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Maniac (1934)

Not Rated | | Horror | 11 September 1934 (USA)
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A former vaudevillian gifted at impersonation assists a mad scientist in reanimating corpses and soon goes mad himself.



(story and continuity) (as Hildagarde Stadie)



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Cast overview:
Bill Woods ...
Dr. Meirschultz (as Horace Carpenter)
Ted Edwards ...
Phyllis Diller ...
Mrs. Buckley
Thea Ramsey ...
Alice Maxwell (as Theo Ramsey)
Jenny Dark ...
Marvelle Andre ...
Marvel (as Marvel Andre)
Celia McCann ...
John P. Wade ...
Embalmer Mike (as J.P. Wade)
Marian Constance Blackton ...
Neighbor (as Marion Blackton)


Don Maxwell is an ex-vaudeville ham, wanted by police, who has now found himself as the unlikely assistant to Dr. Meirschultz, a mad scientist in the business of reanimating corpses. Maxwell's gift of impersonation gets him and Meirschultz past the guards and into a morgue where they use a special serum to revive the corpse of a pretty young woman. But that's nothing. Dr. Meirschultz has a heart beating in a jar of solution and is eager to put it into a corpse that really needs it. Meirschultz gives his assistant a gun and advises him to commit suicide, so that he can put the heart in him, but Maxwell shoots and kills the scientist instead and hides the body. People will miss Meirschultz, Maxwell quickly realizes, but no one will miss his lowly assistant; and so Maxwell dons eyeglasses and a fake beard to become his onetime benefactor. The trouble is, he impersonates the mad doctor too well and goes crazy himself. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

11 September 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dwain Esper's Maniac  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$5,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film contains intertitles, a few comment on the action in the film as they were used in silent films, but the majority, five of them, comment on the then prevailing descriptions of various mental illnesses: Dementia Praecox (now called Schizophrenia), Paresis (here used to refer to the latter stages of syphilis), Paranoia (actually listed as a noun "Paranoiac"), Manic-depressive Psychoses (now usually referred to as Bipolar Disorder), and Manias. See more »


A crew member's shadow can be seen on Maxwell as he stands up in the first scene. See more »


Mrs. Buckley: Doctor! He seems to be getting worse instead of better!
See more »


La Cucaracha
Sung by Thea Ramsey
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User Reviews

Far more than just another bad film.
6 June 2001 | by (Vancouver, Canada) – See all my reviews

If you have never seen a Dwain Esper film you might feel nervous sitting in a room with people who have seen and enjoy them. Curiously there is no middle ground for Dwain Esper, you either love his films or you hate them. He was no filmmaker; originally he was a real estate agent and one of his clients defaulted on a mortgage and left a house full of filmmaking equipment. Esper was wondering what to do with all the stuff and suddenly the movie making bug bit him and that was that; he had a new career. Dwain was no Edward D. Wood. Eddie's films have a laughable ineptness but the sincerity was there despite the shortcomings, and they were legion. He wasn't even comparable with Andy Milligan whose filmic efforts make Ed Wood look like John Ford by comparrison. If I HAVE to compare Dwain with someone it could only be David Friedman. Both went directly for the cinematic equivalent of a heart punch and gave us images so unrelentingly gritty and brutal they dared us to keep looking. Having seen most of Dwain's movies I have to say MANIAC is his magnum opus. Horace Carpenter, a former director of silent westerns (check out FLASHING STEEDS sometime) and member of Cecil B. DeMille's stock company (ROMANCE OF THE REDWOODS, JOAN THE WOMAN, etc) plays Dr. Mierschultz, the maddest doctor to step in front of a camera. Bill Woods is his assistant, the dangerously neurotic Maxwell who is on the run from the police (we never find out why but Dwain was not one to clutter up his screenplays with needless facts). Neither of these characters is playing with a full deck. Meirschultz restores life to a dead woman and wants to restore someone else by transplanting a living heart into a dead body. When he demands that Maxwell shoot himself it brings an abrupt end to their employee/employer relationship and Maxwell kills him and decides to take his place ("I not only look like Mierschultz, I AM Mierschultz! I will be a great man!") And this is where the movie gets REALLY weird! The film has lately been restored and it available on both video and DVD so I don't want to spoil the surprises; and there are a lot of them in the 55 minute roller coaster ride of a movie. I will warn all cat lovers to avoid this movie. There are one or two scenes that will bother them, but there is no animal cruelty! That one eyed cat was a real one that Dwain bought from an animal shelter. Dwain always claimed he was making educational films to warn people against drugs, promiscuity, and to enlighten people about mental illness. He must have known it isn't WHAT you say but HOW you say it. So pop this cassette into your VCR. Good luck to you all. Viddy well, little brother, viddy well.

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