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Maniac (1934)

Marcel Andr , Jennie Dark , Dwain Esper  |  NR |  DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Marcel Andr, Jennie Dark, Ted Edwards, Celia McGann, Thea Ramsey
  • Directors: Dwain Esper
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Alpha Video
  • DVD Release Date: March 19, 2002
  • Run Time: 67 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000639EK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,391 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Horace Carpenter. A psychopath impersonates a surgeon with grisly results. Famous for its graphic violence, surreal images and nudity. 1934/b&w/54 min/NR.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bad movie lover's dream come true January 1, 2004
Ladies and gentlemen, the search is over. I have discovered the worst film ever made. This atrocity from 1934 is only 51 minutes long, but there is so, so much to talk about I hardly know where to begin. The sheer impossibility of this film actually makes it important, however. Maniac is essentially the grand-daddy of all exploitation movies, but this goes way beyond simple exploitation. It is paramount that we assign the blame for this movie where it is due: producer/director Dwayne Esper. palmed this film off as an actual study of mental illness-throughout the movie, we are occasionally presented with place cards detailing the types of mental illness our educational movie is about to illustrate. I can't believe this was actually released in the 1930s; there's even some partial nudity in this thing (though, of course, no glimpse of the evil belly button forbade by the infamous Hayes Code). Apparently, Esper made his educational entertainment films outside of Hollywood and thus avoided the type of censorship being practiced in Tinsel Town.
The movie begins in the lab of Dr. Meirshultz (Horace Carpenter), a mad scientist obsessed with restoring life to corpses. He needs a dead body, of course, and he orders his assistant Don Maxwell (Bill Woods) to get him into the morgue. Maxwell is a former vaudeville entertainer and impersonator, so he passes himself off as the coroner and gets the good doctor inside the morgue (somehow fooling two incompetent and quite possibly inebriated morgue workers). Doc gives the lucky, female stiff a couple of jabs from his huge hypo, and after a few minutes of intense arm rubbing, she begins to stir. The boys hurry home gleefully with their prize.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre Exploitation from the 30's May 14, 2000
This double-feature DVD features 2 early 1930's exploitation films from Dwain Esper. Although maybe tame by today's standards, just try to imagine seeing people shoot up heroin in a movie back in the 30's! It's all very high camp now, of course, and if you like antique sleaze, this may be your thing. Esper was definitely no Kubrick, but he has his own strange and absurd style...inserting shots that have no point, suddenly cutting away to show animals fighting each other, superimposing stock footage, etc. Could he be the precursor to Ed Wood? Anyway, some highlights of the 2 films include a real shot of a cesarian birth of a baby, a snake eating another snake, a cat's eyeball poked out (and then eaten by the maniac), a couple of real sideshow freaks, some brief nudity as a psycho carries off a woman to ravish her, and of course lots of over-the-top acting. Both movies tried to get around the censoring codes of the time by pretending to have a message (narcotics are bad), but the movies are strictly exploitative. The prints used for this DVD are scratchy and have some jumps here and there, but considering the age and that no major studio was behind these films, this may be the best materials available. Also on the DVD is the trailer for "Maniac", some letters from the censor at the time, an excerpt from a silent italian film "Maciste in Hell" that footage was superimposed in "Maniac", and audio commentary by an author-expert on Esper and such films. A worthy purchase if you like stuff like "Reefer Madness", etc., but don't expect any scalpings in "Maniac" ---it's actually a loose re-telling of "The Black Cat".
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
If you are looking at this review you probably already know the story of the fim, Maniac. A film you have to see to believe. A sampling of the things that happen in this 1933 film: A woman is brought back to life, an unemployed actor kills an insane scientist, a man plucks out a cat's eyeball then eats it, a crazy man is injected with Super Adreniline, a man rapes the woman who was brought back from the dead, there is nudity, there are misspelled words in the pseudo scientific inter-titles, a man is walled up ala Poe's the Black Cat, etc. AND, this all happens in 51 minutes!
Alpha's release is not great, but watchable. If you are curious about this title, then spend the $.... If you like it, then wait and perhaps some company will release a nice print. As I suspect this will be unlikely, go ahead and take a gamble on the Alpha release. There are no extras on the disk and is contains only 4 chapter stops. Hey, what do you expect for $...?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PRE - CODE HORROR CLASSIC March 15, 2009
Forget the rest...This is the best available version of Dwain Esper's MANIAC on DVD.
KINO presents this exploitation shocker in a print from the UCLA Film and Television Archive that puts other DVD versions to shame. Not to say that this is material worthy of The Criterion Collection, but you'll not find a better version of Dwain Esper's twisted take on "The Black Cat" on DVD.

Dwain Esper was later known for distributing MGM's "FREAKS" after the studio shelved their own product out of embarrassment. Never one to shy away from exploiting material to make a buck, Esper added the " Special Attraction" prologue that now exists on most prints and made a small fortune distributing the film.

Complete with inserts from the silent film MACISTE IN HELL used to suggest madness, wax heads of famous executed criminals under the main title, women dueling with hypodermic needles in a cellar, brief nudity, body snatching from a morgue and suggested animal cruelty, MANIAC is Esper's best known claim to fame and must be seen to be believed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Made me Laff !!!!
Published 3 months ago by Frank
3.0 out of 5 stars Phyllis Diller was beautiful in this film
The scene with the cat was sooooo disturbing. It is a campy B rated movie. The girl fight was the highlight of the film. Phyllis Diller was beautiful in this film.
Published 3 months ago by L. bader
This film reminded me of those early propaganda warning films Reefer Madness, Cocaine fiends and Sex Addicts. Read more
Published 5 months ago by DR SHOCK
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT WAS IN THAT HYPO?,
Unbelievably campy and funny. This old slasher film had the worst acting and accents out there. It is in the Top 100 amusingly bad films and rightly so with evil laughs, bad lines,... Read more
Published on March 9, 2012 by The Movie Guy
This film reminded me of those early propaganda warning films Reefer Madness, Cocaine fiends and Sex Addicts. Read more
Published on May 4, 2011 by ! MR. KNOW IT ALL ;-b
3.0 out of 5 stars Happily surprised by this movie
I was happily surprised by this movie as I had no idea how it would play out. I think it must have been pretty over the top for it's time with cat eye's being eaten and girl on... Read more
Published on February 2, 2011 by Barry Brandon
3.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely insane!
On the front cover of this DVD it says "THE MOST BIZZARE FILM EVER MADE" and you can believe it!! Small wonder it's called "Maniac"! Read more
Published on November 8, 2010 by Norm K.
1.0 out of 5 stars "Agony! I can't stand this torture, this torment! I can't stand it! I...
The bottom of the barrel. The very bottom. You have reached it. Oh, yes!

That line of declarative dialogue from Dwain Esper's MANIAC (1934) quoted in this review's title... Read more
Published on October 19, 2009 by Annie Van Auken
2.0 out of 5 stars I Am Just Numb with Joy
I guess I am one of the few people unimpressed by this sad excuse for a movie. Other reviewers consider this movie to be of the "so bad it's good" variety. Read more
Published on August 19, 2007 by Lonnie E. Holder
3.0 out of 5 stars Maniac
Maniac seems to be a type of propaganda film detailing the dangers of mental disorders. I don't think that this film was made strictly as a propaganda film, but I believe that some... Read more
Published on October 18, 2005 by SmallestStep
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