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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


Strange Loves Exposed See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

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 »


When the wall is broken down, the actor playing "immured dead body" on the other side can be seen pushing the bricks apart. See more »


Marvel: It's pretty though. Imagine the poor guy. I'll betcha nobody knows him all his life, and then... Say, wasn't there some guy in history who spent all his life looking for an honest man?
Jo: Sure! In his day, men were men, but now they're too scared to be anything but honest.
See more »


References Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) See more »


La Cucaracha
Sung by Thea Ramsey
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User Reviews

For fans of wacko film making an absolute must see!
5 May 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I remember the first time I sat down to watch CITIZEN KANE many years ago. That movie had the reputation of being perhaps the greatest American film of all time, and I was sure I was going to be disappointed. I wasn't. It's a brilliant piece of film making that I've enjoyed again and again over the years, and one of the few times I remember thinking that a much-hyped film had actually exceeded its publicity. Last night I had a similar experience: I watched Dwaine Esper's classic MANIAC. We may be talking about the other end of the cinematic scale here but my reaction was similar: here was a movie I'd read about for years which not only lived up to the hype but surpassed it. MANIAC is a work of demented genius. I can't remember seeing another film that was more assuredly the product of a man unhampered by matters of good taste or conventional film making technique. It's one of the most consistently watchable and entertaining features I've seen, with an atmosphere more reminiscent of an old underground movie that a Hollywood production. The over the top acting, ludicrous but somehow clever dialogue, and nightmarish imagery (raving madmen superimposed over footage from silent horror classics, way ahead of its time gratuitous nudity, people being shot up with hypodermics the size of harpoons, and a killer catfight between two ferocious and seemingly indestructible women) all combine into a unique and surreal viewing experience. And yet the most shocking thing about this movie is the flashes of actual talent it displays (albiet sparingly). The sets and photography are occasionally quite atmospheric, and some of the dialogue, if competently delivered, would have seemed quite clever and original, foreshadowing the "postmodern" exchanges of people like Tarantino. All in all a movie that defines by example the word "unique" and an experience not to be missed.

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