Maniac (Sex Maniac) (1934) :1 out of 10: Mad scientist and a vaudevillian actor raise people from the dead, torture animals and rape woman in this, I’m guessing a pre-code film, what with all the nudity, rape, murder, and animal torture. (It turns out Maniac was more of an ignore the Hays Code picture rather than one that was produced before the Hays code.)
The Good: There are educational title cards that seem to pop up at random and are quite interesting about the state of mental illness in the mid-thirties.
The Bad: The acting… good lord the acting, Look, I have complained about modern films where the actors mistakenly think they are on stage as they ham it up but this takes it to another level. These guys are not playing to the back row of the theater. They are playing to the building across the street. There are also bits that were clearly filmed at a different time and with different actors and doing a completely different story, and one can only assume for a different film that pads out the proceedings to an hour running time.
I know the film is from 1934 and is low budget and talkies hadn’t been around a long time but Maniac can often resemble a silent film. There are entire scenes where no dialogue or environmental sounds can be heard, and the film occasionally relies on title cards to move the story.
The Ugly: Look, we can all expect nudity, rape, and necrophilia in an old movie. After all, it was the 1930s during a depression. People were different back then. But cat torture in a film is simply not allowed (Exception Monty Python and the Holy Grail). This film has a weird anti-cat stance including an interview with a guy raising cats for fur which, like half the other scenes in Maniac, has nothing to do with the rest of the plot.
Why, I am a hypocrite about animal abuse in movies.
Didn’t you just give an eight of of ten score to Eaten Alive! yesterday?
Well, yes, but that movie used mostly stock footage from other Cannibal films and Mondo films.
That is a lie and you know it. Robert Kerman walked off the set in protest to the animal abuse. ” Incensed by the realization during filming that an animal’s death was not being faked, Kerman physically tackled the director and stormed off the set.”
Okay, first of all that was on the set of Cannibal Holocaust, not Eaten Alive. And second of all, the animal death scenes did not bother me as much in Eaten Alive as Maniac.
So why do you always fast forward during the monkey getting eaten by a snake scene?
Okay, it bothers me, but not nearly as much as a kitty getting hurt.
Are you sure that is the only reason?
Fine, Janet Ågren is naked and painted gold… leave me to my shame.
In Conclusion: Setting aside the disturbing treatment of Mr. Snuggles, this is not a well-made film. It is a curiosity I will grant you. The bad acting and weird segues are amazing in a what the hell kind of way, and the nudity is surprising in what otherwise resembles a Bela Lugosi poverty row quickie.
Rifftrax Version of Maniac: 9 out of 10: Wow, once again the worse the material the more on point Rifftrax can be. There admittedly is a lot to work with here, but they throw a lot of strikes, pick up the spares, and leave nothing on the table. (If they ever read this, I can hear the groans at the mixed metaphors). Anyway, great job by them and if you are going to watch this (Or 1980s Maniac with Joe Spinell) Rifftrax is the way to go.