Madhouse Ovidio G. Assonitis

Back in the early to mid-'80s, Mary Whitehouse, a right-wing Christian nut-bar, and her merry band of single-minded cronies in the National Viewers and Listeners Association put together what is known as the "video nasties" list, which sought to regulate and ban any crude or offensive material, rather than simply not watching it themselves. Their God-fearing tactics led to the Video Recordings Act of 1984, which saw many controversial films removed from video stores in the name of moral righteousness. Amongst these banned titles was Madhouse, a film that is truthfully not particularly gratuitous in nature but features a deaf child being eaten by a dog (off camera), a psychotic priest (which was likely the biggest offence) and a considerably violent finale involving a drill and a small axe, which might explain the ban. Originally titled There Was a Little Girl, the film follows Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly), a teacher of deaf schoolchildren, whose crazy and deformed twin sister Mary escapes from an insane asylum, seemingly finds a Rottweiler and has it kill the many people in Julia's life. The direction is professional, bland and extremely typical of low-budget horror in the early '80s, as is the storyline, which bridges the religious anxieties of the '70s with the fear of familial discord that was so common in the horror films of the '80s. Kill sequences take up the majority of Madhouse, as characters are chased around the "under renovation" manor in which Julia resides for several minutes prior to being stabbed or ripped apart by the Rottweiler. This, like everything else in the movie, will appeal to horror fans and repulse everyone else. Included with the DVD release of the long-banned film is a brief interview with director Ovidio G. Assonitis, which is surprisingly candid and not at all flattering. He admits to not really enjoying the film and firing the original director for "not knowing what he was doing," which seems to be a common theme in the career of Mr. Assonitis, considering the reported drama during the production of Piranha II with director James Cameron. (Dark Sky)