Maniac (1963) Poster

(1963)

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Warning: Spoilers
Hammer apparently wanted to branch out from the "Grand Guignol" gothic horror thrillers they were cranking out at the time, and began turning out several psychological thrillers vaguely in the PSYCHO/DIABOLIC mode. PARANOIAC (1963) and HYSTERIA (1965) are two examples along with the film in discussion here; MANIAC. MANIAC stars Kerwin(7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD) Mathews as an unhappily American in France who gets involved with a married woman named Eve Beynat whose husband is locked away in a mental hospital for the welding torch murder of the man who tried to rape his daughter Annette. Mathews gets tricked into helping Eve's "husband" escape from the mental hospital thinking this will allow him to have Eve to himself. As can expected, not all is what it seems. I won't reveal much more cause that would be a spoiler, but the film has good twist ending.

MANIAC is not the best of Hammers psychological thrillers, but it is still interesting and worth viewing. Kerwin Mathews who was fine in films with lots of physical action is a bit out of his depth here, but over all he gives an acceptable performance. This seems to be the last film of the lovely Liliane Brousse. She seems to have disappeared from the screen after this picture.
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Proficient little chiller
lorenellroy7 July 2003
Hammer Studios will always best be remembered for the horror movies they made but their ventures into other styles were by no means negligible and this neat little mystery is a good example of the thrillers they embarked upon now and again. Kerwin Matthews is Paul Farrell ,an American stranded in a small French village in the Camargue ,where some four years earlier a young girl had been raped and her attacker murdered by her father ,who is languishing in prison for the crime.The girl works at the hotel/bar where Farrell is staying and she falls in love with the personable young American who in turn is attracted to her mother ,Eve ,played by Nadia Gray.Together Farrell and Eve plot to help her husband escape and flee the country so they can be free to pursue a relationship. The plot goes awry and soon they are coping with a body in the trunk of their car and mysterious activity in their garage .The twist ending is neat and unexpected . The acting is a little under powered but the whole thing is a neat little piece of double bill fodder that will keep an audience diverted till the main feature arrives.
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A Few Twists, Not Enough Good Turns
laffinsal24 January 2005
A Hammer production, filmed at M.G.M., and released through Columbia. Sound confusing? Well, so is the plot to this attempt at out-psycho-ing "Psycho".

Kerwin Matthews is actually pretty good, in this tale of an American artist visiting France, who gets mixed up with both a young woman, and the woman's stepmother (notice she's a "stepmother"; hint, hint, wink, wink). For some reason I had an easier time believing Matthew's interest in the young woman, but not so much in her stepmother (whose high painted eyebrows, and puffy bouffant hair reminded me of Divine). Along the way Matthews learns of the older woman's husband, and how he committed a crime trying to protect his daughter years before. They try to help the husband escape from an asylum (so they can be together), and then the confusion starts.

Though the location footage, and stark black and white photography help this film create a good atmosphere, the direction is somewhat muddled, as is the dialogue, which at times I found difficult to follow. The French accents, in addition to some questionable dubbing make it hard to understand what they are saying. When I could understand the dialogue, it seemed forced and elementary; characters having to explain things that just happened, to further the story (and make sure that we get it).

Overall a slow start and a bunch of interesting twists in the latter half, but only a couple mildly startling moments. I found myself rather unsatisfied at the end. Perhaps this would have benefited by being directed by Freddie Francis...his collaboration with Jimmy Sangster that same year, for "Paranoiac", produced a much better film then this is.
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Basic summary of the film
avalard6 February 2000
Maniac is one of those rare Hammer films, a truly suspenseful horror. Its wonderful to watch, and so much better in widescreen. The unseen story intrigues, where the visual whets the appetite. A truly twisted story of intrigue and unrequited love, with a macabre twist that could only come from the studio that bred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as the ultimate horror team.

Although not as good as some of their other work, nevertheless, I was kept guessing as the plot became more complex, and enthralled by the scenery and style.

What is more, it is a contemporary film (well, 1963) and set in modern France, with real French actors!
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7/10
A gialloesque Hammer noir
melvelvit-11 March 2008
American landscape painter Geoff Farrell (Kerwin Matthews), stranded in Europe, is attracted to Annette, a young French barmaid, but ends up falling for her seductive step-mother, Eve (Nadia Gray), instead. Four years earlier, the teen-aged Annette was raped on her way home from school and her father, Georges, institutionalized for taking an acetylene torch to her assailant. Eve soon convinces Geoff to help her husband, now a local hero, escape from the insane asylum but, once free, a frightening series of events makes it look like Georges was a homicidal maniac after all...

In the wake of PSYCHO, England's Hammer Studios made a few black and white "mini-Hitchcock" thrillers that tried to emulate the "Master of Suspense". PARANOIAC, MANIAC, and HYSTERIA all featured real or imagined madness, murder, sex, and deception -along with numerous plot twists- to keep viewers on the edge of their seats with varying degrees of success. There's a stark, creepy, noir-like quality to MANIAC and the unseen rape, torture and murder in the beginning is quite disturbing. The location shooting in the isolated region of the French Camargue is a decided asset and the compelling story, written by Jimmy Sangster, includes a number of suspenseful sequences before a surprise revelation that is near impossible to see coming. I've read complaints that this wasn't directed by Freddie Francis but Michael Carreras does just fine with the gialloesque material. Recommended.
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Watchable but ultimately disappointing
utgard1427 October 2013
I'm a fan of Jimmy Sangster's work and after reading a few reviews of this movie here I was anxious to see it. Unfortunately I can't give this one a rave review. The best I can say is that it's not a bad movie and it's worth seeing once. After an intriguing opening the movie proceeds at a snail's pace for the longest time. It is excruciatingly slow. Since the actors involved are all as exciting as cardboard you can imagine how much slower that makes an already slow pace feel. Finally business picks up and then we're bombarded with one plot twist after another, not one of which is particularly impressive. The only twist I didn't see coming was one that was out of left field and there were no clues in the movie beforehand so it felt like a cheat. It's like Sangster knew his twists couldn't match Psycho so he decided on quantity instead of quality. If you're a fan of Jimmy Sangster or Hammer, then check it out but keep expectations low.
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9/10
The lady Eve....
MarieGabrielle12 March 2008
portrayed by the lovely Nadia Gray, Roumanian born actress. This suspenseful thriller is a nice surprise, and it has Polansky undertones to it which make it chilling.

The idea of a maniac with a blowtorch, and no one knows who or what is his next target. The actor portraying said villain was very good, and menacing as well as believable.

Eve has a daughter whose father is languishing in prison. He may be the blowtorch killer. He may have committed crimes. We don't know until the end.

Some of the scenes with the outdoor markets reminded me of Montmartre. So real and well photographed. A must see for any suspense film fan. 9/10
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6/10
Easy to watch chiller
adriangr27 March 2013
Maniac is one of the lesser known of Hammer's "psychological thrillers" made in black and white around the 1960's. It's not fiendishly clever enough to be really memorable but it does have a few interesting twists. Basically the plot sees Kerwin Mathews stranded in a small French town where he books into a hotel and starts to feel attracted to the owners sexy young step-daughter. Soon after this, he also starts feeling attracted to the more mature but still sexy step-mother as well! Apart form this love triangle, there is a further problem, in that the missing family member in this scenario is the father, who is currently locked up in an asylum for a violent blow-torch murder committed years ago…now but he wants out, and our hero is about to be roped into aiding in his escape! The film doesn't hang together very well for the beginning hour or so, sadly mainly due to Kerwin Mathews' wooden performance. Seeing him flirt with the daughter and then casually drop her and turn to her mother left me feeling quite disconnected from the plot as I found him a very unlikeable character. However when the plot to spring the insane killer gets going, things get to be more fun, and its after this point that a few nice twists start being revealed. I didn't guess the ending, which I am glad to say.

The movie is nicely shot, and makes a lot of use of it's location, with some very nice location filming, especially a very odd ruin/cave which features in the finale. Although why it's set in France at all is of no consequence, they really could have used the exact same plot and just stayed put in England. Anyway it's nice to see these old movies again, and luckily this is out on DVD. It's worth a look.
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7/10
Yet another PSYCHO-like film from the early 60s
MartinHafer16 March 2008
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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3/10
Breaking the hubby out
bkoganbing18 September 2014
Kerwin Matthews an American expatriate painter is essentially bumming his way across France when he encounters a mother and stepdaughter Nadia Gray and Lilianne Brousse. He starts getting interested in Brousse, but then Gray turns on the charm because she has plans for Matthews.

She wants Matthews to help her break her husband out of an insane asylum where he's been incarcerated for several years after killing someone and judged insane. So he's had the padded jail cell, but all I can say is that Gray has her own reasons for wanting her husband and they have nothing to do with what she tells Matthews.

I had a lot of trouble with this one. Primarily with the character of Matthews who in his salad days usually played honest and sincere men. But never outright fools as he is here. Granted Gray is one attractive woman, but I think most of us would have been out the door in three seconds flat when she mentioned a prison break for her husband. And the reason Gray tells Matthews she wants to bust him out wouldn't fool the horniest male teenager.

Donald Houston plays a guard at the asylum who has an agenda of his own. Hardly the best from Hammer Pictures.
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