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|Index||27 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Artist Paul Farrell(Kerwin Mathews) escaping a bad relationship, gets
in over his head when he falls in love with the seductive step-mother
Eve(Nadia Gray) of a young beauty, Annette(Liliane Brousse)who operates
a sea-side café for which he's renting a room. Annette's father,
Georges, is locked away in an asylum due to his brutal murder of a
rapist who assaulted her. Paul, so completely blinded by his love for
the married woman, agrees to help Eve in the escape of Georges, with
dire consequences yielding problems he could never imagine. Georges,
through a supposed conversation with Eve, wishes to escape hoping to
rendezvous with his daughter Annette in another place far away from
those out to get him. But, another missing prisoner, who might've
possibly escaped with Georges, will come back to haunt Paul and Eve.
With Inspector Etienne(George Pastell)often poking around, asking
questions, it's only a matter of time before a sure-proof plan unravels
with betrayal and deception on the horizon..
Super-slick and slippery as only Hammer scribe Sangster can deliver offers several twists, with certain characters not as they appear. One particular character twist some might see coming because of the endless parade of thrillers and courtroom dramas which have come after "Maniac." But, there's one twist regarding the escaped madman which might raise eyebrows..it's certainly inspired, I'll say that. Moody photography helps enhance the mystery as it slowly develops and the setting is alluring. The attractive cast also adds to the already beautiful landscape the characters inhabit, and the seedy elements give the film a nice naughty quality. You know, Hammer is known for their gorgeous Gothic color films, but I really think the studios produced some excellent B&W psychological thrillers as well.
The opening sequence is quite startling in how it sets up the tone of the rest of the film, with a salivating old man looking on at an innocent teenager from behind the bushes, offering her a ride home, moving her out of the visibility of the viewer behind waves of green, as one of Annette's school chums gets her father, with the result of an off-screen altercation and blow-torch murder giving way to the credits of the film.
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
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.
If Hammer movies had been released the same way as vinyl records "Maniac" would be a typical B-side effort; meaning it's an extremely low-keyed, low-budgeted and nearly forgotten little black-and-white thriller that understandably stood in the shadows of the studios' contemporary Grand-Guignol horror productions, like the Frankenstein cycle starring Peter Cushing and the Dracula series featuring Christopher Lee. There are quite a bit of hidden treasures to discover amongst Hammer's modest thriller productions of the 1960's ("Scream of Fear", "Hysteria" ), but sadly "Maniac" isn't the studios' or writer Jimmy Sangster's finest piece of work. The film nevertheless opens very promisingly and provides a fairly large number of slick and unpredictable plot twists during the grand finale, but everything in between is dull and incredibly uninteresting. But what a great opening! In the usually quiet and peaceful French Camargue, a father catches the rapist of his 15-year-old daughter in the act and promptly extracts his bloody vengeance with a blowtorch! Hell yes! Four years later, the man Georges - resides in a mental asylum while his gorgeous wife and astonishing daughter both fall in love with the traveling American painter Jeff Farrell. In return for his wife, Jeff agrees to help Georges escape from the institution and out of the country. But the plan goes horribly wrong and the blowtorch will have to be used some more! The basic plot is ingenious and suspenseful enough, but the 90% of the film revolves on the dire and slowly unfolding triangular relationship between the American, the mother and the daughter. The "maniac" in question also doesn't really deserve to be referred to as a maniac, as he doesn't come across as very menacing and makes a couple of really dumb moves during the climax. Still, the killer's choice of weapon is original and Michael Carreras occasionally generates a tense and unsettling atmosphere. "Maniac" is reasonably interesting material for Hammer fanatics, but not exactly recommended viewing.
Michael Carreras directed this complex mystery about an American painter and drifter named Jeff Farrell(played by Kerwin Mathews) who is stranded in a bar owned by a woman named Eve(played by Nadia Gray) who seduces him away from her daughter Annette in order to enlist him in an effort to spring her estranged husband from a mental asylum, where he had been committed for killing Annette's alleged rapist with a blowtorch. It turns out(of course) that there is much more to it than that, as Jeff will discover...Complicated but uninspired film seems to combine "Psycho" with "The Postman Always Rings Twice" with mostly tedious results.
Overlong and Overwritten, this is a Plodding and only Occasionally
Interesting Psycho-Drama from Hammer Studios. it is Definitely a Lesser
Film than the Other Psychological Pictures they made around this Time.
After a Lurid and Effective Beginning things become Tedious with some Unnecessary Scenes and the Movie takes the Longest Time Setting-Up the Suspense and the Twist Filled Ending. The Middle Bit with all that Scenery makes for an Atmosphere of Expanse and is there, it seems, to be nothing more than Languishing on Location.
The Ending too Suffers from the Ill-Advised and Badly Used Catacombs that do nothing but Distract from the Necessity of Piecing Together the Novel Conclusion. It all is Rendered Rather Routine the way the Climactic Confrontations are Played Out, as is Probably the Case of the Audience by the Time all is Said.
So much of the dialog exchanges between a French mother and daughter is
hardly discernible (to American ears), that MANIAC, with its complex
plotting, is sometimes difficult to follow. Only Kerwin Mathews, as the
hunky artist who finds himself attracted to both women, is fully
understandable. Not so understandable is why he allows himself to be
taken in so easily by the manipulating Nadia Gray.
The acting is only so-so, almost indifferent when it should be strong, so the suspense is further undercut by the underwhelming performances of the principal cast. Only Donald Houston, as the villainous Henri, gives a vivid and chilling performance.
Filmed in B&W amid some interesting locations, it has too many twists and turns before it ends rather limply in a deserted quarry. But those thick French accents really needed a good dubbing job.
Maniac is directed by Michael Carreras and written by Jimmy Sangster.
It stars Kerwin Matthews, Nadia Gray, Lillian Brouse, Donald Houston
and George Pastell. Music is by Stanley Black and cinematography by
Vacationing in the Carmarque region of France, American artist Jeff Farrell (Matthews) gets more than he bargain for when he becomes romantic interest for mother and daughter Eve (Gray) and Annette (Brousse) Beymat...
Out of Hammer Film Productions, Maniac is one of a number of psychopath themed thrillers that followed in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Filmed in black and white on location in Caramarque, the film opens with a tremendous whack as young Annette Beynat is abducted on her way home from school and raped (off camera) by the side of the road. This crime is witnessed by a local man who fetches Annette's father who promptly captures the rapist and gets medieval on his ass with a acetylene torch (again off camera). It's quite an opening, but then the film settles into a leisurely pace for the next hour as Carreras and Sangster build their story in preparation for a big finale. Then things get tricky, and I'm not just talking about for handsome Jeff Farrell...
Realising they have gone for a "major" slow build and are desperate to add some added bite into what was becoming a bona fide sub-genre of thrillers, the makers cram so much into such a short space of time it collapses under its own weight. We know there's going to be a twist, the whole story is geared towards this fact, but they instead keep twisting, and twisting until it no longer becomes interesting. While the actual finale is something of a damp squib. There's a big problem with the location as well, Carreras' flat direction is unable to draw anything substantially atmospheric from the locale. True, a chase and reveal at the climax gets a splendid back drop in which to unfold, but it's a rare moment of inspiration and you are kind of taken out of because of piecing together the threads and implausibilities.
It's a very frustrating film, one where the usually great Sangster over reaches himself and Carreras doesn't come up to the standard of Terence Fisher or Freddie Francis. It holds the interest, is decently performed, has good production value and is fleetingly attention grabbing, but this should have been much much better. Both visually and with plot machinations. 6/10
This was one of two Hammer thrillers (even if it was watched on a "Fantasy" day) that had eluded me thus far; for the record, the remaining title CRESCENDO (1970) has, controversially, just been released on DVD-R as part of Warners' U.S. exclusive "Archive Collection". While MANIAC has a reasonable reputation, I have to say that I was ultimately let down by it and I would place the film in the lower rank of the studio's efforts in this vein. Its main fault, basically, lies in a not very interesting plot (courtesy, as were many of these outings, of screenwriter Jimmy Sangster): besides, it tries but fails to recapture the sense of eeriness inherent in a remote seaside location (in its case, the Camargues) already seen in the much superior TASTE OF FEAR (1961) and THE DAMNED (shot in 1961 but only released 2 years later). That said, characterization is quite well rounded: Kerwin Mathews, infrequently seen in a modern-day setting, makes for a surprisingly effective lead (in fact, he had previously starred in Hammer's splendid adventure film THE PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER ); Nadia Gray is sultry and conniving, Liliane Brousse her ingenue but no less sexy stepdaughter (who gets raped in the film's very opening sequence!). Coming into play during the latter stages is Donald Houston as the titular figure, though he proves to be someone other than who the audience had been led to believe; therefore, we have a number of nice twists (and implied violence) here but, then, end up with a rather ordinary mystery actually anticipating a number of gialli in this regard! Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the film was further dampened by all kind of technical problems (after the picture in the copy I acquired initially failed to visualize) with stretched image (fixed by altering the TV setting to 16:9), fuzziness, combing (the latter also causing the audio to drop out a couple of times) and lip-synch issues all rearing their ugly head throughout the viewing!
An American painter (Kerwin Mathews) has an affair with a bar owner
(Nadia Gray) in a French village and agrees to help her murderer
husband escape from a prison for the criminally insane.
Something of a Hammer Horror, though not of the Gothic type (this killer prefers blow torches). This is constant suspense, with plenty of twists and turns, and you will definitely keep guessing throughout the plot. As Bosley Crowther wrote, it has "a plot of extraordinary cunning...(It) takes on a twitching suspense that simmers, sizzles and explodes in a neat backflip". Turner Classic Movies calls Jimmy Sangster's script "gimmicky and obvious", but they are dead wrong.
Besides writing from Sangster, we have direction from Michael Carreras (the son of Hammer's founder). The cinematography is courtesy of Wilkie Cooper, who was raised under the wing of Ray Harryhausen on such films as "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad". He had previously shot this film's star, Kerwin Mathews, in that film (with Mathews as Sinbad, no less).
Nadia Gray ("La Dolce Vita") plays the femme fatale, and does an admirable job, but she is overshadowed by Liliane Brousse, who plays her stepdaughter Annette. Her credits are short (this was her second to last film), but Hammer fans may have seen her in "Paranoiac" (1963) alongside Oliver Reed, which was also written by Sangster and directed by the visionary Freddie Francis.
Although not well know, this is a must-see film for Hammer fans, and is available in the "Icons of Suspense" box set. Now if only Hammer would take a more active approach in releasing their back catalogue... hundreds of great treasures.
The title is "Maniac" and there is a maniac character in the film of
course. However, much of it is filmed prettily in sunshine with lovely
stars engaged in romantic activities. In the lovely French countryside
on beautiful days.
Oh, and did I mention that there is a little horror element included? Well not enough of it and it is not directed in a really suspenseful manner although the horror subject matter itself is horrific. Very leisurely, you might say Euro-style or even slow, this film cannot build up any suspense to give the brief horror activities enough punch.
The characters stand around a lot, drink at the bar, talk and picnic and seemingly have nothing to do, and so we really can't develop much interest in them, although they are undeniably attractive.
Quite a contrast to the nail-biting suspense of "Psycho" or the wacky unpredictability of Joan Crawford's "Strait-Jacket", both from the same era.
Beautifully filmed, but that's about it.
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