Maniac (1934) Poster

(1934)

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Far more than just another bad film.
reptilicus6 June 2001
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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3/10
one hell of a Disjointed viewing experience!
mark czuba31 October 2000
This film has no cohesive story, go figure it's an exploitation film, and as a true exploitation film it provides an abundance of spectacle. Maniac is about a......well a maniac. Throughout the film intertitles appear that define aberrant mental states (dementia, praecox, paranoia, etc..). Spectacle is furnished scenes such as a man popping a cats eye out of it's head and eating it, two women lounge about in their underwear, two women fighting with syringes!! Finally the last two scenes are nudie strip scenes, and are inserted for titillation sake only! Suicide recovery, cat chasing mouses, mad scientists, and a guy ranting "rats eat raw meat--you know, cat carcasses...so the rats eat the cats, the cats eat the rats, and I get the skins", are all part of this disjointed viewing experience everyone should see!!
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For fans of wacko film making an absolute must see!
horrorfilmx5 May 2006
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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2/10
Not really that bad
stuthehistoryguy23 May 2000
I am somewhat embarrassed to say this, but _Maniac_ is simply not that bad of a film. The acting is hammy, but its ineptitude doesn't even approach the Ed Wood level. This is an exploitation film, pure and simple. It was created to show insanity and scantily clad women when such things were prohibited from the mainstream. It is actually quite entertaining, especially when compared to other 1930s B-movies. The plot is certainly loopy, but not beyond following.

_Maniac_ is not a "good" film, but I would not put it anywhere near the running for worst movie of all time. That honor should be reserved for complete disasters like _Manos, The Hands of Fate_, _Robot Monster_ (which is probably the ultimate "so bad it's good" film), _Glen or Glenda_, _Big Jim McLain_, _Ninja Wars_, _The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant_, or _Dracula vs. Frankenstein_. These films were trying to be snappy entertainment and came out horribly wrong. _Maniac_ was trying to be exactly what it is.
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1/10
Wow. What can I say?
jimtinder12 May 2000
In the 1980s, thanks to the Brothers Medved, "Plan 9" earned the reputation as the worst film of all time. In the 1990s, thanks to MST3K, "Manos, the Hands of Fate" earned the worst film moniker.

Allow me to submit the film "Maniac" as the very worst. This film is so wretched, so fallible, so awful, it's impossible not to have an opinion about it.

"Maniac" is a film of almost no reputation. However, cult film critic Danny Peary called it the very worst. It's easy to see why. "Maniac" has almost no frame of film that is expertly produced. The film is grainy, shots are poorly executed, actors are rendered unseeable by being filmed standing behind test tubes.

"Maniac" easily has the worst acting in any film, from any time, any country. Overacting must have been a prerequisite to being hired for this film. Everyone talks in such an imposing, declaratory style, you'd think you were watching a session of Congress. At least "Plan 9" has professional actors such as Lyle Talbot; at least "Manos" has interesting characterizations. "Maniac" cannot boast any of that, except that actor Horace Carpenter once worked at Biograph with D.W. Griffith. What a comedown for him to be in this film.

Don't get me wrong; the film is a hoot to watch. From the incredible cat's eye scene to the cat fighting to the women fighting with syringes, "Maniac" has it all.

This film, made in 1934, may surprise people with its brief nude scenes. But it was a "roadshow" movie, so it's not really surprising at all. This was the kind of movie that could only be seen in burlesque houses or tent shows. Often, a promoter would put ads about the movie in the local papers, gaining huge interest in the film. The promoter would pitch a tent on the outskirts of town for the screening of the film. The promoter all too often would have to fold the tent and get out of town quickly, trying to avoid local authorities and local moral laws.

Do yourself, do your family, do your community a favor. Rent "Maniac" and see if you don't agree it's the worst ever.

You'll howl, you'll cry, you'll kiss your rental money goodbye!

See! Incredible eye-popping scenes! See! A bevy of chorus beauties! See! Mad scientists go even madder! See! How long you can stand watching it!
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Blazing a Trail for Ed Wood...
jbacks34 August 2004
I'd venture to guess that HBO could come up with a decent series about gypsy movie producers skirting the Hays Office of the 1930's... guys like Dwain Esper running all over Depression-Era America showing T&A "sex education" flicks in fraternal lodges and burlesque houses... it's just too bad that the movies they made stink (maybe that's their appeal). MANIAC is patently awful... Framed within chapters straight out of a pre-war DSM manual, MANIAC has so much to mention, all of it bad. Bill Woods is deserves particular notice for his relentless over- errh, I hate to call it 'acting' but in the Land of Hams, he would be King of Pork. Rivaling Woods is the uniquely bad Horace B. Carpenter. Everything in MANIAC screams for something better. Actresses appear and vanish (and in one case change altogether) for no discernible reason (although I suspect one probably balked at being topless). There's a couple of gratuitous topless shots--- one of which makes absolutely no sense and Esper has spliced in some (probably, no undoubtedly better) silent movie into the scene where Maxwell goes nutzoid at the end. THE INTERESTING THING: The "cinematographer" William C. Thompson deserves special notice: his work REALLY sucks. Camera movements are terrible, the lighting is horrible and there's a jerky feeling in every scene (lots of shots of cats and rats)... but wait! Thompson would later go on to become ED WOOD'S cinematographer (look... goosebumps!) and would obviously never truly get any real grip on his craft. I suspect Thompson was played by the ubiquitous Norman Alden in Tim Burton's homage to the antithesis of cinematic greatness, 1994's ED WOOD (4-stars!), but his character is unnamed. MANIAC has historic interest as a footnote showing how stupid an independent producer/director could get with a camera and what looks like a $400 budget. Rumor has it that Esper was a prosperous slumlord who obtained an abandoned movie camera and editing equipment from a tenant. Esper must've turned a buck on these things because he was able to keep grinding them out... but Maniac makes the worst drivel spewed out by Educational Films and PRC look like art. NO STARS!
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Dementia praecox
Camera Obscura17 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This piece of insanity is the work of Dwain Esper, perhaps the granddaddy of bad movie making, the precursor of such other infamous names as Ed Wood or Doris Wishman. I pay my utmost respects to the man who - unlike the latter - never managed to contract any "real" actors for his films or any other talent for that matter. MANIAC is even worse than his other brainchild, REEFER MADNESS or MARIHUANA,THE DEVIL'S WEED (1936), probably the first film to deal with the effects of marijuana, although Esper's NARCOTIC (1933) covered various kinds of narcotics, I'm not exactly sure if marijuana is covered too (haven't seen that one yet). Interesting note: Dwain Esper also was associated with the production of Tod Browning's earlier masterpiece FREAKS (1932), not on the credits though.

This piece of work deals with the subject of insanity, as in mental disease and psychiatry. It's about various forms of madness and for all you voyeurs out there, there's various forms of female nudity in it as well. Most people who read reviews want to know what the movie is about. I don't know what it's about, I'll just describe some things I saw.

A mad scientist, Dr. Mierschultz, decides to employ some vaudeville artist. In bad movies, scientists always need non-scientific helpers, who never seem to be useful anyway. Usually either one of them ends up being killed, used for some kind of sick experiment, or - in this case - the scientist himself is killed by his new employee, an interesting "plot twist". So, the vaudeville artist puts on his false beard and takes on the identity of the mad scientist and grows more insane with each passing minute. Why? Because Dwain Esper wanted it that way.

What follows are the infamous cat eye-popping scene, a catfight with two drugged women using baseball bats, homicide, some bare-breasted women, some incredible examples of over-acting and lots more. Between the scenes, the viewer gets some psycho-analytical (des)information about various mental disorders, which were novel and quite en vogue at the time. Everything from manic depression, dementia praecox, to schizophrenia is covered and is apparently the sole explanation for the existence of this slice of dementia.

Camera Obscura --- 5/10
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only fun when it's cheap
winner5517 January 2008
All right, I admit that "Reefer Madness" had continuity one could follow; but after you lose interest in 'counter-culture' naughtiness, that movie does get a little dull quite often.

The thing I like about "Maniac" is that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Although narrative bits and pieces are borrowed from mainstream horror films of that era, and of course from the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, they're never actually woven together in any coherent manner. Nor is there any relationship established between these and the recurrent dictionary definitions of various psychoses that appear on title cards with syrupy strings playing in the background.

And of course none of it's believable in anyway - especially the make-up when the killer 'disguises' himself as the mad scientist.

However, I will say that the pacing here is swift, the dialog hilarious, the acting overwrought to the point of pure self-parody, and, after all, folks - it's only 51 minutes.

And it only cost me $2 - one just has to do one's shopping more carefully.
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8/10
A public service announcement about "the gleam"
manicgecko31 October 2005
This movie is one of my guilty little pleasures. The more I watch it the more I just have to laugh. This is far from one of the worst movies ever made, but it may be one of the most pointless. The actors are the founding fathers of the Shatner-Hasselhoff school of ham. The camera work is horrid. The plot -- lets see how many gratuitous points of senselessness we can throw into one movie and still base it (vaguely) on as many Edgar Allen Poe shorts we can throw in. Who cares about continuity we can always film cats. The best part of these 50 minutes is the blatant attempts by the film maker to make this exhibitionist trash a legitimate "educational" flick. Love it or hate it everyone with an interest in psychology, z-rated movies, or just an hour to pointlessly kill should watch this at least once.
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You haven't seen it all
TonyDood1 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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6/10
Very bad...but still light-years ahead of its time!
Coventry11 February 2005
This film is, in one word, DEMENTED! No matter how you try to look at it – either an early underdeveloped educative docu or an ambitious exploitation pioneer, you can only come to the conclusion that this is a masterpiece of awfulness! How else would you describe a movie that features images of fighting women in a basement (with baseball bats!) or a dude munching a cat's eye (which, by the way, has just been squished out)? The whole point of "Maniac" is giving some sort of anthology about all the possible mental illnesses through the adventures of a science assistant. Maxwell helps his employer with stealing bodies from the morgue and re-animating the dead tissue for the cause of science. When his boss (Dr. Meirschultz) becomes a little too obsessed, Maxwell kills him and replaces him in performing the art of mad science. In order to give the story an Edgar Allen Poe twist, he walls up the corpse and a black cat accidentally gets buried along. "Maniac" is one giant incoherent mess! Amateurish pacing, ridiculous dialogue and downright atrocious acting make it almost impossible to sit through this film even though it only lasts only a good 50 minutes. Bill Woods and Horace B. Carpenter overact terribly and especially their diabolical laughter is pathetic. And yet…I had a great time watching it and I have a great deal of respect for director Dwain Esper's risky and ahead-of-their-time ideas. Being a massive fan of eccentric exploitation and bizarre cult-films, I'm convinced that could have enjoyed a much more positive reputation by now if it only had been made in the period of sleaze-deities like Jess Franco or Jean Rollin. The editing of silent German expressionism highlights into the film is quite eerie definitely well attempted. Maniac also contains a lot of gore and even nudity, which is quite spectacular for a 1934 film. So, if you're not too easily disgusted (either by kitsch or awfulness) I recommend tracking this deranged early horror film down! I sincerely hope everyone involved in this production ended up in a mental asylum and lived happily ever after.
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1/10
A Terrible, Terrible Film, With Laughable, Performances
callanvass7 February 2005
Warning: 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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La Cooca rocha, La Cocka Roche Ah
rufasff30 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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4/10
"Tonight my dear Maxwell, I'm ready to try my experiment on a human."
classicsoncall29 July 2005
Warning: 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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The "Citizen Kane" of classic roadshow exploitation movies
jds_revenge_redux25 October 2011
Warning: 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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3/10
A silly shocker
Jack Crash195923 March 2009
Warning: 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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6/10
Ħ
Zbigniew_Krycsiwiki11 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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2/10
Certainly one of a kind
Hitchcoc14 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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4/10
Film and early docudrama?
eavinci126 December 2004
I saw this film recently as part of a group of movies compiled and sold as horror classics. My one initial reaction was that I could not believe that a film made in 1934 allowed full frontal nudity and in several scenes. How did that happen? Did they get away with it by trying to be a docudrama of sorts? I wonder. I mean,after all it was 1934! You couldn't do that in Hollywood 20 years after that..............

The film has a brooding kind of energy, that is not often seen in early films such as this. It is clear that the person making the movie is was not your typical film maker.Even though it is not a film I would want to see again, many scenes from the film do replay in my mind.The film seems to have an impact on the unconscious mind of the viewer.I believe this due to the fact that the scenes replay in your mind almost begging for an explanation or perhaps redemption. The film explores the dark side of human desire.We all seem to want to peer in at those thoughts. Thankfully most of us only want to peer in!
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a one-of-a-kind wonder...
doug-may12 February 2004
I just watched this last night and I may never be the same. It is absolutely sui generis and almost beyond analysis, let alone criticism. Yes, the "acting" was awful, although it's hard to believe that such deliberate scenery chewing was ever intended to be taken seriously. At one point in the beginning of the movie, the mad scientist says to his apprentice: "Once a ham, always a ham...." And that pretty much sums up the "dramatic" aspirations of this film.

Beyond that, though (and overlooking the cliched and ridiculous plot), the discerning trash aficionado will find a treasure trove of delights. There are wonderful, classic throw-away lines ("What DID you put in that hypo, doctor?" and the aforementioned conversation vis-a-vis rats and cats)as well as delectably Rubensesque B-girls with their breasts exposed, hilarious special effects, and crudely effective photo superimpositions taken from sources such as Christensen's Classic History of Witchcraft and Fritz Lang's Siegfried. Not to mention the public health messages that constantly interrupt the plot to amusing effect. The whole effect is strangely disorienting--like watching Dreyer's Vampyr on a mescal hangover.

Recommended to fans of "Plan Nine" and "Mesa of Lost Women" If you like this, you should also check out "Daughter of Horror" (aka "Dementia").
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It may shock you, or become a nap-time favorite!
Bob Gutowski25 July 2003
MANIAC is an unforgettable experience. From its ham-handed exposition (Mad professor to psychotic aide: "You're always telling me about your impersonations...why don't you impersonate the coroner?") to its duh-obvious script (Wife, regarding her out-of-control husband, who has been injected with something very bad: "Doctor - he doesn't seem to be getting better, but worse!"), this is a classic of its kind - and may be the only film OF its kind! I've sat and watched it unblinking, and I've had it put me to sleep, but I've still got to see it once a year.

Come to think of it, this gluey little film is sort of a black & white waking nightmare.

(Oh, and it's got not only cats, but a "cat-fight" as well!)
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9/10
Twisted fun from the 30s
jz136014 July 2001
For those of you who enjoy bad films from the 30s, this is a can't miss. There is so much that is bad about this film (in a fun and mesmerizing way) that it's hard to know where to start. It is a disjointed experience for sure but very inspired. Just when you think there's some semblance of a story, there's a totally unrelated film title expounding the particulars of Dementia Praecox and there's an unrelated shot of a badly exposed fight between a cat and a mouse. (Subtle metaphors anyone?) This film is made by the Meirschulz and Don Maxwell comedy team. Meirschulz (Horace Carpenter, a stock character of 30s poverty row films--check the hilariously inept western The Irish Gringo sometime) is the prototype laughing and hand-wringing German mad scientist. Maxwell (Bill Woods, a Kramer from Seinfeld ringer) is the failed vaudeville "impersonator" who slavishly does the mad dr's bidding. I'll leave the rest of the story for your viewing, but believe me, this film has all-time classic moments. Take the otherwise meek Mr. Buckley, bring him into Meirschultz's office and deliver a shot of superadrenaline. Buckley's seething, slobbering reaction and his inspired "brain on fire" speech is worth the price of admission.
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DARTS OF FIRE IN MY BRAIN !!!
barkingpiglet28 April 2001
I could not belive what i had seen when i finished watching this.i had to watch it again straight away and my fears were confirmed,i had just seen (TWICE) the worst film ever made.if you are a fan of b-movies dont miss this one,it makes ROBOT MONSTER look like STAR WARS and any ed wood films are like spielbergs compared to this.The acting is terrible throughout the film and the scene where ted edwards is injected with the wrong hypodermic has to be seen to be belived.A classic of ultra bad film making,buy it today and be amazed.
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10/10
Sick genius
dow-312 July 1999
Dwain Esper was a genius, an exploitative provocateur, a low rent huckster of all those nasty things people REALLY wanted to see in the deadening 1930s: child birth, heroin addiction, eyeballs popping out of cats' heads. MANIAC may not be his "best" film, but it's certainly his goofiest. In a perfect world, Esper, not Spielberg, would be considered the ideal blend of auteur and entertainer.
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