVD
- Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
- English: LPCM 2.0
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH (see audio section)
Runtime 93 Mins
Madhouse Overall (3/5)
Once again Arrow has brought a film to life that otherwise may never have seen the light of day. The transfer they commissioned is well done and the audio tracks complement the film even if the score didn’t totally work for me. While I did find their subtitles to have issues, hopefully it is a one off and not indicative of a bigger issue. The mistakes were minor enough that it should not dissuade anyone that requires subtitles. The special features as always are well done and the packaging is top of the line for a standard edition from them. I think anyone interested in this film will be happy with the product presented.
Madhouse can be purchased from Amazon or other fine retailers.
Video below does contain a spoiler near the end just FYI
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.