Director: William Lustig
Stars: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro
Review by Brian M. Sammons

To make a play on a British term that I’ve always enjoyed, Maniac was one of the nastiest “video nasty,” or while it was at the theater I guess that would be “movie nasty,” to ever grace the silver screen. When it came out, just it’s incredibly memorable poster of a killer holding a bloody knife in one hand and a severed woman’s head in the other was enough to shock, sicken, and outrage countless members of the sensitive public. While the outcry seems a bit silly to this jaded horrorhead now, I can attest that years later, and even after watching this film more than a few times, that it still has a cruel, slimy, violent, and yes, nasty feel to it. While other horror movies from those early ’80s have become good clean fun, this movie still packs the gory punch it always has. Age has not mellowed this manic one bit.

But just in case you haven’t already seen this movie, I’ll give you the ten cent terror tour.

Joe Spinell plays the truly sick in the head Frank Zito to slim-oozing perfection. Unlike many movie maniacs, Frank really seems like the sweating, giggling, screaming, psychotic hallucination-having real deal. Poor Frank has a laundry list of mommy issues stemming from years of abuse at her cruel hands. This has given him an intense hatred for woman, one he satisfies with a series of brutal murders all over the streets of New York. Such murders are pulled off in eye-popping gory grandeur thanks to the impressive makeup effects of a young and hungry Tom Savini. Tom also has a memorable cameo as a guy who gets his head pulverized by a double barrel shotgun. It’s 100% pure Savini goodness at his game-changing best. Add to this mix the always lovely Caroline Munro, an unexpected love story, and one hell of a WTF ending and you have a sleazy slasher classic that stands the test of time.

Blue Underground has gone way beyond the call of duty with the amount of extras they packed into this release. So many, in fact, that they wouldn’t all fit onto a single Blu-ray so they included a second disc, this one a DVD, with a ton of goodies on it.

There are two audio commentaries, trailers, TV and radio spots, interviews with Caroline Munro, special make-up effects wizard Tom Savini, the movie’s composer, a couple of song writers, and a short promo reel for the never shot Maniac 2. All that was just on the Blu-ray.

The DVD contains a nice big documentary about the troubled and brilliantly creepy Manic himself, Joe Spinell. There are a bunch of featurettes of various lengths on the publicity of Maniac such as press interviews and Q&A sessions. There is also a section on the controversy the movie kicked off and boy, there was a ton of it. These reviews, TV specials, and news reports all from the 1980s were some of my favorite extras. I laughed more than once when these self appointed guardians of all things moral and just, such as Siskel and Ebert to name but two, absolutely quivering with rage at the thought of this movie corrupting the impressionable and turning men into misogynist rapists by proxy. One wonders what has happened to such outrage these days? Did movie goers in general suddenly get a whole lot smarter, or did the critics? In any event there is more than seven hours of bonuses in this release, more than enough for any fan of movie extras.

This is easily the best version of Maniac I have yet to see and it is a must have disc for fans of splatter, horror, grind house, and controversial icky movies of all kinds. As such I can both easily and highly recommend this BD when it comes out on October 26.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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