Tribute to Ben Barenholtz featuring Martin

Part of our tribute to Ben Barenholtz

Producer, distributor, and showman Ben Barenholtz — who ran New York’s legendary Elgin theatre in the early 70s — is the man who literally invented the midnight movie, creating the time-slot as a marketing stunt for the original release of El Topo (“A Film Too Heavy To Be Shown Any Other Way” was his incredible tagline). Oh right, did we mention he discovered El Topo? And distributed Eraserhead when no one else would? And produced movies for George Romero and the Coen Bros? And now he’s directed his first feature at the age of 89? Join us as we celebrate one of the great behind-the-scenes forces in movie history!


“Don’t worry, I’m always careful with the needles,” advises the troubled Martin to a female victim as he injects her with a sedative. In a dim train car, he embraces her unconscious body and uses a razor blade to open her veins and drink her blood. With this unforgettable opening, Martin finds George Romero taking vampire lore into devastating waters, with the same precision and down-to-earth gusto found in his previous studies of zombies, witchcraft, and urban paranoia. The teenage Martin (John Amplas) lives with his stern uncle, who claims that Martin is actually an ancient, traditional vampire who stalks the streets at night; the viewer is never completely sure about the true nature of Martin’s identity, with eerie gothic flashbacks reinforcing the uneasy coexistence between past and present in his family. Plus, the violence is tastefully handled, with startling bursts of blood suddenly pooling out of characters who seem all too human. The kind of film that horror buffs adore, Martin is Romero’s true masterpiece, a perfect example of his personal expression as a filmmaker, and very rarely screened.

Dir. George Romero, 1977, digital presentation, 95 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!