32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2001
There are a number of people who find this film to be nothing more than a pointless and unnecessarily gruesome study in pathological and psychotic behaviour. I cannot agree with this opinion.
Although a very tough experience, the viewing of this film reveals in some depth the tortured mind of a pathetic Vietnam veteran (also a victim of child abuse) who is driven by his inner demons to slaughter various women in NYC in a psychotic attempt to revive the spirit of his dead mother.
It is a profoundly disturbing film.
Joe Spinell gives a remarkable performance as the demented killer. His verbal ramblings are profoundly unnerving. (Not to mention the hideous murders.) He manages to demonstrate the de-personalized actions of an insane "maniac" all too convincingly.
The direction is very good as well. Some very fine camera work.
It is interesting to note the incorporation of some themes of Mario Bava's "giallo" thrillers in this film. For example, consider the "dollhouse" effect of the main protaganist's grotesque apartment and compare this to the secret "bridal room" in Bava's HATCHET FOR A HONEYMOON. (Lustig and Spinell apparently enjoyed watching "banned" foreign horror movies in the old "grindhouse" cinemas on 42nd.)
The print offered by the new ANCHOR BAY DVD is an improvement over that of the old ELITE version. The colours are sharper and the night exterior scenes (notably that concerning the gruesome murder of the Tom Savani character and his "date") are not as murky.
Some good extras as well.
As a horror film, MANIAC comes close to being a masterpiece.
58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Im not easily shocked or impressed with most horror films. Very few come to mind where it disturbs me or has a realistic feeling to it. This is definetly a film that will leave you thinking/- The main reason being the main character Frank Zito aka Joe Spinell plays the most realistic psycho/deranged person ive ever seen on film. The whole time i was thinking is this guy really insane? Either this guy is a genius actor or hes really nuts. Thats how real he is in this role. His presance will creep you out. Hes the biggest weirdo Ive ever seen on film. Hes worse than any monster, supernatural being, horror villain because hes so real and gritty. You dont want to think about it but you know that somewhere out there- people like this exist...
The story focuses on frank the serial killer and his killings and insanity. He calmly stalks his pray through the streets of NYC. I dont know how he manages to fool some of the people in this film but he does. They treat him like a normal guy until he trys to kill them when they least expect it.
Some of the scenes are grusome, but they will keep you on the edge of your seat. You will be able to put yourself in both franks shoes and feel the victims terror as she is stalked and hides from Frank... Especially the subway bathroom scene. Thats an intense scene. Frank keeps on killing till the end when his own demons finally come back to haunt him.
Any horror fan should have this in their collection. I can see why it was banned in germany and england. They were probably scared of it, considering how realistic it was.
As for this film shocking me- it did somewhat- for the realism. and the acting did impress me.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 1999
If unrelenting scenes of carnage, compliments of a psychotic sexual deviant is your cup of tea, then this movie is for you. The late Joe Spinell does an excellent job as our deeply disturbed title character, and the special FX are convincing even by today's standards. The shotgun scene left me speechless and is a MUST for all lovers of blood & gore. The ending was kind of strange, But unlike Jason or Freddie, there are actually people like this out there. This movie ranks in the top 5 most gorriest films I've seen. And as with all movies I recommend, Make sure you have the widescreen, unedited director's cut or you will miss some scenes.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2003
Finally at long last Joe Spinnel's clasic tale of a deranged serial killer has finally been released in a worthy form.
Being that many movies have used this title I must explain that this one is not only the real deal but the most vile of the pack. It is a extremely creepy low budget gore flick with absoloutely no moral perspective, So much so that even its own makeup artist wanted to be removed from its credits. Tom Savini, who would later become famous for his award winning FX as well as acting and directing many later horror films, Brings to the table some of the most realistic FX in his career and is one of the many highlights in this classic horror film.
Like it is in many real life serial killer cases, we have the late Joe Spinnel, who potrays the serial killer Frank Zito, a loner with no social grace or personality. Frank is severely mentally disturbed as a result of the emotional and physical abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his prostitute mother. The murder scenes in this movie are extremely cruel and graphic in nature so I must warn you that this film is defenitely not for everybody.
Most casual horror fans tend to wretch at this film and see it as nothing more than a seedy slasher flick that has a very anti-woman message, but in my opinion it is much more than that. It is a potrayal of one of society's worst monsters, monsters who often walk around our every day world going unnoticed.
So in conclusion, if you are a die-hard horror fan and love gruesome effects, then I highly suggest you purchase this dvd. Out of all the DVD's that Anchor Bay has released, this would have to be the cream of the crop, boasting a plethora of special features, and a heartfelt tribute to the late Joe Spinnel.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
Maniac is without a doubt one of those very rare (yet raw) pieces of cinema that probably did not expect to have such a powerful impact on the horror genre, much less greatly change, or even create, a new type of horror film. However, in 1980, an unholy trio - William Lustig, Tom Savini and Joe Spinell, did that very thing. With deaths sequences incorporating amazing new special effects by Tom Savini that, even to this day, are so realistic and shockingly human that it still makes me gasp (it also raised the bar when it came to gore on-screen, leaving behind some of the most memorable gory moments in film history). This ultraviolent free-for-all is not given to you softly either. Instead you are reluctantly forced to stare into this creepy and insidious city with the artful direction of William Lustig. So vivid is his vision that he sucessfully reminds us that the city is just as ugly as it is beautiful. But I think that it's most magnetic and unsettling-hypnotic main character, beautifuly played by a most talented late Joe Spinell, in a performance that is clearly torture for him while also torturing to the viewer, that really sets this film apart from your avarage indie 80's slasher fare. The sondtrack further hightens your anxiety and hits on notes that feel as if the nerves in your brain aren't quite firing all that right either.
Maniac feels as if it set out to make a brutal slasher film but when it came back it was something much, much more. Something that had yet to be tapped and in the final result it is successful and very frightening. I feel Maniac is an important film, and not in just the horror genre either, but in American cinema in general. Many films to come, like Silence of the Lambs, Basic Instinct and Seven, have Maniac to thank for combining psychological horror and shockingly violent imagery in a way that no one had ever attempted. It's not that "they just don't make 'em like this anymore", but rather they CAN'T make 'em like this anymore.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2001
I saw this film back in 1983 (when I was 13 years old) on VHS video and it was one of the scariest films I have seen in that time. I do remember when this film was theatrically released on November 25, 1981; which only stayed out for 6 days as the film received outcry by Women's and Parents' Groups who claimed the film degrades women. The films' distributor (Analysis Pictures) nicely pulled the film from theatres and has became way popular on video.
MANIAC is a great film, but shown in a very cardboard way. It's about a serial killer Frank Zito (Joe Spinelli) who preys on victims (mostly women) in NYC. He kills, scalps his victims, takes their clothes and displays them in his small studio apartment. That is what MANIAC basically entails. However, MANIAC does have a backstory to it in which Frank Zito was savagely abused by his mommy who was a prostitute who was later killed in a car accident. This backstory was not told too well, but if this was the case in a visual manner, MANIAC would have been an fully effective film.
MANIAC, directed by William Lustig was his first and best film. The effects by Tom Savini (who just came from the Friday the 13th set) were top notch. The music by Jay Chattaway added to the creepiness of MANIAC, also top notch. Also, watch for the Nurse in the Subway scene - the most scariest sequence in the film.
MANIAC is the film to have on DVD. The video and transfer were totally great. It was like watching a brand new print of a film. The Widescreen transfer (1.85:1), was also a nice added touch. The numerous theatre trailers, the 9 TV spots and the audio commentary (by William Lustig, Tom Savini & Co.) are those little extras that make MANIAC worth having on DVD !!!!!! This is the DVD I bought back in 1999 from Elite Entertainment.
I am excited about MANIAC being re-released through Anchor Bay Entertainment who will also be releasing this title in a LIMITED EDITION TIN, (5,000 copies only) which will contain a BONUS of the CD soundtrack of the music score by Jay Chattaway. on August 21, 2001.
I bought MANIAC (1980) on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment and the results are better then the DVD from Elite Entertainment that I have.
This NEW DVD (from Anchor Bay) is pretty much the same of the DVD from Elite Entertainment but there are a few differences :
- this DVD is in its full uncut format (88 minutes) as the DVD from Elite Entertainment (Letterboxed Directors Cut) is 85 minutes.
- this DVD is in THX sound, the Elite DVD is in Digital Dolby 5.1 Sound.
- the "date scene" is restored in this DVD, it was taken out from the Elite DVD.
In this DVD, the special feautures are pretty much the same as the DVD from Elite Entertainment but there are a few differences :
- A documentury (the Joe Spinell Story) with the likes of William Lustig, Caroline Munro, Jason Miller and others is included in this DVD, not on the Elite DVD.
- Radio interviews with William Lustig, Joe Spinell & Caroline Munro is included in this DVD, not on the Elite DVD.
- Radio Spot advertising of the film is included in this DVD, not the Elite DVD.
- Talent Bios of William Lustig, Tom Savini, Joe Spinell & Caroline Munro are included in this DVD, not on the Elite DVD.
- A Gallery of Outrage (outraged reviews of the film by critics) : 17 in total are included in this DVD, not on the Elite DVD.
- A poster/still Gallery of the film are all included in this DVD, not on the Elite DVD.
- All the theatre trailers, TV spot trailers, commentary, optional languages and subtitles that are on the Elite DVD are also on this DVD, too.
Along with those little differences, the front cover is still the same. However, the back cover, disc design and menu board design are all different than the Elite DVD.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Frank Zito is your average, everyday sort of loser. He lives in a total dive of an apartment, surrounded by decaying memories of his childhood and his long dead mother. Moreover, Frank's physical appearance leaves a lot to be desired: he's overweight, sweaty, with a pockmarked face and greasy black hair. He bears a striking resemblance, in fact, to adult film star Ron Jeremy. Frank's biggest problem in life concerns his relationships with women. He doesn't have any, for one thing, and the interactions he does have with the opposite sex would set the teeth of the worst among us on edge. For Frank Zito is a serial killer goaded into the darkest crimes of the human mind by the memory of his mother and a voice in his head that drives him to wanton acts of violence. Frank is remorseful after a murder; he knows what he is doing to women causes others to recoil in horror, but he just cannot help himself. Frank placates his inner demons to some extent by scalping his victims and hammering the hair on mannequins he stores in his apartment. As Frank's shenanigans plunge the city into fear stricken turmoil, he continues his bloody reign of carnage while always carrying the knowledge that the authorities stand a good chance of catching up to him. Then Frank meets up with the beautiful Anna, a fashion photographer played by the amazingly beautiful Caroline Munro. At this point, "Maniac" teeters on the edge of complete banality, as the relationship between these two is forced and totally unbelievable. Fortunately, Frank continues his activities while dating Anna, activities that lead to an unremittingly dismal end (maybe?) for Frank.
Frank Zito is the "Maniac" in this 1980 grindhouse film classic directed by William Lustig of "Maniac Cop" fame. Zito, played by the late character actor Joe Spinnell (you can see him several times in the first two Godfather films), helped write the script for this engrossing, and gross, film. "Maniac" is difficult to classify: sometimes it easily falls into the classic slasher film genre, but at other times it seems closer to exploitation. Perhaps the classification of "Maniac" isn't too important because whatever genre it falls into this movie is a brilliant, memorable piece of sleaze filmmaking. While you can easily tell that Lusting and Spinnell made this film on a shoestring budget, the cheapness of the production adds to the bleak storyline. Zito's exterior life is sleazy because his mind is damaged beyond repair. The blasted landscape of late 1970s New York provides the perfect backdrop for Frank's gruesome excursions in search of victims. These stalk and splatter incidents provide most of the atmospheric tension of "Maniac," with the standout scene concerning a nurse trapped in the subway late at night with Zito in merciless pursuit. This stalking scene is so fraught with suspense that it literally has the viewer on the edge of his seat. Add to these vistas of carnage a great music score and "Maniac" is a grade A winner in the sleaze category. I have often felt like taking a shower after watching this movie.
Real gorehounds love "Maniac" for the over the top grue scenes provided by none other than special effects master Tom Savini. The ultimate scene involves Savini himself playing a guy who takes his date to a park for some risqué fun. Unknown to these two lovers, Zito follows them from a restaurant toting a double-barreled shotgun. As the scene unfolds, we see Zito launch himself on the hood of the car and deliver a deathblow through the windshield. The subsequent effect of Savini's exploding head ranks as one of the most amazing special effects in horror film history, easily matching the head burst in Cronenberg's "Scanners." What really creeps a person out about this scene is thinking about Savini orchestrating his own gory demise. Well, he gave himself one of the most memorable sendoffs in film history. This scene never loses its intensity no matter how many times one watches it. "Maniac" doesn't rely solely on this scene, as other scenes throughout the movie repeatedly deliver impressive effects. This movie is not for the lighthearted in any way, shape, or form.
I recommend potential buyers pick up the DVD instead of this VHS version. It looks like there are numerous goodies on the disc that appear nowhere on the tape edition. There are bonuses here: more than a few trailers and television spots shown after the film, a few of which are in French and German, a trailer for a sequel that never got off the ground called "Mr. Robbie," and a deleted scene showing Frank and Anna on a date in a restaurant. As good as the picture quality on the VHS is, I am willing to bet the DVD version is even better. Still, either version is worth watching as long as you make sure to get the unrated print of the film. You don't want to miss out on any of the unpleasantness in this amazing contribution to the horror genre.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 1999
23. MANIAC (horror, 1980) A killer stalks the streets of New York City. He brutally kills women and takes their scalps (along with other articles) as souvenirs. The Maniac (Joe Spinell) uses the scalps to put on mannequins he has all over his dingy, claustrophobic apartment. His fixation with these lifeless puppets is the only real link between him and the outside world. He nonetheless meets, on a friendly basis, a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro). Just when you think he has reformed, the maniac turns against her in a psychotic rage.
Critique: A truly gruesome, sick picture makes other of its kind pale in comparison. The film creates a terribly real, decadent look of what evil beings are really up to. The locales of rubbish infected alleyways, deserted parks, stations and so on is truly nerve-wracking. This study into the mind of a serial killer is given 'weight' by Joe Spinell's considerable performance. His sweaty, sex-obsessed pervert can't help himself from committing such horrid murders (after each kill he laments and moans for not being able to sedate his sick urges). Like others of his ilk, he suffers constant mental disillusions and schizophrenic flashbacks. Film is very disturbing even when it's trying to be natural, and definitely not for the faint minded.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2000
one of the greatest film from the '80s! Joe Spinell's performance is truly remarkable... must be seen to believe. i think the greatest thing about the movie is that you're focused completly on Joe Spinell(our maniac), it isn't the usual serial killer story about a cop trying to solve a murder case kinda thing... the story gets very deep into the world of this very disturbed individual. this film has scenes which you wont see in no other films, not even in Henry: portrait of a serial killer... a highly recommended film for all fans of psychological thriller and ofcourse gore fans(the film sfx were made by none other than tom savini). but there's more to it than just gore.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2006
"Maniac" is one of those movies that make me want to take a bath after I watch it because I feel gritty.
That in itself tells me it was a highly effective realistically sick movie and did what it set out to do.
Joe Spinell is so good in this role that I sometimes wondered if he wrestled with the same demons his character "Frank" did.He was so tragic in his psychotic confusion you almost felt pity for him.This film made me scared to go into a public ladies room for weeks after I saw it, much like Jaws and the water and Psycho and the shower.
Of course Tom Savini is the master of gore in my opinion and he doesn't disappoint in this film, is it gratuitous? Sure it is, isn't that why we watch a slasher or horror film to be shocked or scared, Of course it is.
Maniac is so scary and effective because it could really happen, There are really Freaks like Frank out there."SHUDDER"