Review: Madhouse

Blu-ray and DVD: Madhouse (1981)

Julia (Trish Everly) teaches deaf schoolchildren and is haunted by memories of her own childhood with her sadistic twin sister Mary (Allison Biggers). Her Uncle James (Dennis Robertson) is a Catholic priest and encourages her to go and visit Mary who is currently in a mental institution and suffering from a severe skin disease which has disfigured her. The meeting does not go as planned and Mary vows to make Julia suffer as she has suffered.

As their birthday gets closer, Julia’s friends, neighbours and even one of her students mysteriously gets killed, some of them ravaged by a vicious rottweiler. Julia becomes increasingly aware that someone, or something, is in the house with her. Is it Mary making good on her promise of revenge? Will Julia be the next person to be killed? Will she ever get to cut her birthday cake?

Madhouse never got a theatrical release in the UK, due to being put on the infamous ‘video nasty’ list of the 1980’s. An Italian production that was filmed in America, it fuses the giallo sensibilities of Italian filmmaking with the all out slasher kills and over the top gore that was popular within American horror at the time. With such standout gore moments as an axe attack on someones back that leaves it looking like a leftover bowl of spaghetti bolognese, vicious throat rippings by the rottweiler, and a scene where the poor pooch gets its comeuppance via a drill to the head,  Madhouse must have made made Mary Whitehouse and the NVLA shat their collective pants on first viewing this.

It’s a pity that the over the top gore scenes are usually what this movie is usually associated with, as there is an underlying story that is both well crafted and filmed with some beautiful cinematography which belies its low budget. The acting ranges from good to over the top, but all of the performances work well within the story.

Madhouse may well be a little slow paced for some viewers, but the the languid pace makes the brutal killing scenes all the more effective when they explode on screen.

Suspenseful and shocking, Madhouse is a well crafted giallo/slasher that rises above its obvious limitations to give 90 minutes of entertainment that certainly won’t be forgotten anytime soon.


  • Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
  • Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
  • Brand new interviews with cast and crew
  • Alternate Opening Titles
  • Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film.

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Fetch Publicity from Arrow Films.