George A. Romero’s Martin director’s cut is now up for auction

Legendary director George A. Romero once said that the greatest tragedy of his career was that the film reels with the director’s cut of his unknown classic Martin (there are expensive copies of the movie available HERE) was gone. Romero passed away in 2017, but last fall Martin cinematographer Michael Gornick shared the happy news that the director’s cut film reels were finally located! Gornick said this “director’s cut” was always Romero’s favorite version. May it soon return safely to the custody of Richard Rubinstein and Braddock Associates for digital revitalization and distribution to the world.” Unfortunately, it is still unclear whether or not this cut is Martin will one day be released for the world to see… but it’s about to change hands as the film reels go up for auction at Julien’s.

Young Martin is fully convinced that he is an 84-year-old blood-sucking vampire. Without fangs or mystical powers, Martin injects women with sedatives and drinks their blood through razor burn wounds. After moving to Braddock, Pennsylvania to live with his superstitious uncle, who also believes Martin is a vampire, Martin tries to hunt down criminals and villains exclusively, but stumbles when he falls in love with a housewife.

The film stars John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elayne Nadeau and Tom Savini, with Romero himself making a cameo as a priest.

The only known print of the unreleased, black-and-white “Director’s Cut” version of the classic George A. Romero vampire film Martin (Laurel Productions, 1976), consisting of three rolls of 16mm footage in tins hand-labeled by the film’s director of photography and post-production supervisor, Michael Gornick, at the time of production. The duration of the cut is approximately 150 minutes.

Both written and directed by horror master Romero, creator of the classic Night of the Living Dead (Image Ten, 1968) and its sequels, the film (released internationally as Wampyr) tells the disturbing and violent story of a young man who may or may not have been maybe not an 84-year-old vampire.

Romero often stated in interviews that of all his films, Martin was his personal favorite. Made in Pennsylvania in 1976 with a small, steadfast crew, the film featured many of the director’s recurring characters in the lead roles, including John Amplas, Christine Forrest, Lincoln Maazel, and Tom Savini. When asked which movie stands out that might come closest to [his] first vision, Romero replied:

“Oddly enough, a movie I made called Martin, a $275,000 production, came closest to my concept in terms of the final product. That’s because we all worked on it out of dedication. It was one of those movies that we went out with nine people and made a movie. It didn’t matter if we had to shoot at night, we shot at night. We were only there to finish the movie. I had the most freedom on that movie that I’ve had on any of the others.”
-Stanley Wiater, Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film: Avon, 1992

Martin is not only his personal favorite, but also stands out from his peers in Romero’s body of work as, in his own words, the only film of his in which the central character is “a human being who does violent things to other people” (Wiater, 1992) rather than providing the violence with an element of fantasy or humor. Here, the protagonist’s alleged vampirism is completely debunked and used to explore a wide variety of very human ailments and ailments, making it arguably Romero’s most nihilistic, abandoned, and sad movie.

Despite the seriousness of the issues and the creative integrity of the project, audiences would never get a chance to see Romero’s original version of the film, the one that so perfectly embodied his original vision. Romero had planned to release Martin in black and white, but after arguing with the producer, he agreed to release the film in color. In addition, the version that graced the drive-in and theater screens had a run time of more than an hour shorter than Romero’s favorite version at release.

This black-and-white print of the film represents Romero’s complete, original vision: vastly different from the theatrical release, offering a previously unavailable insight into the horror author’s creative goals and processes. Most notably, this print features alternate credit and title fonts, completely unique scenes not included in the “official” release, numerous alternate edits and voiceovers, extensive graphic violence and sexual content (including full frontal male nudity), and a dramatically restructured last act and closing sequence. The black and white cinematography shows drastically different lighting and striking composition choices that were obscured in the color version of the film.

This “Director’s Cut” presents a less choppy and more immersive story pace and flow that allows for intimate access to characters and their relationships and sharpens exploration of Romero’s favorite themes: the connections between humans and the monsters they create, myth vs. reality, and the alienating aspects of modern life. Somehow feeling both documentary and dreamy, the fully realized black and white Martin resonates stylistically and thematically even more with Romero’s breakthrough Night of the Living Dead than its theatrical release.

FILM STOCK
Eastman

DATE CODES
No clearly visible markings

AUDIO
Optically variable region (mono double-bilateral)

MILL
Housed on three full 15-inch spools (approximately 150 minutes total run time)

PREREQUISITE
The film was viewed on an Elmo 16-CL projector. The image was sharp and showed no clearly visible scratches, damage or splits. The presence of vinegar syndrome was not easily detected.

The starting bid was $500, and the Martin director’s cut was expected to go for a price somewhere in the $2000 to $3000 range. After eight bids, the auction is currently climbing to $25,000.

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