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A psychopath, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in New York City, kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in a photographer, and end his killing spree?



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Abigail Clayton ...
Rita (as Gail Lawrence)
Kelly Piper ...
Rita Montone ...
Disco Boy
Hyla Marrow ...
Disco Girl
Beach Boy (as James Brewster)
Linda Lee Walter ...
Beach Girl
Tracie Evans ...
Street Hooker
Second Nurse
Nelia Bacmeister ...
Louis Jawitz ...
Art Director
Denise Spagnuolo ...


Frank Zito misses his mother, who was killed in a car accident years before. She was abusive to him, and made money selling her body, but Frank still misses her. He tries to keep her from leaving him, and reform her evil ways, by killing young women and putting their scalps on mannequins which he displays around his apartment. Photographer Anna D'Antoni takes a picture of him in the park, and he pursues and befriends her. Is she the one he has been looking for or just another mother wannabe? Written by Ed Sutton <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


You can lock your windows and doors...But you can't lock the madman out of your mind. See more »


Drama | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

6 March 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Maníaco  »

Box Office


$350,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


William Lustig and Joe Spinell, say they didn't always have the necessary permits to film on location in New York City. Certain scenes (including the infamous shotgun through the windshield scene) had to have been filmed quickly and afterwards the crew had to run away before the cops arrived. See more »


When Frank slits the woman's throat on the beach, the knife makes no contact with the throat, even though blood spurts forth from the wound. See more »


Frank Zito: [voice-over] This has got to stop. It's silly, and it's not getting us anywhere. You think they don't know. They do. I heard it and I know. They all know, and I don't like it anymore. But you don't listen do you. It's got to stop. Oh, you're right about them, all of them. They're all the same. I know what they're like. Just because I can't do the things you do doesn't mean I don't see it all the same. "Fancy shmansy", and what are we supposed to do? Sit and smile and say "yes miss, no miss, not ...
See more »


Referenced in Darkroom (2012) See more »


Goin' to a Showdown
Written by Adriana Kaegi (as Kaegi)
Performed by Don Armando's 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band
Courtesy of ZE Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Classic slice of early 80s gore.
6 July 2006 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

Co-written by, and starring Joe Spinell, 'Maniac' is a grim, bloody and horrific journey into the world of a psychotic murderer. Spinell gives a bravura performance as Frank, a deeply disturbed individual haunted by childhood memories of his mistreatment at the hands of his mother.

As a result of his lousy upbringing, Frank is now a first-class loony tune; he slaughters women (although the occasional man gets in his way and ends up dead too) and removes their scalps, taking them home to place upon the mannequins that he keeps in his apartment.

When Frank has his picture taken in a park by photographer Anna (played by the gorgeous Caroline Munro), he tracks her down and almost manages to pass for normal for a while, wining and dining the sexy snapper and being quite charming. But it's not long before the real Frank emerges, and has a go at adding Anna to his long line of victims.

The direction by William Lustig, whilst not exceptional, does the job it was supposed to do; the film never drags and there are one or two edge-of-your-seat moments and a couple of nifty scares.

'Maniac's gory death sequences, by legendary horror make-up legend Tom Savini, are real showstoppers, and include ultra-realistic scalpings, amazing exploding heads and vicious bloody stabbings. The majority of Savini's work on the film is stunning, with only the final decapitation being less than perfect.

'Maniac' is a great example of low-budget 80s splatter and will appeal to all those who enjoy their horror down and dirty with buckets of gore.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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