Maniac title

Tag Line : I warned you not to go out tonight.

ManiacAh... they sure don't make 'em like this any more. Directed by William Lustig, Maniac tells the story of a psychotic killer named Frank Zito (Joe Spinnel), a Ron Jeremy look-alike, who's stalking the streets of New York looking for young women to kill, so that he can take their scalps for his grisly collection (if you don't know who Ron Jeremy is, DON'T ASK!).

It turns out that Frank really misses his mother, who was killed in a car accident years earlier. Despite the fact that she was a prostitute and was very abusive towards him, he still misses her and even has a permanent shrine to her in his apartment.

But Frank isn't just another "Norman Bates", he tries to keep his mothers memory alive by going out and committing these gruesome murders, then displaying his victims scalps on mannequins in his apartment. That is until he meets a beautiful young photographer named Anna (played by former Bond girl Caroline Munroe) with whom he becomes fast friends and very soon begins to develop a relationship with.

Unfortunately, this doesn't stop him from going out in-between dates and murdering a few more hapless victims, who he strangles, stabs and garrottes in loving detail, as well as blasting the heads off a young couple with a shotgun in one of the films more memorable scenes. Eventually he turns his murderous attentions towards Anna, who's still non-the-wiser to his extra curricular activities, only to find that not all victims are such easy prey.

This is a very fine example of just how good a low budget production can be and is by far the best movie that William Lustig has done to date. The special effects work is also excellent, but then you would expect no less from horror maestro Tom Savini and SFX wizard Rob Bottin. Jay Chattaway's musical score works wonderfully well and the late Joe Spinell's disturbing portrayal of the killer Frank Zito is also superb and is undoubtedly the role he will best be remembered for.

I recommend this film wholeheartedly, but if you want to see it fully uncut you'll have to fork out for an import as this film suffered a few short cuts at the hands of the BBFC. This film was rather reminiscent, in many ways, of the 1990 pic "Henry-Portrait of a Serial Killer", which also gave the UK censors much trouble.

Overall marks : 8/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • Director William Lustig makes a cameo appearance in the film as the hotel owner during the intro.

  • Owing to the films low budget, they couldn't afford shooting permits to film in the Subway, so they had to sneak into the station in the early hours of the morning to steal shots. The crew also had to steal camera's from the production office after hours to complete the night shots, and the helicopter footage in the movie was actually the unused material from the Dario Argento film "Inferno".

  • The films budget was a mere $350,000

  • Tom Savini, who plays one of the characters who gets his head blown off, was also was the stunt double for Joe Spinell in that scene, so he actually got to blow the head off his own dummy.

  • Joe Spinnel's first major role was playing the part of hitman Willy Cici in the cult gangster film "The Godfather".

  • Caroline Monroe had previously starred in the Hammer horror films "Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter" and "Dracula AD 1972" as well as playing the part of Victoria in the cult horror film "The Abominable Dr Phibes" and "Dr Phibes rises again". She has also starred alongside Joe Spinell in the movies "Starcrash" and "The Last Horror Film". She is undoubtedly best known for her role as Naomi in the the James Bond film "The Spy who Loved Me".

  • A proposed sequel to the film entitled "Maniac 2 : Mr Robbie" was drawn up in 1989 but was abandoned after Joe Spinnell's death. A 5 minute promo was filmed for this and can be found on the US Maniac DVD by Elite.

  • The film was submitted to the BBFC by Alpha films for a cinema release in 1981 but was rejected, although a heavily edited version was released on video by Intervision back in the early 80's, before the introduction of the "Video Recordings Act" in 1984.

  • Exploited video plucked up the courage to re-submit the film for a video release in 1998, only to have the movie rejected again. Interestingly though, an unconfirmed report says that, of the 4 examiners who viewed the movie, 3 men recommended banning it because of the films depiction of violence towards women, but the 1 female examiner recommended the film would be passable with cuts.

  • Anchor Bay UK managed to finally get the film passed in 2002, although this release suffered 58s of cuts, which shortens the first strangulation scene, removes a shot of the killer prodding his knife between a victims breasts and shortens the subsequent stabbing.

  • Elite Entertainment released a "Directors Cut" on laserdisc and DVD, which was actually shorter than the theatrical version. This shortened the scene with Joe Spinnel's character talking to a prostitute in a hotel bedroom, and removes a dinner date scene with Caroline Monroe. Apparently the director was never happy with these two scenes, which is why he chose to remove them from his preferred cut, though the dinner scene was included as an extra. All other DVD releases are of the theatrical cut, though the directors commentary on these was recorded for the directors version, so there are large portions of silence on the commentary track during these scenes.

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