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Maniac

Year of Release: 1980
Theatrical Release Date:
NA

Director: William Lustig
Writing Credits:
C.A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell
Rating:
NR
Run Time:
85 min
Studio: Info coming soon

Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Gail Lawrence, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini, Hyla Marrow, James Brewster

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Summary: Frank Zito (a career performance by co-writer/co-executive producer Joe Spinell of Rocky and The Godfather fame) is a deeply disturbed man, haunted by the traumas of unspeakable childhood abuse. And when these horrific memories begin to scream inside his mind, Frank prowls the seedy streets of New York City to stalk and slaughter innocent young women. Now Frank has begun a relationship with a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro of The Spy Who Loved Me), yet his vile compulsions remain. These are the atrocities of a human monster. This is the story of a Maniac.

Reviewer Film Ratings:
Plot: 2.5 | Fun Factor: 2.5 | Gore: 2.5 | Nudity: 2 | Scare Factor: 1.5 | Overall: 2.5/5

Good Make-Up; So-So Story
Reviewed by

There was nothing particularly new in William Lustigís Maniac (1980). The story surrounds a psychotic man who was abused by his dominating mother and now runs loose in New York City killing women and taking their scalps home as trophies where they sit atop the mannequin dummies that align his small apartment.

Joe Spinell (who unfortunately passed away in 1989, but boasts titles such as Rocky II and The Godfather Part II on his resume), is an effective and believable sleaze of a killer named Frank Zito that trolls the NYC streets looking for his next kill.

Spinellís frumpy and greasy appearance make it hard to believe that there could be any physical attraction by photographer Anna (Caroline Munro), but his dual personality as the psycho Frank is d-e-a-d on creepy.

Tom Savini does double duty having a classic role of a Disco Boy that has the most tragic and classic of deaths and as the head of the make-up department that again over achieved in the early years of the 80ís slasher gore.

Itís unfortunate that the film fails to live up to the hype generated by the horror enthusiasts that hold Maniac in such high regard. Maniac was produced on a low budget of only $350,000 (source: imdb.com) and director Lustig (Vigilante, Maniac Cop) does his credible best what little he had. Famous film critic Gene Siskel walked out of the screening of Maniac after the shotgun to the head scene telling his fellow balcony guest Roger Ebert that he could not redeem itself after such graphic violence. I donítí think of a better tribute to a movie and I can assure that the non-CGI effects of the scene are truly a marvel.

But the film screened against todayís standards fails to get much lift. Itís an interesting character study, but an abused child who develops into a serial killer was nothing new even back 30-years ago. Modern day audiences will be sure to give Maniac attention (in particular now that a reboot starring Elijah Wood comes via Cannes for release later this year), and will likely be split on the results. Happy for the gore and numb to the surrounding story that has been done bigger and better in countless carbon copies.

Reviewer Film Ratings:
Plot: 3.5 | Fun Factor: 2 | Gore: 4 | Nudity: 4 | Scare Factor: 3.5 | Overall: 4/5

William Lustig Pulls No Punches In This Hard-Hitting Horror Film
Reviewed by Gavin Schmitt

The story of a maniac who kills women and collects their hair. While the police don`t seem to have any leads, he must fight against himself -- two conflicting personalities that can`t decide whether it is better to love or to kill.

This is director William Lustig`s masterpiece. He seems to have an obsession with "Maniac" films (he later made "Maniac Cop", "Maniac Cop II" and "Maniac Cop III") but this is really the only one that is in nay way a true horror film with any sort of disturbing imagery. Did Lustig go soft after he finished this film, or just fall under the spell of Sam Raimi?

"Maniac" is what I would call the Hollywood version of "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer". Unlike most stalker or slasher films, we don`t follow the victims so much as we follow the killer, giving him a human side that makes him all the more real and terrifying. While there`s no forgiving a man who wantonly murders, we can`t help but pity him on some level for his mental illness. This is what separates Henry or Maniac from Jason Voorhees.

The Tom Savini headshot was also very nice. Many of the scenes are quite memorable (such as the prostitute who is killed without even having her clothes removed), but I think the forceful elimination of Savini really takes the cake. It`s not on the level of say "Scanners" but it definitely will get you a little excited.

I think this movie is well worth seeing. I think it was one of those films that was supposed to be too graphic for the average viewer, and there certainly is a level of nastiness to it. But nothing a good horror buff won`t find enjoyable. And if at first you`re unsure, keep watching -- the second half really outdoes the first by a mile!

 
 
 
 
 
 
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