Monday, April 22, 2019

Phil’s Horror Watch: MANIAC (1980) from Blue Underground - April 19, 2019

MANIAC Limited Edition Slipcover Blu-Ray
MANIAC (1980)

Starring Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini, Sharon Mitchell
Written by C.A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell
Cinematography by Robert Lindsay
Edited by Larry Marinelli (as Lorenzo Marinelli)
Produced by Andrew W. Garroni, Judd Hamilton, William Lustig, John Packard, Joe Spinell
Directed by William Lustig
Originally distributed by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation
Re-released by Blue Underground

Welcome back to another horrifying installment of Phil’s Horror Watch! Today’s film is widely considered to be one of the most controversial slasher films of the early 1980’s. It was a ferocious visceral assault on the senses; degrading and misogynistic, gory and nightmarishly disturbing. At the heart of the movie was it’s lead actor, the great Joe Spinell, who gives a tour-de-force performance as the psychotic antagonist. Co-written by Spinell and directed by the legendary William Lustig, MANIAC remains as infamous and influential now since its initial release.

The film's official synopsis: Frank Zito (a career performance by co-writer/co-executive producer Joe Spinell of ROCKY and THE GODFATHER fame) is a deeply disturbed man, haunted by the traumas of unspeakable childhood abuse. And when these horrific memories begin to scream inside his mind, Frank prowls the seedy streets of New York City to stalk and slaughter innocent young women. Now Frank has begun a relationship with a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), yet his vile compulsions remain. These are the atrocities of a human monster. This is the story of a MANIAC.

After all these years, the film still manages to make my skin crawl, forcing me to take several showers just to get the grim of New York off me! Spinell is absolutely outstanding as the sympathetic psychotic Frank Zito! He was, and still is, one of the best character actors the world has ever seen! The beautiful Caroline Munro really goes all out as his love interest/next victim Anna D'Antoni. Also appearing in the film are Tom Savini, who did all the special effects and gore (and even gets his head blown off with a shotgun), and Sharon Mitchell as one of the nurses. If her name sounds familiar, that's because she was one of the most popular adult actresses in the New York Adult Film world!

Director William Lustig's career began within the adult film world where he made two features: THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA (starring Sharon Mitchell and Jamie Gillis) and HOT HONEY under the pseudonym Billy Bagg. He then moved on to making mainstream films like VIGILANTE, RELENTLESS, UNCLE SAM, and the MANIAC COP Trilogy. Starting in 1997, Lustig went on to initially produce retrospective DVD documentaries for Anchor Bay Entertainment, then left to become the founder and CEO of Blue Underground in 2009, which restores and re-releases popular and little seen cult movies, grindhouse action, drama, and horror films.

Original Theatrical Poster (1981)
MANIAC was distributed by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation and had its U.S. premiere in New York City on January 30, 1981, then was released to other theaters throughout the country. During its theatrical run, the film faced a slew of backlash; unfavorable reviews due to its graphic depiction of violence towards women, censorhip and re-editing in the southern states of America, and even becoming banned in other states and countries.

The film was originally released on Beta and VHS by Media Home Entertainment in 1981, but even then it was still the edited version. Eventually, it was released unedited on VHS and DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2001. When Lustig started up Blue Underground, he re-released the film again in 2010, but this time on Blu-Ray.

Lustig and Blue Underground did an astounding job of restoring this revered horror classic! First, the movie is in a brand-new 4K Restoration from the recently discovered 16mm original camera negative! Also, the Blu-ray features Full 1080p HD Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio for the ultimate home theater experience, offered in  five different languages: English, Castellano, Français, Italiano, and Deutsch, contains optional subtitles: English SDH, Français, Español, Português, Deutsch, Italiano, Dansk, Suomen, Nederlands, Svenska, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai. Last, but certainly not least, this exclusive limited collector’s edition includes Blu-ray, Extras Blu-Ray, Soundtrack CD, collectable booklet, reversible sleeve, and special 3D lenticular slipcover!

Now let's talk all about the special features that this bad boy sports: Audio Commentary #1 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig and Co-Producer Andrew W. Garroni, Audio Commentary #2 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter, New "Returning to the Scene of the Crime with William Lustig" Featurette, New MANIAC Outtakes Featurette, "Anna and the Killer: Interview with Star Caroline Munro" Featurette, "The Death Dealer: Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini" Featurette, "Dark Notes: Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway" Featurette, "Maniac Men: Interview with Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky" Featurette, Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots, Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel, The Joe Spinell Story, MANIAC Publicity, MANIAC Controversy, Collectable Booklet with new essay by author Michael Gingold, and once again the bonus CD of  the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Jay Chattaway!!

MANIAC is without a doubt one of the greatest horror films to come out of the 1980’s! It’s a sureal nightmare come to life that tackles serveral social issues pertaining to the decade of excess, while satisfying the ravenous blood and gore that horror fans were clamoring for! Lustig and the late Spinell created a bona fide horror classic that is still as schocking now as it was when it was first released! Now thanks to Lustig’s Blue Undergound outstanding restoration, the movie will forever live on for future generations of horror fanatics! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

MANIAC is a available in a 3-Disc Limited Edition with a lenticular slipcover from Blue Underground. To purchase a copy, please visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the screaming!

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