Oct 19th: Maniac(1980): http://youtu.be/fbLvTpzckGU
Picture it…New York City in 1980. The 80’s hadn’t become the 80’s yet, but you could see how the decadence of the disco era was crumbling and rotting into sleaze. The Son Of Sam killings by Davis Berkowitz were still fresh in the minds of most citizens, despite having taken place 3 years prior. The Grindhouse Cinemas of 42nd street were running strong, and right into the thick of it all, William Lustig and Joe Spinelli drop this disturbing, heavy breathing film on the world…and people were pissed! The idea of an overweight and unremarkable maniac stalking pretty young women in New York was still a very sore subject for most New Yorkers, the shotgun scene in particular, bringing up memories of a whole city being gripped with fear.
Maniac is one of those films that is impossible to feel indifferent about. A review in the New York Times stated “Good sense, if not heaven, should protect anyone who thinks he likes horror films from wasting a price of admission on “Maniac,” a movie that shows how an aging, pot-bellied maniac slices up young women of no great intelligence.” On the other hand, it has gone on to influence a new generation of filmmakers and thrill genre fans new and old. I, myself, use this film as somewhat of a litmus test for people who ask me for film recommendations, and will base future suggestions off of how they react to viewing Maniac. Recently, Maniac has been re-made, received rave reviews, and is currently on my mile-long list of films to watch, but for now, let’s have a look at this “Grubby touchstone for Genre fans”
Co-writer Spinelli, plays Frank Zito, a unpleasant lookin, greasy, fat Italian who likes alone in a depressing apartment complex, his apartment strewn with mannequins. Frank is a deeply disturbed man. Traumatized by the abuse he suffered at the hands of his Prostitute mother while he was a boy. As a man, Frank manifests his dysfunctions by stalking pretty young women, brutally murdering them, scalping them, then dressing mannequins in his victims clothes and nailing the scalps on to the mannequins heads. He will then sleep with the trussed up mannequins for several days, and hold one sided conversations with them. He seems to be talking to his Mother. Warning her “Not to go out tonight”, pleading with her, professing his love to her, and also expressing his frustration and anger with her…though it comes off more like someone scolding a lover. The film never makes it clear, but there are several very strong indications that on top of all his other issues, Frank has a whopper of an Oedipus complex. As the film goes on and Frank racks up more victims, he manages to start dating a pretty photographer, who sees something in the funny looking shlub. Frank’s apparent ability to blend in, and function in society, and to even exhibit charm is in start contrast to Frank as he is stalking a victim. He is cold, sadistic, calculating, and breathing heavy. The scenes depicting the murders are beautifully shot as they depict not only the struggle and fright of the victim, but the methodical urgency and excitement of Frank. Ultimately, it seems that the double life is not for Frank. His mental state frays and eventually crumbles completely as he attacks his girlfriend, and breaks down into a fully psychotic episode, which i won’t spoil for anyone. I will, however, say that it is one of the more chilling finales i have seen yet.