Monday, October 24, 2011

Phil's Horror Watch, Day 23: Phil watches MANIAC (1980)-October 23, 2011

My horror movie marathon continues with Day Twenty-Three! The days are growing shorter and the nights are getting longer my friends. Which means all sorts of evil will now come out of their resting places and walk among us. Tonight's eerie sense of evil inspired me to watch one of the most controversial slasher films ever produced. Directed by William Lustig, the film MANIAC is considered one of the most disturbing and graphic horror films of the 1980's.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1980)
 A mentally disturbed schizophrenic serial killer named Frank Zito (co-writer/co-executive producer Joe Spinell). Frank misses his mommy, a prostitute who was killed in a terrible car accident which left Frank an orphan. His mother was a very abusive to him, but still loved her, and so he roams the streets of New York, stalking and killing innocent young women in vain of trying to save her from her sinful ways. Frank scalps them and takes their scalps home and displays them on his collection of mannequins. Soon Frank meets a beautiful photographer named Anna D'Antoni (the lovely Caroline Munro), but will be she be the one for him or just another wannabe mother and victim?

Spinell became a well known actor, appearing several Hollywood films, including THE GODFATHER and ROCKY. With his portrayal as Frank Zito, Spinell crossed over to the horror genre and audiences couldn't believe what they were seeing. Having perfected his Mafia persona in the previously mentioned films, Spinell took a gamble with director Lustig, by being the co-writer, co-producer, and starring in one for the sickest and autrocious films ever made in the annals of horror.

All of the special effects in the film were done by F/X icon Tom Savini. Savini became well known as the makeup artist for George Romero's groundbreaking film DAWN OF THE DEAD, the second entry of his Zombie films. Savini went all out in the film, creating some of the most outrageous and violent effects ever captured on celluloid.

Lustig has directed some of the most interesting horror and exploitation films, including VIGILANTE, UNCLE SAM, and the MANIAC COP trilogy. However, Lustig is now more famous for is forming and running the outstanding DVD label Blue Underground which restores and re-releases popular and little seen cult movies and other grind house action, drama, and horror films. The film was originally released by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation (the same company the distributed BASKET CASE) into theaters on December 26, 1980.

MANIAC is an brutal examination of the scared psyche of man and the ramifications of his upbringing. The film paved the way for other psychological horror films to be made, such as MANHUNTER and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. With MANIAC, both Lustig and Spinell created one of the most important and bloody horror film to come out of 42nd Street. Not too bad of a legacy to leave behind.

MANIAC is currently available on both Blu-Ray and Special Edition DVD. To purchase a copy for yourself, visit your local retailer or visit the Blue Underground website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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