Maniac upsets sensitive people. After seeing the film, it should be no surprise. However, I’m still taken aback by the utter disdain that a certain clique of modern viewers have for this kind of gore. They’ll stand on soapboxes and cry out the merits of Hereditary all day long. Yet, they feel the need to broadcast their disdain for a horror film time capsule from 1980. One almost has to stifle laughter when they bemoan the fact that the titular maniac commits violence against women.
Context is key, as a viewer must undertake Maniac understanding the time and personality of the lead. In 1980, forcing a viewer to identify with a mentally unstable loser was rather novel. Now, it’s old hat. Still, you have to take a step back. Why did Maniac work in 1980 with its over-the-top Savini FX? Well, because it did what bigger films had tip-toed around with their work. It showed what a non-fantastic killer looks like when given to his mental failings.
Joe Spinell is a lumbering man-beast powered by the underbelly of his time. Whether he was hanging out with Spielberg or Stallone, you could see why people wanted him around. It’s fun to see such an awkward looking guy force his way out of the Bowery and into your cinema. Confrontational cinema doesn’t properly exist anymore and it’s because we don’t make audiences stare down guys like Spinell. Why? Well, modern audiences suck.
For an era where we crave realism and need things to be next level, it’s stunning how a 38 year old film can still annoy folks. Maniac works because it doesn’t ask you to sympathize with Frank Zito. The film works because it captures you and drags you down into his despair. Looking back on the film, I still feel that the finale is cop-out. The push to have a classic horror ending where the killer gets up-ended seems to betray the rest of the movie.
Joe Spinnell isn’t Frank Zito and this isn’t your typical horror movie. However, Maniac works when you buy into the terror of seedy losers tearing you apart. Roger Ebert is famous for walking out of the movie after Tom Savini gets his head blown off. Well, he’s the founding father of pretentious American film critics who think their delicate sensibilities make them superior to the vulgarity of non A-list film. Well, Ebert’s dead and Maniac lives on in a truly astounding 4K restoration.
Seriously, people. Check out the screenshots below and marvel to the glory of Maniac. If Maniac can look amazing after a 4K restoration, then let’s open that Lustig vault for more of these releases!
Maniac special features
- Audio Commentary #1 with Producer/Director William Lustig and Producer Andrew W. Garroni
- Audio Commentary #2 with Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter
- NEW! MANIAC Outtakes
- NEW! Returning to the Scene of the Crime with William Lustig
- Anna and the Killer – Interview with Star Caroline Munro
- The Death Dealer – Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini
- Dark Notes – Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway
- Maniac Men – Interview with Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky
- The Joe Spinell Story
- Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel
- MANIAC Publicity
- MANIAC Controversy
- Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots
- BONUS! MANIAC Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Jay Chattaway
- BONUS! Collectable Booklet with new essay by Michael Gingold