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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: ‘I, Madman’

It’s a dirty story of a dirty man

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction, this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.

I love books. If I could marry books, I would. I want to live in Ray Stantz’s bookstore in Ghostbusters II. In fact, I would also love to be the ghost that haunts the library basement in the original Ghostbusters. Kathleen Kelly’s Shop Around the Corner in You’ve Got Mail, the little seaside bookstore that makes everyone horny in the 1999 film The Love Letter, I want to work in them all. Anyway, you get the idea, I have a book problem. I, Madman is a film about a young woman who works in a messy bookstore surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. Jenny Wright plays Virginia, an aspiring actress who works at the bookstore (swoon) and dates Richard, played by Clayton Rohner (double swoon). What happens when you get too involved in your reading? Find out in this week’s strange and fantastic tale, I, Madman

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Directed by Tibor Takacs and written by David Chaskin, I, Madman is a horror movie released in 1989 about a woman who is obsessed with the works of pulp novelist Malcolm Brand. Brand’s books revolve around Dr. Kessler, a mad scientist who engages in all types of insidious acts ranging from breeding jackals with humans to murdering people for body parts. The more Virginia reads, the more she realizes the stories are coming to life.

i, madman

Virginia (Wright) lounges about her messy apartment reading in her negligee all while imagining herself as a protagonist in the story. When she begins to suspect that Dr. Kessler (Randall William Cook) might be real, she immediately notifies her boyfriend Richard (Rohner) who is also a detective. Typically, the horror movie heroine is ignored by both the cops and her partner when she tries to warn them about the impossible. I, Madman places Richard as both a cop and boyfriend who refuses to believe her. However, this is where I, Madman differs from other films. The protagonist usually has to face the evil alone. The cops decide that she may be telling the truth so not only do they believe her, they arrange a sting operation to try and catch Dr. Kessler. 

Virginia is an interesting character. She is studying to be an actress, but lacks the confidence to really put herself out there. There is something very realistic about her character. She dreams big and attending the classes gives her push in the right direction, but she is also content to hide behind all her books. Virginia and Richard seem to have a pretty healthy relationship. While he is not quick to believe Virginia he is never disrespectful or patronizing. He is concerned about her, but willing to listen. 

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: 'I, Madman'

I, Madman takes us into the world of pulp novels. The scenes where Virginia’s imaginings of the stories are particularly impressive as the pulp feel is illustrated by the lighting and costume choices. Watch this week’s strange and fantastic tale I, Madman in your underwear. Or maybe read a book? Either way clothes are optional. 

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