Maniac (30th Anniversary Edition) – Blu-ray Review

I didn’t like Maniac but that’s not because it was a bad film. Sure, I could quibble about the pacing, the camera work, and so on, but those are minor points overshadowed by the remarkable level of authenticity of the violence that’s really the heart of this movie.

Frank Zito is a man tormented. A victim of unspeakable childhood abuse, he walks in a constant state between the past and the present. The horrors he experienced are always present, ready to break out and spur Frank to terrible acts of violence against young women. As the back of the Blu-Ray case reads: “These are the atrocities of a human monster. This is the story of a MANIAC.”

The film’s depictions of violence and gore were so graphic and disturbing that the movie was heavily censored all over the world. This release, though, is the uncut version, and it’s painful to watch. It’s strength—the accurate, realistic depiction of violence—is also its weakness. I’ve made this point in other reviews, but true violence is not entertaining (at least not to me). True violence is one of the most ugly, disturbing qualities of humanity and I can’t view it without feeling nauseous and depressed.

I find especially disturbing the level of outright hatred for women that’s displayed in this film. The violence extends past the murders and invades almost every single aspect of the movie. The walls in Frank’s apartment are plastered with nude pictures of women with the breasts and vaginas brutally torn off or scratched out. He even keeps a collection of mannequins on which he places the bloody scalps of his victims. Frank alternates from lovingly brushing the manikins’ hair to screaming at them for being whores. I suppose a case could be made that the level of violence is justified given Frank’s obvious issues with his mother, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy watching it.

Maniac could possibly be forgiven for all of this ugliness had there been a point beyond the visceral vicarious pleasure some take in watching these extreme acts of violence, but there wasn’t. There’s no social commentary here, no theme or question or point designed to make us think. This is just violence for violence sake. It’s incredibly, frighteningly good at depicting that violence, but that level of artistry only makes the film even more repulsive.

The movie is presented in Widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p HD resolution. The primary audio track is in English 7.1 DTS-HD, with other tracks in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX and French, Italian, and Dutch in Dolby Surround 2.0. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles are also available. The transfer for this film was good—as are all transfers done by Blue Underground—with no problems with either the audio or the video. The movie does look old, though, but no amount of clean up can change that.

Given my rather deep dislike of the movie, it’s unsurprising that I really didn’t care for the extras. The only exception is the interview with Tom Savini. Say what you will about this film, but Savini does an amazing job with the special effects. I prefer his work in more supernatural horror, but it is nice to hear the master talk about his craft. Also interesting was the feature about the Maniac controversy. This film makes for an interesting case in regards to the issues of censorship and freedom of expression, which is the part I found the most engaging, even if I didn’t care for the movie.

Audio Commentary #1 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig and co-Producer Andrew W. Garroni

Audio Commentary #2 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter

Anna and the Killer – Interview with Star Caroline Monro [HD]

The Death Dealer – Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini [HD]

Dark Notes – Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway [HD]

Maniac Men – Interview with Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky [HD]

Theatrical Trailers

TV Spots

Radio Spots

Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel [HD]

The Joe Spinnell Story

MANIAC Publicity

MANIAC Controversy

This is just a side thought, but Joe Spinnell looks creepily like Ron Jeremy, adding a whole new level of unpleasantness to the movie. If you like Maniac then more power to you, but I could barely make it through the movie. For me, this wasn’t entertainment and it certainly wasn’t art. Not recommended.

Blue Underground presents Maniac. Directed by: William Lustig. Starring: Joe Spinnell and Caroline Munro. Written by: C.A. Rosenberg and Joe Spinnell. Running time: 88 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on Blu-ray: October 26, 2010.