Madhouse (1981 film)

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1984 VHS release
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis
Produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis
Written by Ovidio G. Assonitis
Stephen Blakeley
Peter Sheperd
Roberto Gandus
Starring Trish Everly
Michael Macrae
Dennis Robertson
Allison Biggers
Music by Riz Ortolani
Cinematography Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli
Release date
Running time
93 min.
Country Italy
United States
Language English

Madhouse (original title: There Was a Little Girl; also known as And When She Was Bad) is a 1981 Italian slasher film directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis. It stars Trish Everly, Dennis Robertson, Allison Biggers, Michael Macrae, Morgan Hart, Edith Ivey and Jerry Fujikawa. The film features a musical score by Riz Ortolani and cinematography by Assonitis regular Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli.

It was one of the many films on the "video nasty" list, a list of horror/exploitation films banned by the BBFC in the 1980s for violence and obscenity.


Julia (Trish Everly) is a young schoolteacher for deaf children living in Savannah, Georgia. She has horrid memories of her childhood, which was scarred by her sadistic twin sister Mary (Allison Biggers). At the urging of her uncle, James (Dennis Robertson), a local Catholic priest, Julia visits Mary, suffering from a severe skin disease, in a mental institution. The meeting does not go well and Mary vows to make Julia "suffer as she had suffered".

As their mutual birthday approaches, several of Julia's friends and neighbors begin to die gruesome deaths in the house she lives in, some involving a mysterious Rottweiler dog who attacks its victims, mauling them to death. One of Julia's students, Sasha, is killed in a park by the Rottweiler one afternoon.

Meanwhile, Julia becomes increasing unnerved that someone—possibly Mary—is hiding inside the large house she lives in. One evening, when being dropped off by her psychologist boyfriend Sam (Michael Macrae), she witnesses a light come on on the second floor of the house, but finds no one there. Helen, Julia's friend, offers to spend the night with her. In the middle of the night, she is attacked by the Rottweiler on the staircase; the dog attacks her neck, tearing open her throat and effectively killing her. Julia awakes the next morning and finds Helen gone. Given there is no evidence of the attack, Julia assumes she went home early. Sam visits her, and tells her he is forced to take a business trip to San Francisco over Julia's upcoming birthday.

Later the same day, Julia's uncle, Father James, is carrying things into the basement of Julia's home. A local parishioner, Amantha Beauregard, passes by and offers to help him carry a large bag; he tells her he is throwing Julia a surprise birthday party. Once in the basement, Amantha realizes she has just helped James carry a corpse; he then chases her through the house, and stabs her to death in the attic.

The next day, on Julia's birthday, James meets her after work, and takes her to her house, blindfolding her for a surprise. In the basement, he removes the blindfold, revealing a table seated with corpses. When she attempts to escape, Julia is confronted by Mary, who James murders shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, Sam's taxi to the airport is stalled by a flat tire, and he returns to the house, where he is attacked by the Rottweiler. The dog attempts to break through a door, and Sam kills it by driving a power drill into its head.

In the basement, Sam is able to free Julia, who then murders her uncle James by repeated blows with a hatchet. The film ends as Julia sits on the basement stairs next to her dead sister.


  • Trish Everly as Julia Sullivan
  • Michael Macrae as Sam Edwards
  • Dennis Robertson as Father James
  • Morgan Hart as Helen
  • Allison Biggers as Mary Sullivan
  • Edith Ivey as Amantha Beauregard
  • Richard Baker as Sacha Robertson Jr.
  • Don Devendorf as Principal
  • Jerry Fujikawa as Mr. Kimura


The movie was filmed on location in Savannah, Georgia in the notorious Kehoe House, which has a reputation for being haunted.[1]

The film's title refers to the poem "There Was a Little Girl" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was horrid.


There Was a Little Girl (renamed Madhouse for the video market) was released four times on video. A watered-down, cut and edited version was released on VHS in America by Virgin-Label, discontinued and then released again in 1989.

The film's graphic content got it classified as a "video nasty" by the BBFC, and the film never saw a theatrical release in the United Kingdom. In 2004, the film was passed by the BBFC and was released uncut on DVD by Film 2000, and was released in the U.S by Dark Sky Films in 2008.

Critical reception[edit]

Ian Jane of DVD Talk wrote "Despite the ridiculousness of the script and the mediocrity of the acting, Madhouse has enough gore and ludicrous set pieces to make it worth a look for slasher fans."[2] Tom Becker of DVD Verdict opined, "Little touches of audacity notwithstanding, Madhouse ends up being a mediocre chiller with some unintentional laughs."[3]


  1. ^ "Haunted Savannah Tours Starting Here, at the Kehoe House – Haunted Bed and Breakfast". Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Jane, Ian (25 November 2008). "Madhouse : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". DVD Talk. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Becker, Tom (25 November 2008). "DVD Verdict Review – Madhouse". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 

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