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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Slasher > Thriller > Maniac – 30th Anniversary Edition (1980/Blue Underground Blu-ray Set)

Maniac – 30th Anniversary Edition (1980/Blue Underground Blu-ray Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



After years of doing various jobs in the film industry, William Lustig started directing films.  At first, it was lite, low budget erotic work, but in 1980, he turned to the Horror genre and made a huge splash with the ever-controversial Maniac.  In the middle of the killer slice-and-dice trend launched by Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Maniac was part of the one-upsmanship that was going on in the genre that included some of the most graphic, shocking films ever made, so much so that it helped to create a backlash.


Before the film even arrived, the poster was highly controversial and became one of the ‘poster children’ of the kinds of poster art that were sending critics and moralists who did not like the poster or anything connected to the genre climbing the walls and is featured as the cover art of the new Blu-ray edition from Blue Underground.  It was shocking in part because no one had ever seen a poster that brutal, but it seems tame today.  However, it was painted and very effective promotion for a graphic indie production that needed all the attention it could get.


Though the story seems like a formula set-up (killer hates women and kills them randomly, brutally and in total madness for the abuse and hate of his mother), Lustig defies expectations all the way to the end giving us a new side of such a killer and the film (along with himself and those who made it) never got credit for how well this film worked or how distinct it turned out to be from the hundreds of such films that were made at the time and thousands of bad imitators since (and more to come) that now glut the genre.


Then there is the cast, including Joe Spinell (Taxi Driver, Rocky, Friedkin’s Sorcerer & Cruising, Roeg’s Eureka, Godfather I & II) as the title character, Frank Zito in an underrated performance and probably one of the best in the genre.  He is not cracking jokes, he is not a franchise figure, he is not unrealistic and he is giving Zito energy that has been rarely matched in the genre, making this more worthy of Hitchcock’s Psycho (something I very rarely say) than most of the films like it.  Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me, Starcrash, Captain Kronos) is also here in peak form when she really was one of the sexiest and most photogenic actresses around, though she never got credit for that or the good acting capacities she had.  She makes for an amazing counterpoint not only to Zito, but women in the entire genre as Spinell and C.A. Rosenberg co-wrote it in the script.


But the topper in all this is the amazing, bold, realistic and groundbreaking make-up work by Tom Savini & Rob Bottin that completes the realistic foundation of the story and is at least a minor classic of the genre.  Savini who also stars as a guy on a date... his last date.  Lustig has been underappreciated, but his work is up there with De Palma, Larry Cohen (an eventual collaboration partner), George Romero and the late, great Bob Clark as the most important filmmakers in the genre post-Hitchcock.


Maniac is a must-see film for anyone serious about Horror cinema.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is good, but has some flaws and issues throughout as the print is not always in the best of shape, but it is still very watchable and was originally shot in the Super 16mm film format by Director of Photography Robert Lindsay, who makes this look more like a big screen major motion picture than some that were being made then and too many bad ones we see today.  Even if there is some restoration of the film later on, this copy should still be kept for being gritty and so much of its time.  It is also better than all previous video copies.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix is an interesting upgrade from the old Dolby A-type analog system the film was original released in theaters as, with the original sound stems have obviously been recovered (along with the well done music score by Jay Chattaway) to upgrade the sound and it is as good a remaster as we could have expected for such a low budget film.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix also included is good, but no match for the DTS-MA in fullness and though more flaws may be revealed, it just has more presence.


Extras include two feature length audio commentary tracks with Lustig on both.  He is joined by Co-Producer Andrew W. Garroni on one and Savini, Editor Lorenzo Martinelli and Joe Spinell’s assistant Luke Walker on the other.  We also get a Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Radio Spots, MANIAC Publicity, MANIAC Controversy, solid featurette The Joe Spinell Story and features in HD including Anna & The Killer interview with Munro, The Death Dealer new interview with Savini, Dark Notes interview with Chattaway and Maniac Men in which Songwriters Michael Sembello (whose hit song “Maniac” (not in and no direct relation to this film) comes from the 1983 hit Flashdance) and Dennis Matkosky.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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