14 April 2015

"MANIAC" (Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #2)


Alternate Title:
Sex Maniac

USA, 1934
Director: Dwain Esper


Oh my goodness, what the effing heck was that?? "Maniac" (not to be confused with the same-titled horror classics from 1980 and 2013) is undoubtedly one of the silliest movies I've seen in my entire life. I mean it!

VERY loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe short stories "The Black Cat" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", exploitation director Dwain Esper (best known for educational rubbish like, um, "Marihuana: The Devil's Weed", "How to Undress in Front of Your Husband" or "Sex Madness"...) and his wife-slash-screenwriter Hildegard Stadie tell the story of Dr. Meirschultz (sic!), a super-mad scientist (he looks like Santa Claus on acid...) who's experimenting with bringing dead peope to life until he gets shot by his awkward assistant Don Maxwell who later disguises as Meirschultz (with fake beard and glasses) and impersonates him to make it look like the scientist was still alive. Only problem: the impersonation goes too far and he gets utterly and completely batshit insane...

Take the hilariously terrible acting in "Troll 2" and multiply it by 10 - that's how bad the acting in "Maniac" is. I've never seen anyone acting as ridiculously over-the-top as William Woods playing the impersonator (His only acting role. He went on having a mildly successful career as make-up artist in the 50s and 60s), Horace B. Carpenter as uber-bonkers scientist (According to Imdb, he appeared in more than 350 films between 1913 & 1946!!), or Ted Edwards as mental patient who transforms into an imbecile semi-zombie after he got an injection of 'super-adrenaline' (Edwards acted in more than 50 films between 1914 & 1936!).

"Maniac" is only 55 minutes long, but it's so packed with indescribably stupid nonsense, it's just incredible. Drugged women catfighting using baseball bats and syringes, the annoying oh-so-diabolical laughter by Meirschultz, the impersonator squeezing a cat's head, popping one of her eyes out and eating it (yup, that was actually a real cat with a real glass eye!!), the zombie abducting a girl who just got resurrected, dragging her to the woods and strangling her, tons of intertitles about "Dementia praecox" or "Manic-depressive psychoses", as well as many outrageous dialogue lines like "I think too much of Satan to use cats as experiments." or "We know you're hard boiled. You don't have to stay in the water thirty minutes to prove it."

Aside from the horrid direction, the absurd script and the uber-poor acting, we also get to see some unbelievably amateurish camera work by William C. Thompson (the colorblind cameraman who filmed Ed Wood classics like "Plan 9 from Outer Space" and "Bride of the Monster"), and some totally crappy editing by William Austin (who got an Oscar nomination for his editing
in the 1952 war-drama "Flat Top"!!)

I might sound a bit bitter, but... no, I'm not. Yes, "Maniac" is really, really bad, but in a terrifically fun way, and it totally deserves a LOL/10 just like "The Creeping Terror" or "War of the Robots". The fact that there are plenty of super-kewt kitties and even a few hot, nude ladies in... it doesn't make the movie better, but...
well, it makes it at least a tad more watchable :-)

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