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Maniac (1980)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Horror  |  6 March 1981 (USA)
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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:
Joe Spinell ...
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
Carol Henry ...
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 »


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?


A 1979 post-production ad for Variety magazine stated some of the cast as including Daria Nicolodi, Susan Tyrrell and Jason Miller opposite Joe Spinell. Nicolodi was offered the lead role but was unavailable, and no information has yet surfaced to reveal which roles were to be played by Tyrrell and Miller. 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: I told you not to go out tonight, didn't I? Every time you go out, this kind of thing happens.
See more »


Referenced in The DUFF (2015) 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

Claustrophobic gorefest with a bad reputation.
25 November 2001 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

William Lustig's MANIAC wasn't a critical hit in 1980, but it garnered the attention of horror fans in its gory homicidal story. It was a low-budget film with some disturbing violence which many people deemed misogynist (TOTAL BULLS**T) because he kills off women here. It's good to notice two of the best murders happen to the fellas too (Tom Savini gets it the worst obviously). But that aside, MANIAC is neither the best horror film of all time or most enjoyable, but damn is it intense.

Joe Spinell is absolutely strong in his portrayal of Frank Zito, a real man who has a nasty habit of slaughtering random individuals, mostly female ones so he can dress up mannequins with their scalped hair and clothes. This guy isn't Michael or Jason: when he bleeds, he feels pain. And because he feels guilty a bit over the tragic death of his abusive mother, he feels the urge to murder. Frank falls in love with Anna (Caroline Munro), a photographer who is unaware of Frank's dirty deeds, until Frank sets his unrested demon upon her in the end. The ending is bizarre, and the love story subplot feels a tad unsuitable (although the restaurant scene sets up some exposition, including the knowledge of Frank's mom being killed in an auto wreck). But when the gory carnage sets in, its realistic and graphic. Most other gore flicks seem timid.

The DVD version from ANCHOR BAY is a keeper, with audio commentary, a documentary on the late Spinell, the obligatory trailers/TV ads, a radio interview pitting the Spinell, Lustig and Munro against a DJ who roasts the film despite not seeing it, and some more angry comments from the critics in a "Gallery of Outrage". Tin box version contains the moody and effective Jay Chattaway film score on CD.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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