Don Maxwell is an ex-vaudeville ham, wanted by police, who has now found himself as the unlikely assistant to Dr. Meirschultz, a mad scientist in the business of reanimating corpses. Maxwell's gift of impersonation gets him and Meirschultz past the guards and into a morgue where they use a special serum to revive the corpse of a pretty young woman. But that's nothing. Dr. Meirschultz has a heart beating in a jar of solution and is eager to put it into a corpse that really needs it. Meirschultz gives his assistant a gun and advises him to commit suicide, so that he can put the heart in him, but Maxwell shoots and kills the scientist instead and hides the body. People will miss Meirschultz, Maxwell quickly realizes, but no one will miss his lowly assistant; and so Maxwell dons eyeglasses and a fake beard to become his onetime benefactor. The trouble is, he impersonates the mad doctor too well and goes crazy himself.Written by
Marian Constance Blackton is sometimes reported, incorrectly, as appearing in male drag as the neighbor who catches and breeds cats. She plays a female neighbor who is questioned by the detective. See more »
A crew member's shadow can be seen on Maxwell as he stands up in the first scene. See more »
I'd venture to guess that HBO could come up with a decent series about gypsy movie producers skirting the Hays Office of the 1930's... guys like Dwain Esper running all over Depression-Era America showing T&A "sex education" flicks in fraternal lodges and burlesque houses... it's just too bad that the movies they made stink (maybe that's their appeal). MANIAC is patently awful... Framed within chapters straight out of a pre-war DSM manual, MANIAC has so much to mention, all of it bad. Bill Woods is deserves particular notice for his relentless over- errh, I hate to call it 'acting' but in the Land of Hams, he would be King of Pork. Rivaling Woods is the uniquely bad Horace B. Carpenter. Everything in MANIAC screams for something better. Actresses appear and vanish (and in one case change altogether) for no discernible reason (although I suspect one probably balked at being topless). There's a couple of gratuitous topless shots--- one of which makes absolutely no sense and Esper has spliced in some (probably, no undoubtedly better) silent movie into the scene where Maxwell goes nutzoid at the end. THE INTERESTING THING: The "cinematographer" William C. Thompson deserves special notice: his work REALLY sucks. Camera movements are terrible, the lighting is horrible and there's a jerky feeling in every scene (lots of shots of cats and rats)... but wait! Thompson would later go on to become ED WOOD'S cinematographer (look... goosebumps!) and would obviously never truly get any real grip on his craft. I suspect Thompson was played by the ubiquitous Norman Alden in Tim Burton's homage to the antithesis of cinematic greatness, 1994's ED WOOD (4-stars!), but his character is unnamed. MANIAC has historic interest as a footnote showing how stupid an independent producer/director could get with a camera and what looks like a $400 budget. Rumor has it that Esper was a prosperous slumlord who obtained an abandoned movie camera and editing equipment from a tenant. Esper must've turned a buck on these things because he was able to keep grinding them out... but Maniac makes the worst drivel spewed out by Educational Films and PRC look like art. NO STARS!
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