Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Maniac" review

Maniac (1980)

Directed by William Lustig
Writing credits C.A. Rosenberg Joe Spinell

Joe Spinell .... Frank Zito
Caroline Munro .... Anna D'Antoni
Tom Savini .... Disco boy
Hyla Marrow .... Disco girl
Sharon Mitchell .... Nurse #2

While most movies are made to appeal to a generally wide audience, "Maniac" felt like it was made for a very specific audience: The guys who would wander into the movie theaters of Times Square. I wish I could have been there in the late 70's and early 80's. Those were the golden years for exploitation movie fans. "Maniac" hit the nail on the head. It set out to make a sicko movie as realistic as possible and succeeded.

Joe Spinell is the Maniac. He is the movie. We watch him be a sicko. He hunts and kills numerous women and couples throughout New York. There are a lot of gory scenes. Every stalking scene has a sufficient payoff of blood and guts. Joe wants to remember his women so he scalps them and nails them to the various mannequins he has in his apartment. Seems the Maniac has mommy abandonment issues. He tries to work it out through stalking and slashing pretty girls.

One reality problem I had with this flick was the instant attraction Caroline Munro, a very hot babe, has to the unbelievably foul Maniac. I didn't buy it for a second. Surely a hot photographer wouldn't waste her time with the portly, slimy Maniac. He fit the part of a psycho killer but being a ladies man was just too crazy.

Aside from that, "Maniac" is a great slasher movie. Granted, Joe Spinell is not the prettiest face to look at for 90 minutes. Also, hearing him whine and act loopy can get a tad tedious. But overall he plays one of the more memorable movie sickos. The filmmakers wanted to show the ugly and nasty side of murder and "Maniac" delivers.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 4 maniacal Spinells


Anonymous said...

you have soundtrack the maniac film ???????

Dr. Gore ( said...

Don't have the soundtrack although I really liked that song that played while the models were dancing. "Going to a showdown..."

Anonymous said...

Not a bad film- I loved watching Frank groom his manequins so adoringly. Yea, I'm like you- no way in the real world would a hot brunette photographer fall for a guy like Frank; He breathed too hard and always looked sweaty. Great review!!

Anonymous said...

Like this movie alot. I really miss the days when slasher films were actually good. Great review.

Michael Whiteacre said...

I actually saw this movie at a grindhouse on The Deuce in New York City. I've never heard more screams in a theatre than during the scalping sequence (except when Penny Marshall's face turned up at the end of Get Shorty).

Dr. Gore ( said...

I wish I could have seen Times Square during its full glory days. I finally got around to seeing 42nd street around 1990. It was at the tail end of its out of control depravity. However I did watch "Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer" there so I got a litte taste of The Deuce before it turned into Disneyland.

Michael Whiteacre said...

Oh, the Deuce was marvelous. It had everything you could ask for and then some. The denizens were way past caricature -- it was kind of surreal. If you had written characters like these, people would think they were too unrealistic. Shops selling overpriced electronics, used magazine stores, and the magnificent Show World Center: a huge porno palace that had peep shows, video booths, and visiting porn star feature performers in the Triple Treat Theater upstairs. I ever found out what exactly the three treats were, but I wasn't complaining. And of course, there were the grimy, greasy grindhouse cinemas, often with missing or broken letters on their marquees. People hacking, snoring, shooting up, and talking to the screen (or to imaginary characters). They actually had double and triple bills! You could spend all day there. Everyone there wanted to be there for some reason. There were no parents taking their kids out instead of parenting them -- in fact there were no kids at all. Just a bunch of people who, for whatever reason, felt they shouldn't be out on the street - plus lovers of genre movies. A perfect cocktail.

Dr. Gore ( said...

Used magazine store? That's funny. When I was there it was a open air drug bazaar. I remember someone yelling "Thai weed!". Actually that might have been Washington Square Park. But I do remember getting stopped a 3 or 4 times to see if I needed to get high. I told them I was fine.

What I like about the old Times Square was it's incredible mix of movies playing there. Porn for sure but also horror, action, kung fu, sex comedies and everything in between. I saw an old movie poster that said there was plenty of room in the theater for "stretching out". Must have meant for sleeping.

My family was in NYC one summer and ducked into a Times Square movie theater for no other reason than to get out of the sun. That's the only reason they sat through "Batman and Robin". The only good thing they could say about the movie? The air conditioning was great.

Carlos Canales said...

The most annoying thing bout this movie (and the reason i cant show it to my "friends ready to point out whatever plot hole they find in a movie") is the ending.The cops decide the maniac is dead without even checking the guy's pulse! I mean, c'mon give me a break! I know that was meant to leave room for an eventual sequel, but with that decition Lustig compromised the integrity of his movie.Don't you think?

Dr. Gore said...

I wouldn't say the ending ruined the movie. If you have friends who are that picky watching horror flicks, you are wise to avoid watching "Maniac" with them.

"Maniac" is a great slasher movie. My problem has always been that Caroline Munro fell for the sweaty, slimy Maniac as quick as she did. But the point of the movie is to deliver a nasty New York slasher flick and "Maniac" excels in that area.

Anonymous said...

This is indeed a slasher film...but also a very sad one.
The viewer is alerted to that possibility...that you will feel sorry for the man...during the opening credits. While the score has a trace of the sinister behind it, it is more sympathetic than creepy (the way that that the music for films like "Halloween" and "Carnival of Souls" is designed to give you the willies).
Listen to it carefully, as it is more mournful (without being lugubrious) than threatening.
On a certain level, it's a study in solitude, and what it can do to a man.He lives in a crummy apartment.Not only doesn't he have a girlfriend, there is no hint whatsoever that he has any friends at all.
With that in mind, the film's best scene...from a narrative when he takes Anna (the lovely Caroline Munro) out to dinner in New Jersey.
He is well dressed (by 1980 "Disco Danny" standards) and polite to the staff, just like a regular customer.
His conversation is measured, and he even manages to display a self-effacing sense of humor.
It shows what the guy might have been capable of...if he only had some company.

Dr. Gore said...

Yes indeed. He is one lonely slasher. Jason, Michael Myers etc never really displayed much emotion. You never know if they got any sort of thrill out of butchering people. It was just something that a horror movie producer made them do again and again.

But The Maniac has issues and perhaps if Caroline Munro had fallen for him, he would have turned a page on his solitary life. Alas it was not to be and many New Yorkers paid the price.