For the best of the Horror/Cult/Exploitation film experience
Maniac (1980) - (30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray)
In 1980 the name director Bill Lustig unleashed his first attempt to make an exploitation film on the world and that film is “Maniac”. In the history of horror films and exploitation films there have been few films far and between that are even remotely on the level of “Maniac”. It’s a dark and violent look into the world of a serial killer and more specifically a serial killer that has some extreme issues with the way he was brought up. Certainly we’ve seen films like this come before and after “Maniac” but not many of them have been built up as a thing of legend like “Maniac” has and for good reason. Now in it’s 30th year of existence, we have Bill Lustig’s classic film “Maniac” in high definition thanks to Blue Underground.
“Maniac” is the story of a deranged murderer by the name of Frank Zito. See, Frank had a poor relationship with his mother as a child and it’s basically dictated the way he’s lived his life ever since. We now see Frank as a full grown man going out night after night into New York City claiming victims wherever he goes. Seemingly because his poor relationship with his mother Frank basically hunts women when he goes out, as well as to scalp them for his collection of mannequin’s at home. Bottom line is Frank is probably the last individual you’d want to run into at night walking the streets, and in “Maniac” he’s certainly out on the prowl.
First off there is no way that you talk about “Maniac” and not bring up the mind blowing special effects of Tom Savini. The man who was made famous by his work in films like “Friday the 13th” and “Dawn of the Dead” would be immortalized in the world of trash cinema forever after taking part in this film. The mood of the film, Joe Spinell’s acting, Lustig’s direction, and Savini’s effects are the reason why this movie has become such an unforgettable classic since it’s release in 1980. The movie has become one of those key horror films that you just have to see if you get into horror films and watching it in HD for the first time made me realize even more why. It’s because the movie is like very few that have come before or after it as far as the length it goes to show everything that happens when a psycho is on the loose. It’s a very real and downright chilling description of how this can happen, maybe even more so than any other film I’ve ever seen.
What can really be said about Joe Spinell’s performance in the film that hasn’t already been said? Honestly it’s one of the best genre performances I’ve ever seen and gave the film the power that it needed. Any lesser actor in that role and the film would’ve come off as nothing more than your typical hyper violent Z-grade sicky that used to play on 42nd Street in NYC. Instead Spinell gives the character layers and even pulls off something that he probably shouldn’t have.....he makes you feel sympathy for his character (regardless of how disturbing and repulsive the character is) and that’s pretty amazing. Also adding credibility to the cast is the addition of Caroline Munro who is as stunning as she is important to the plot of the film. I also like that there are a lot of hidden undertones with her character adding those layers just like what I mentioned about Spinell earlier.
The film really succeeds however due to the wonderful direction by Bill Lustig. There are certainly scenes in the film that are clostrophobic, but there are also some very suspenseful scenes as well. Specifically a stalk and slash scene that takes place in the subway at night. It’s really one of the best scenes of it’s kind and it’s honestly worth watching the movie just to see that one scene.
The special 30th Anniversary Edition of “Maniac” is the edition that all of us fans have been waiting for. First off the film itself looks immaculate in HD, so kudos to Blue Underground for hooking this one up because it looks gorgeous. The extras here are also something to talk about because they really loaded up this edition. First off some of the extras are repeated from the Blue Undergroud DVD such as the addition of the “Joe Spinell story”. Also you have a new commentary track on the disc in addition to the one that was already on the DVD, plus some awesome interviews in HD There is an additional DVD added of special features that have some never before seen things as well, including a local cable access show in NYC that Lustig was a guest on in 1981. It’s extremely impressive too as the specific episode lasts about 45 minutes or so and they really talk about some cool stuff
Overall the film is a winner and so is the new Blue Underground BD of “Maniac”. It’s a must see film for genre fans and it’s definitely one of my personal all time favorites. It’s as aggressive film of this type that I’ve ever seen and finally fans have an edition to call our own HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Rating - ****
Blu-ray Rating - ****