Madhouse (1981)

One of the original video nasties in the UK, Madhouse is about Julia Sullivan a teacher for deaf children who has a rather deranged twin sister.  As a child Julia’s sister Mary was cruel and nasty to her so when their Mother died Julia broke contact with her.  Her Uncle tells her that Mary has developed a disfiguring disease and urges Julia to visit her.  Julia reluctantly agrees but her sister is far from welcoming.  Shortly after Mary ‘escapes’ from the hospital, people start beginning to die by a mystery killer and others by a massive blood thirsty Rottweiler.

Not to be confused by the Vincent Price/Peter Cushing film with the same title, Madhouse is an Italian horror movie shot in Georgia at a supposedly real life haunted house.  The director of this bloody epic is Ovidio G. Assonitis, a prolific Greek/Egyptian producer who is probably most famous for replacing James Cameron on ‘Piranha II: Flying Killers’.  Utilising some nice widescreen photography and a moody synth score from Riz Ortolani, the film looks a lot more than it probably cost but we all know the Italians are geniuses for stretching the budget to maximum effect.

Madhouse certainly has it’s fair amount of blood and nasty killings, so one would imagine that is why the powers-at-be got their knickers in a twist all those years ago.  Today, it’s still got a bit of an impact especially the scene involving the doctor and the dog but it gets all a little silly at the end.

Arrow has as per usual bestowed us with plenty of special features including a commentary and interviews. Madhouse is in no way a classic of it’s genre and it probably got more attention than it deserved due to it being taken off the shelves.  The film isn’t a complete waste of time but there are better examples of ‘banned’ video nasties out there.

  • Starring Trish Everly  Michael Macrae  Dennis Robertson  Alison Biggers
  • Director Ovidio G. Assonitois
  • Distributor Arrow Video