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April 26, 2011

Movie Review: Maniac (1980, Blu-ray)

Blue Underground brings Lustig's disturbing classic to High Definition!

Buy Manic on Blu-ray or DVD

Film: 4.5/5

Maniac is a large step above the usual slasher. It's not just mindless killing with nude women everywhere, something the 80's horror genre would become saturated with. It is a mental descent into a dark abyss that stays with you. Maniac rightly deserves it's classic moniker and I have no shame in saying it is one of my favorite horror films.

Frank Zito (legendary character actor Joe Spinell) is a loner living in a scummy New York apartment. Frank screams himself awake after having a dream of a masked man slaughtering a couple by the beach. A bedside newspaper reveals it wasn't just a dream, but a crime committed just recently. The masked assailant was Frank, a schizophrenic serial killer with serious psychological issues. Every night Zito stalks the streets looking for unsuspecting citizens to murder subsequently easing his mental pain. One day in the park Frank notices a beautiful women taking his picture. The lady leaves her bag and Frank notices an address label attached to it. Frank strikes up a relationship with Anna D'Antoni (strikingly beautiful Caroline Munro), the photographer from the park. Anna is a professional fashion photographer and Frank is enamored with her. The beast inside Frank seems to be tamed around Anna. This sours quickly as Frank can't control his killer instinct, leading to an unforgettable grizzly finale.

Manic is a film that truly makes me feel grimy. This was Bill Lustig's first film and it's one hell of a debut. Lustig uses New York as a character to give a dirty atmosphere throughout the film. Joe Spinell scripted the story along with acting and I couldn't imagine anyone else portraying the disturbed Frank Zito. Spinell creates an individual that is drifting away from reality but still retains a hint of empathy. Mentally and psychically abused by his prostitute mother at a young age, Frank fills that void by murdering women and scalping their heads to put on mannequins that adorn his apartment. Frank is sorrow personified. 

Production wise Manic was a labor of love. Lustig was a talented up and coming director and Joe Spinell was already a respected established actor. To complete the trinity, Lustig hired special effects artist Tom Savini to bring Zito's kills to bloody life. Savini pulled acting duty's also as the ill fated Disco Boy who get's a double barrel shotgun to the face. To accomplish this, Savini made a cast of his head, filled it with gross contents and actually shot it! It's a gruesome, realistic scene that will definitely make you wince.

Blu-ray: 3.5/5
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen Uncut 2K Transfer
Manic was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm for it's theatrical run. Keep this in mind when viewing the disc. This is not a lavish transfer...nor should it be. Maniac wouldn't be Maniac unless it was grimy and grainy. I saw this in 35mm not too long ago and this Blu-ray is extremely faithful to that print. Blue Underground has given this a 2K High Def restoration and it's looks the best it ever has and possibly will.
  • English 7.1 DTS HD & 5.1 Dolby Digital - French/German/Italian 2.0 Mono
This is where the disc excels. Manic sounds excellent with it's 7.1 & 5.1 tracks. It is truly loud and well balanced. It worked the hell out of my subwoofer offering a nice clean bass. A damn fine mix.

Bonus Features: 5/5
  • Commentary: Bill Lustig & Co Producer Andrew Garroni
  • Commentary: Bill Lustig, Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli & Spinell's Assistant Luke Walker
  • Anna and the Killer
    Interview with Caroline Munro. Conducted by the awesome team at Red Shirt Pictures, the still beautiful Munro discusses her time working on Maniac. A must see and superb addition to the disc.
  • The Death Dealer
    Interview with Tom Savini. The gore master talks in depth about many of the films effects. A hilarious anecdote involves the car used for the shotgun scene had to be driven away to a secret garage to avoid police halting production. I love hearing inside stories and this offers plenty of em.
  •  Dark Notes
    Interview with composer Jay Chattaway. I love Maniac's score, hearing how it came to fruition is a real treat.
  • Manic Men
    Interview with songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky. It's always been a myth that the song "Maniac" used for the film Flashdance was related to Maniac. Really funny interview conducted by Lustig.
  •  The Joe Spinell Story
    A documentary filled with interviews with many of Joe's friends and family discussing his life and career. 
  • Mr Robbie: Maniac 2
    This is a short promo reel made to flirt with the idea of making a Maniac sequel. It has Joe Spinell has Mr. Robbie, a children's TV show host. Young viewers send fan mail to Robbie telling him that their parent's beat and abuse them. The kids pray for Mr. Robbie's help to put an end to it. I love the idea of this and really wish it had happened before Spinell's unexpected death. Included is a great scene where Spinell kills one of the kid's Dad by dumping him into boiled water and stabbing his eye.
  • Maniac Publicity & Controversy
    Details the hardships Maniac went through by the MPAA and public.
  •  Trailers - TV Spots - Radio Spots

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