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_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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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").
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!)