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Reviews & Ratings for
Maniac More at IMDbPro »

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

You haven't seen it all

Author: TonyDood from United States
1 December 2005

The longer I live the more surprising things I see. Here's a movie from the '30's that has bare boobs, gore and a shot of a man popping a cat's eye out. I don't know if it was real--the cat didn't seem to mind much so I doubt it was.

This has the feel of an Ed Wood exploitation opus--all over the place story-wise (a guy impersonates a mad doctor to promote his own mad ideas and a lot of people aren't thrilled with it, and some end up dead). It's clearly an exploitation film--it takes place in one room and plot is forsaken in favor of grisly ideas and action, deception, slutty women and over-the-top acting. Like many movies from this era it's too slow and grainy for most people to enjoy and certainly too poorly made to recommend, and the rewards are slim. I'd keep the fast-forward handy and the alcohol too--the title placards that try to legitimize the movie by suggesting it's an essay on different forms of madness is pointless and irritating, really.

The best news is that it's short and there's more action than talking--too bad more movies aren't like that these days. Oh, and there's the oddity of an actress named "Phyllis Diller" being in it, no relation to the wild-haired 60's stand-up comic, of course.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

"Tonight my dear Maxwell, I'm ready to try my experiment on a human."

Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
29 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've never been at a loss to describe a film, but this time I think I've met my match. With no idea of what I was in for, "Maniac" managed to turn a mere fifty one minutes into a hallucinogenic experience without the drugs. With lines like "What I want is a victim with a shattered heart", and "What was IN that hypo?", this X-rated "B" movie is in a league of it's own.

That's not to say the film was bad, or even in the "so bad it's good" category. There are worse movies, believe me, if you've seen "The Beast of Yucca Flats" you'll realize that. However this film has some of the most bizarre elements you'll ever see, and they just keep coming at you. If the demented Dr. Meirschultz (Horace B. Carpenter) doesn't wake you up with his "bwa-ha-ha" maniacal laugh, then you'll certainly be entertained by the eye popping cat scene, and that's meant literally. If you thought it couldn't get any more gross, well just wait a second, and you'll witness mad doc impersonator Don Maxwell (Bill Woods) munch it down for maximum effect.

You've got things here you never expect to see - cats chasing mice, cats fighting each other, women fighting each other in a different version of cat fight, hypodermic needles, a dead body bricked up behind a wall, and more, so much more you won't believe what you're viewing. Oh yes, and there's a bare breasted woman too, so nonchalantly and provocatively inserted that you'll have to rewind to be sure you're not imagining it. All this from a film that starts out like your standard evil scientist creating life movie. There's even a dead woman brought back to life, which by the time the film is over, you realize is one of the more believable elements of the story.

Chalk this one up to one rare movie going experience. If I ever host my own late night Elvira fest, this will be the one to debut the series. It's "Reefer Madness" without the weed, and one weird ride into bizarro land you'll never forget, as hard as you may try.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Terrible, Terrible Film, With Laughable, Performances

Author: callanvass
7 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is just a terrible, terrible film, with laughable performances all around. It is sort of amusing , at times, but it's at times pretty dull, and, it had some of the worst performances i have ever seen!. I got this on a cheap 3 horror movie disc set called Psychotic Connections. The Dialog is especially bad, and some of it was headache inducing.And check out the laughable moment, when Dr. Maxwell starts, chasing a cat around, or how about near the end, when those two women, fight and argue constantly and hit each other, with baseball bats, and. The Direction is some of the worst i have seen. Dwain Esper, does a terrible job, here, everything is so bland, and lifeless, and most of all the Pace is very bad!. There is a tiny bit of gore(TONS for a 1930's film). We get, A heart in a jar,eyeball,severed head, and a cat gets his eye pulled out(I HATED IT!). The Acting is god awful!. Bill Woods, gives an amusing over the top performance, but it's Ludricously Bad, and, he totally over acts!, and the accent was laughable. Horace B. Carpenter, is also terrible, and made me groan. Rest are all terrible. Overall AVOID!!!!! BOMB out of 5, only watch, if your in the mood, for a type of movie like this.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

La Cooca rocha, La Cocka Roche Ah

Author: rufasff from Los Angeles CA
30 May 2002

The DVD of Esper's Maniac and Narcotic from Kino is a fantastic and

entertaining package on these two "roadshow" classics. "Maniac" is the

more well known of the two; has the power to amaze on repeated

viewings. To simple write these films off as "so bad it's good" or

"camp" is too easy by three fourths. These are zonked out morality plays

from a true believer who liked the flock to fill up that plate.

Many of the classic scenes from "Maniac" have been commented upon

here, I think my favorite is the man who thinks he is the gorilla killer

from Poe's "Murder In The Rue Morgue." There's a story there, but I'm

not sure I want to know it.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

In The Tradition Of Awful Movies...

Author: jonathon_naylor from Manitoba, Canada
8 September 2006

In the tradition of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS, this turkey manages to earn four stars because it's so utterly, completely, bizarrely and amazingly awful. After murdering his boss, a doctor, an aspiring actor uses makeup to take his place. The rest of the movie is pretty much incomprehensible as the fake doc goes berserk. Women catfight with syringes, a topless woman is kidnapped and, most famously, our protagonist, for reasons known only to him, pops out and eagerly consumes a cat's eye.

One presumes that MANIAC, to some degree at least, was supposed to be this bad. It was released in 1934 as a "roadshow" movie, meaning perpetrators of what was then intolerable filth traveled from one town to the next with its reel, showing it in shady burlesque houses. By today's standards, it's probably not even an "R" film; other than the brief nudity, it's extremely tame. MANIAC will appeal to fans of terrible movies. In fact, this may very well be the very first "good bad" flick. It will also interest those curious to see what was deemed as immoral artistic expression all those years ago.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The "Citizen Kane" of classic roadshow exploitation movies

Author: jds_revenge_redux from United States
25 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dwain Esper's "Maniac" (1934) is a wildly imaginative 51 minute manic mindfudge that deserves much more respect than it gets (none). "Released" (taken out on he road) 3 years after "Frankenstein," "Maniac" raises the stakes by making the reanimated corpse that of an beautiful woman and then having it abducted, stripped to the waist, and raped by a raving psychotic who has been fired up with a "hypo" of "super- adrenaline." The scene is made all the more sensational by the victim's centerfold ready bare breasts. Purloined Poe references permeate the proceedings. Women of all sorts dominate the cast and are responsible for the lioness' share of the jazzy, almost psychedelic dialogue that ranges from carny to proto-beatnik. Two women are tricked into arming themselves with huge hypodermic needles, each thinking the other is a violent lunatic, lured into a filthy basement, plunged into darkness, and fight a prolonged battle as physical as a professional wrestling match. The already hectic movie has a busy background undercurrent of cat insanity: hyperkinetic cat fights both literal and figurative, a skulking black cat / Satan stand-in, a circular cat-rat fur scam ("The cats eat the rats, the rats eat the cats, and I get the skins"), and miscellaneous wtf? cat themed dialogue ( "I think too much of Satan to use cats for experiments"). A trash masterpiece.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A silly shocker

Author: ( from United States
23 March 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sheesh! I wasn't expecting anything like this. I received the collection this movie is on for my birthday, from my sister in law. The whole family knows I love horror, fantasy and Science Fiction films. This one sat around for a couple of months. Constantly getting shuffled back to the back of the pile of unwatched DVDs that I try to keep on hand so I always have something to watch besides regular TV. The other night I awoke from a sound sleep and could not fall back and so this collection was put into the player. Immediately I thought I was in for a very strange treat. The actors were so over the top that I found myself even more awake. The story says it is based on some Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, but just barely. A mad doctor needs a dead body to test out his new re animating solution. So he and his ex vaudeville assistant go to the morgue to steal a cadaver, a young girl who committed suicide. They revive her and take her back to the lab, but we don't see her again for a while. The next time we do see her she stumbles zombie like into the arms of a madman who proceeds to tear off her clothes. We get nude girl in a 1934 movie! Its quick, so don't blink, but they come back to her a couple more times and then there are other 30's floozy types that spice up the proceedings with an old fashioned cat fight down to the underwear, along with several real cat, cat- fights that lead up to the part stolen from Poe, with a cat bricked in the wall with a murder victim. If you can stand the crazy bad acting its definitely worth a look and less than an hour long so you don't lose too much of your life.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: Zbigniew_Krycsiwiki from United States
11 July 2007

The obligatory mad doctor is killed by his even madder assistant, after unsuccessful attempts to resurrect the dead by transplanting a human heart in a dead body. Cue footage of old German silent films, shown with reckless abandon, and for no apparent reason. Assistant studies doc's notes to revive him, but can't, and decides to hide body behind brick wall in basement. Assistant was formerly a vaudeville performer, specializing in impersonations, assumes his identity, with the help of a make up kit- despite the fact that he's about 4 or 5 inches taller than the dead doc. Mrs. Buckley finds out and tries to blackmail him. The quack thinks his fiancée wants to kill him for his recent inheritance, and somehow arranges Mrs Buckley and fiancée to attack each other with over-sized syringes, hoping that that will take care of both problems. A cat fight ensues while the quack giggles maniacally before cops intervene, and find the doctor's body behind the wall. At the end, he claims that misery and humiliation drove him to it, and brags that he's proud of his supreme impersonation- from behind bars.

Congrats to you reading this, if that plot, or its mise en scène, makes any sense to you.

Whose idea was it to film the characters talking from behind a beaker numerous times throughout the movie? Whose idea was it to use what look like turkey basters as syringes? Did no one notice that the "corpses" are visibly breathing? Whose idea was it to put lengthy, ponderous intertitles throughout the movie? And then try to wake up the audience by putting gratuitous (but lame) nudity throughout the movie? Who says old zero budgeted grade Z flicks aren't fun?

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Think that "so-bad-they're-good" movies were invented in the 1950s? Think again!

Author: TheMarquisDeSuave from Worcester, MA
1 February 2007

Think that "so-bad-they're-good" movies were invented in the 1950s? Think again! Both "Reefer Madness" and the films of Dwain Esper had them beat. "Maniac" is his best known work, and while it doesn't have the wide appeal of "Reefer Madness" (for obvious reasons), its even funnier. These roadshow films were made simply to get nudity and violence past the censors by employing a social message as a shield. "Maniac" uses the flimsiest message (mental illness), and like all the films is a laughably inaccurate misunderstanding of an important topic. Often, Esper completely forgets this just to bring on the sleaze. These films weren't pre-code, but anti-code.

In addition to being interesting from a historical perspective, "Maniac" is a goldmine for psychotronic fans. Its a completely disjointed and surreal film with enough campy weirdness to rival anything by Ed Wood. There's stock footage from obscure silent feature "Maciste In Hell" (an equally fever-dreamlike experience if you're lucky enough to track it down), the eating of a cat's eyeball, a man who believes hes a gorilla, a fight between two women with hypodermic needles, and several of cinema's most hilarious psycho performances! What's not to love? (6/10)

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Certainly one of a kind

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
14 March 2006

I had such a terrible print of this that it distracted from the enjoyment (such as it was). It is such a mis-edited hodgepodge that one never really gets into any kind of story. There are about six plots introduced and then pretty much dropped. We have the re-animated women, the nut case, high on adrenaline, The mad doctor, the specialist in disguises, the women whose patronage seems really out of place. There are virtually no motivations for anything--it just rambles on from one scene to the next. The little instructional breaks explaining various psychological anomalies lead us into--what? It's as if it's supposed to be a clinical film and then you have this ranting. The cat gets its eye popped out. There are Poe things, "The Black Cat," with the walled up person. I don't know. It just sort of ended, which was OK. The nudity was interesting, in that it must have been pre-production code. Why was it there. I suppose so the voyeuristic could be lured into a movie theater. Who knows. It's one big mess.

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