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William Lustig
Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton
Writing Credits:
CA Rosenberg, Joe Spinell

Troubled by his childhood abuse, a psychotic man kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Castillian Dolby 2.0
Italian Dolby 2.0
German Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 12/11/2018

• Audio Commentary with Producer/Director William Lustig and Producer Andrew W. Garroni
• Audio Commentary with Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Effects Makeup Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Joe Spinetti’s Assistant Luke Walter
• Outtakes
• “Returning to the Scene of the Crime” Featurette
• “Anna and the Killer” Featurette
• “The Death Dealer” Featurette
• “Dark Notes” Featurette
• “Maniac Men” Featurette
• “The Joe Spinell Story” Featurette
Maniac 2 Promo Reel
• Radio Interview
• William Lustig on Movie Madness
• Joe Spinell at Cannes
• Joe Spinell on The Joe Franklin Show
• Caroline Munro TV Interview
• “Barf Bag Review Policy”
• Grindhouse Festival Q&A
• Still Gallery
• “Controversy” Featurettes
• Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Spots
• Easter Egg
• Bonus CD
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Maniac [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 16, 2018)

Best-known for supporting roles in acclaimed films like The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Rocky, Joe Spinell takes the lead in 1980’s low budget horror tale Maniac. Spinell plays Frank Zito, a mentally disturbed man.

Frank stalks women, kills and scalps them. He then takes his “trophies” and attaches them to mannequins.

One day Frank sees an art photographer named Anna (Nora Arnezeder) in the park. She takes his picture and this leads to a connection. We follow their relationship and how it affects Frank as well as his continued serial killing exploits.

I came to this film after I already saw its 2013 remake. That one took the story and reworked it in a gimmicky way, as it opted for a “first-person” viewpoint that didn’t work.

The 1980 movie uses a more traditional approach, and for that I feel thankful. It avoids the goofiness of the remake’s photographic choices.

The 2013 Maniac also went with an unusual casting choice, as it featured Elijah Wood as the lead. Frodo Baggins as a serial killer defines the term “stunt casting”, and it didn’t work.

For much of the film, Spinell feels appropriate, as he pulls off the role’s psychosis well. He can deliver the needed sense of insanity without overplaying that side of the role.

However, this means that when we need to accept “normal Frank”, it becomes impossible. Maniac wants us to accept that fat, ugly Frank manages to date sexy, beautiful Anna, and that becomes exceedingly tough to swallow.

So this is one area where the remake improves on the original, as it’s much easier to swallow Elijah Wood as a guy who can date attractive women. If the 1980 Maniac used an actor with some form of charm and romantic charisma, I might accept the radical disparity between his looks and Munro’s, but we get no real explanation for her interest in him.

Instead, Anna falls for Frank because… I don’t know. At least the remake matches them because Anna likes Frank’s mannequin art, but this movie gives us no logical reason that she’d develop an attraction for this older, unattractive man.

Munro was a Bond girl, for God’s sake! The film would work much better with a less gorgeous Anna or a more handsome Frank, but as it stands, their connection turns into a bridge too far.

Not that more appropriate casting would save the turgid Maniac, as it’d still be a flawed movie. I don’t mind the bargain basement production values, as they give the tale a semi-appealing form of griminess that suits the story.

The awful pacing and general tedium become a more considerable issue, though, as Maniac progresses at slow pace and also never really goes anywhere. Director William Lustig seems unable to understand where scenes should begin and end, so we wind up with sequences that feel interminable.

Most of these relate to Frank’s violent shenanigans, and I guess Lustig figured they’d create dramatic tension. They don’t, as instead, the length of these never-ending scenes takes the viewer out of the story. We get so tired of the sluggish “cat and mouse” that we don’t care about the bloody payoff.

In addition, the overall narrative lacks much purpose, mainly because so much of Maniac feels repetitive. We go from Frank’s killings to Frank’s nuttiness at home and back again over and over, without much else to offer relief.

Even when Frank finally meets Anna and a more dynamic character relationship can theoretically develop, Maniac comes across as aimless. We just don't get much drama or material to keep us engaged.

This leaves Maniac as 88 minutes of boredom occasionally punctuated with graphic violence. Apparently the movie enjoys a cult audience, but I don’t take much positive away from it.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus A

Maniac appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the film’s roots and budget, I expected a mediocre image, and that’s what I got.

Sharpness was adequate. Not much of the movie looked really soft, but not much of it boasted especially strong delineation, either.

Still, the movie offered reasonably positive accuracy. I saw no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and the transfer lacked edge haloes. Print flaws failed to become an issue.

Maniac went with a fairly natural palette but delivered lackluster hues. The colors seemed passable but failed to display much vivacity.

Blacks were on the inky, flat side, and shadows showed passable delineation. A product of its origins, this became a watchable transfer but not much more.

On the other hand, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked surprisingly well, as it boasted an engaging soundfield. Granted, the movie didn’t ask for the mix to do a whole lot, but the audio filled the room well.

Music used the various channels in a compelling, involving manner, and effects added some spark to the proceedings. Various elements felt appropriately placed and they meshed together in a concise manner.

Audio quality showed its age but was more than acceptable. Speech became the weakest link, as the lines could appear a bit flat, but the material remained intelligible despite the dull tones.

Effects also suffered from some period/budget concerns, as those elements occasionally felt a bit rough. However, they also demonstrated pretty good range, with decent low-end.

Music fared best, as the score seemed full and rich. Ultimately, this was a better than average track for its era.

We find a slew of extras here, and we start with two separate audio commentaries. From 2010, the first features producer/director William Lustig and producer Andrew W. Garroni. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the project’s roots and development, budgetary restrictions, sets and locations, cast and performances, story/characters, effects, music, and various general thoughts.

Lustig and Garroni ladle out plenty of anecdotes, and those become the best part of the commentary. We get a bunch of fun stories, and along with some useful production notes, these help turn this into a likable, informative chat.

For the second commentary, we hear from producer/director William Lustig, special effects makeup artist Tom Savini, editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Joe Spinetti’s assistant Luke Walter. Created for a 2001 DVD, all four sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion of story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, music and cinematography, the movie’s release and related domains.

Inevitably some of the material repeats from the first commentary, but the new participants manage to add useful information. Though Lustig dominates and uses some of the same stories, he also offers a reasonable amount of fresh insights. While not as good as the other commentary, this one works well.

Also on Disc One, we find advertisements. The set includes seven trailers, nine TV spots and four radio spots.

As we move to Disc Two, we open with eight components under “Featurettes”. Outtakes runs 18 minutes, 53 seconds and shows silent film footage accompanied by commentary from Lustig. The outtakes themselves never feel all that interesting, but Lustig’s remarks add value to the set.

We get more from the director via Returning to the Scene of the Crime. In this seven-minute, 53-second piece, Lustig goes to a mix of Maniac locations and offers thoughts about them. Lustig continues to provide useful insights.

With Anna and the Killer, we find a 13-minute, four-second interview with actor Caroline Munro. She chats about aspects of her career and her time on Maniac. Nothing revelatory appears, but Munro gives us a decent collection of thoughts.

Tom Savini reappears for The Death Dealer, a 12-minute, seven-second interview. He tells us about his work on the film with notes that occasionally repeat commentary material. Still, we get a few fresh tidbits.

Composer Joe Chattaway appears for the 12-minute, 12-second Dark Notes. As expected, Chattaway discusses his career, with an emphasis on Maniac. This turns into a fairly informative piece.

More music comes in Maniac Men, a 10-minute, 35-second program in which Lustig meets with songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky. They examine the urban legend that the hit song “Maniac” was meant for Maniac. It’s a fun attempt to set the record straight.

A longer piece, The Joe Spinell Story runs 49 minutes, 20 seconds and offers comments from Lustig, Munro, Joe’s sister Grace Raimo, filmmakers Sonny Grosso and William Kennedy, fan Tom Rainone, Broadway producer Tony Conforto, writer Joe Cirillo, and actors Frank Pesce, Luke Walter, Richard Lynch, Jason Miller, Robert Forster, John C. Scott, Patrick Jude, and Kate Forster.

“Story” provides the expected view of Spinell’s life and career, but don’t anticipate an especially tight program. “Story” zips around form one topic to another with alacrity, so it seems loosely constructed. Still, we learn enough about Spinell for it to become an enjoyable piece.

For the final “Featurette”, we go to a Promo Reel for Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2. It fills seven minutes, 24 seconds and shows footage shot as a launch for the sequel. Because of Spinell’s death, the film didn’t get completed, so this segment acts as its only remnant.

Under “Publicity”, another eight components appear, and these launch with a radio interview. We hear from Lustig, Spinell and Munro with host Paul Wunder in this 19-minute, 11-second segment.

Because Wunder hasn’t seen the movie yet, he doesn’t know much about it, and that becomes a burden during the chat. The interview acts as a mediocre attempt to sell the film and it lacks much substance. It also doesn’t help that Wunder sniffles through the whole thing.

Lustig shows up on a 47-minute, 18-second episode of Movie Madness, a cheap, local cable TV show from 1981. A call-in program, Lustig takes questions from viewers, a factor that adds a “wild card” to the proceedings.

Surprisingly, the callers offer good queries, and the whole low-budget vibe makes matters fun. It’s a fairly effective period piece, even if the chatty host leaves little room for Lustig to speak.

Joe Spinell at Cannes lasts a mere 43 seconds. He gives a few comments in this TV segment. It’s forgettable.

Another TV appearance comes via Joe Spinell on The Joe Franklin Show. This piece goes for 13 minutes, 13 seconds and offers the actor’s thoughts about the movie and his career. It’s a superficial chat but NYC fixture Franklin helps bring out charm via a few oddball observations.

A Caroline Munro TV Interview spans two minutes, 53 seconds. From 1980, Munro talks about her work and Maniac in this decent snippet.

Another short clip, Barf Bag Review Policy goes for two minutes, 10 seconds and offers TV critic Katie Kelly. She introduces a new rating system intended for bad movies, one that initially focuses on Maniac. It’s a funny period piece.

Next comes a Grindhouse Film Festival Q&A. This runs 22 minutes, 19 seconds and includes a panel with Lustig, Garroni and actor Sharon Mitchell.

In this panel, we learn a bit more about Maniac and connected topics. It’s a loose discussion with a decent level of entertainment value.

“Publicity” ends with a Poster and Still Gallery. It provides 122 images that mix shots from the film, publicity photos and advertising. It becomes a good compilation.

For the final domain, we head to “Controversy” and its six components. Los Angeles brings three segments: “Channel 7 News” (2:18), “Channel 11 News” (1:35) and “NBC Tomorrow Show” (3:55).

In addition, Chicago offers “Channel 2 News” (2:13) while Philadelphia delivers “Channel 10 News” (0:29), “Channel 3 News 6PM” (0:51), “Channel 3 News 11PM” (1:12) and “Channel 6 News” (0:53). All of these provide discussions of various furors Maniac raised, and they’re interesting views of the uproar.

Under Newsbeat, two clips appear: “Violent Movies” (12:45) and “Movie Violence” (8:26). Both offer discussions of the topics, with some time spent on Maniac. Like the other segments under “Controversy”, these snippets provide useful takes on then-current attitudes.

Midnight Blue breaks into two segments: “Al Goldstein Rants Against Violent Movies” (3:53) and “Al Goldstein Mutilates His Love Doll” (2:39). In these, noted pornographer/provocateur Goldstein delivers his thoughts. These turn into engaging additions.

Finally, we get a Gallery of Outrage. It offers 26 screens that show text from reviews and others upset by Maniac in 1980. It delivers an interesting time capsule, though it’d be good to see some balance with positive articles as well.

One Easter Egg appears on Disc Two. Click down from “Controversy” on the main menu and hit “enter” to access “Joe Spinell at the Dive”, an eight-minute, 19-second reel.

The actor does a standup comedy routine here. It’s not especially funny, but this acts as a good bonus nonetheless.

A third disc provides a CD soundtrack for Maniac. It only lasts 33 minutes, but it still adds a decent bonus for fans.

Finally, the package concludes with a booklet. It presents photos, credits and an essay from Michael Gingold. The booklet finishes the set on a positive note.

Slow and tedious, Maniac offers a boring take on the serial killer genre. We get very few interesting scenes in this tiresome, repetitive film. The Blu-ray brings average visuals along with surprisingly good audio and an extensive collection of supplements. Fans will like this release but I can’t recommend this dull movie to the uninitiated.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main