Blood: The Early Version of Martin

Joseph Brenner Associates announces BLOOD

In July 1975, distributor Joseph Brenner announced that he would be co-producing tne new film from George A. Romero, and that it would be filming shortly. Brenner was known primarily as a distributor of horror movies, and in the 19790s he was carving out a special niche for himself within the genre as the American distributor of Italian horror films. But he was starting to branch out into production. In October of that year, he took out a full page ad in Variety announcing the full slate of releases from Joseph Brenner Associates, Inc. The pride of place was granted to Italian horror auteur Sergio Martino's Torso - a bloody horror film, yes, but one that carried with it the imprimatur of the legendary producer Carlo Ponti. In the bottom right hand corner is a notice that Blood, "by the director of 'The Night of the Living Dead'" is "in preparation." 

George Anderson, a local arts and culture columnist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, spoke to Romero about the project after that Variety ad, who confirmed that Blood was indeed "on his schedule." But the demands of his television work, which included filming for the sports documentary Tom Weiskopf: On Tour and for a Homestead-filmed magic special called Magic at the Roxy, would keep him busy throughout until the end of 1975.

It's unclear what happened with Brenner, but it seems that, after 1975, he got out of production to focus on distribution. Romero wrote two very short treatments for Blood. The first is only 13 pages, and it is about a buttoned-down middle aged real estate agent who finds himself developing strange symptoms that closely resumble drug withdrawal. He finds himself feeling unfamiliar desires - sexual, in part, but also something else. These desire and his jittery discomfort build until he explodes in violence, killing his business partner and drinking his blood. With the help of his Romanian grandfather, Tati Voda, I've written a bit about this in another context, but, briefly, the protagonist finds his life spiraling out of control at an increasingly rapid pace: his relationship with his wife disintegrates, he moves in with a sex worker, and, of course, he continues feeding, needing to drink blood to maintain anything resembling normalcy. His name is Martin Mathias.

The second treatment is even shorter - only four pages - but it is the first version that resembles what would become Martin. The character of Martin Mathias is here a 300-year-old vampire who appears to be 30. Much of this treatment is devoted to imagining the logistics of a "realistic" vampire, in which there's no magic beyond his lifespan and his need to feed on human blood. He works as a drug dealer and a pimp and feeds every five or six weeks, at which point the need leaves him "strung out and shaking, like a drug addict, and he is forced to take blood."

Martin would be filmed in 1976 as an ultra-low budget production in Braddock, using locations that were either donated or bartered for and a cast of locals including Pittsburgh theatrical mainstay Lincoln Maazell (with whom Romero had worked on The Amusement Park), Tom Savini, Romero's wife Christine, and a young actor from Point Park University named John Amplas. It was shot on 16mm film, at least in part on film stock "embezzled" from the TV productions. It was Romero's first feature since The Crazies, which had been completed in 1973 but had hardly received a release until 1976. Martin did find a distributor, the small independent Libra Films. But despite receiving some positive attention, Martin was overshadowed by the unexpected success of another of Libra's releases, David Lynch's Eraserhead. A tiny outfit like Libra had to focus nearly all of its efforts into supporting and promoting the surprise hit of 1977-1978, and Martin never found its audience outside of devoted cinephiles who have managed to track down out of print or foreign video releases. But among Romero aficianados, it's beloved, treasured as perhaps his most personal film. 



-Adam Charles Hart