Kerwin Matthews, playing a dissolute drifter down on his luck, Jeff Farrell, is stranded in a cheap bar in France where he falls for Annette, the proprietor's pretty stepdaughter, played by Liliane Brousse. Annette's stepmother Eve, played by Nadia Gray, gradually shifts the young man's attentions to herself, rather than her stepdaughter, and together Eve and Jeff concoct a plot to help free Eve's estranged husband from the institution in which he's been confined as a homicidal maniac these past four years after committing the so-called "Acetylene Murder", when he killed with a blowtorch the man who raped Annette. The idea is that Georges, the husband, will leave the country, but, unknown to Jeff, it's not Georges who escapes but Henri, the guard who has become Eve's lover . . . Written by
Wheeler Winston Dixon
The film begins with a very sick and brutal murder with a blow torch!! While you could understand why the man killed, how he did it was naturally quite unsettling! Four years later, Kerwin Mathews is wandering about Europe aimlessly when he arrives in a small town in Provence, France. Here he stumbles upon a beautiful pair of ladies who are mother and daughter. What happens next, I really don't want to say as it would spoil the excitement and twists.
The early 1960s brought us a lot of films about maniac killers. PEEPING TOM seemed to be the film to start the craze back--debuting just before PSYCHO. PEEPING TOM was probably the best of these films and for about six years afterwords, there were a bunch of similar productions that focused on a mad killer. STRAIGHT-JACKET, HOMICIDAL, DEMENTIA 13, PARANOIAC and HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE are among scores of psychopathic killer films.
In the middle of this mad killer craze came the film MANIAC. Like the others, it involves a brutal killer who was seen as hopelessly crazy and the film had lots of nice twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing. Compared to these other films, I'd say that MANIAC is about average--very engaging but not among the cream of the bloody crop. Well made--just now good enough to put it among the best of the genre.
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