Martin (George A. Romero / U.S., 1977):

I Was a Teenage Vampire, rendered by George Romero with breathtaking dolor and tenderness. The titular youngster (John Amplas) is "one acquainted with the night," slender, downcast, "unbalanced" by the weight of family albums and sacramental paraphernalia. His vision of himself as a bloodsucking octogenarian replaces fangs with razors, his method -- sticking victims with sedative syringes, slurping dolefully from their slashed wrists -- is demonstrated on the train ride from Pittsburg to Braddock. His elderly uncle (Lincoln Maazel) receives him with Old World hisses: "Nosferatu! First, I will save your soul. Then, I will destroy you. I will show you your room." Cultural rot and loneliness make for a void that is morbidly filled, the local padre crosses himself jovially ("I donít suppose you saw The Exorcist? I thought it was great"). The folklore of garlic garlands and crucifixes avails the patriarch no more, the old "magic" of vampires amounts to outdated Universal Studio flashes (maidens with candelabra, torch-bearing mobs, mist) unspooling inside a misfitís psyche. "Someday I may be able to do the sexy stuff awake, without the blood stuff..." Martin may send up mythology but the stake of tradition has the final word. The protagonistís surprise attack on a suburban adulteress and her lover combines brutal, lunging physicality with a deft sense of space that pricier movies would kill for, though true horror to Romero rests in the plainspoken snapshots of life in a depressed, industrial community. Against this background of materialist waste and belief hardened into prejudice, a woeful housewife (Elayne Nadeau) plays Lucy to the spindly "Count": "Boy, do I wish what you have is catching." Dreyerís Day of Wrath is the clear model, modulating from homemade Mantegna tableaux to the melancholy of gory fantasies (projections of a decaying order, or reactions against it?) dribbling into radio talk-show fodder. With Christine Forrest, Tom Savini, Sara Venerable, Francine Middleton, and Roger Caine.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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