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Anchor Bay presents
Maniac (Limited Edition Tin) (1980)

"You know, you're the most beautiful woman I've seen since my Mom."
- Frank Zito (Joe Spinell)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 18, 2001

Stars: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro
Other Stars: Gail Lawrence, Kelly Piper, Tom Savini, Hyla Marrow
Director: William Lustig

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme violence)
Run Time: 01h:27m:51s
Release Date: August 21, 2001
UPC: 013131185096
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB+A- A

DVD Review

Very few films have generated as much repulsion as director William Lustig's 1980 disturbing horror classic Maniac. It quickly became the stuff of legend, as it was banned in numerous countries around the world, and proceeded to send shock waves through the pumping heart of middle America. This is a dark, dark tale that offers not much in the plot department, but does provide countless scenes of horrific violence, courtesy of creepy Frank Zito (Joe Spinell), the film's title character. If you are easily turned off by graphic scenes of murder, usually against women, then this film is definitely not for you.

Though directed by Lustig, this film was essentially the pet project of the late Joe Spinell, who died of a heart attack in 1989. At the time, he was a very successful character actor in his own right, having appeared in such mainstream films as Taxi Driver, The Godfather and Rocky. Yet Maniac was something that Spinell wanted desperately to get made, and he not only starred as the murderous Frank Zito, but served as executive producer as well as penning the screenplay. Working closely with Lustig, it was Spinell's intent to deliver a terrifying glimpse into the mind of a serial killer, and to scare the crap out of movie audiences.

Much like what Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer would do years later, Maniac dishes up a seemingly remorseless killer and simply follows him around as he hunts his prey. There are not any irrelevant side stories going on in this film, and there are no subplots to even give the impression of a deeper, more substantial story line. What you see is what you get. Frank Zito is a killer. He kills randomly and indiscriminantly. The only real depth that Spinell provides about his character are the fragmented clues that he was apparently abused by his mother, and that is what shaped him into the monster he became. Yet even that is never presented in a completely straight-forward manner. I have heard a number of different people expound on what really drove Zito to kill, and everyone has their own little imagined tweak on his so-called motivations.

I can't elaborate too much on the plot, because there just isn't much there. However, Spinell, a hulking, scary land mass of a man, was able to carry the entire film. His portrayal of Zito is creepy as hell, and the scenes is his apartment, as he is surrounded by blood-covered mannequins, are chilling and nightmarish.

The only flaw in Maniac are the sequences featuring Hammer Films vet Caroline Munro. She plays Anna D'Antoni, a sexy photographer that strikes up a brief relationship with Zito. Their scenes together completely disrupt the mood that Lustig and Spinell had created up to that point. It is too much to ask of a viewer to accept that Munro's Anna would actually go out to dinner with Zito, or that he could actually carry on an intelligent conversation with a beautiful woman. It's too bad that Munro's character couldn't have been introduced in a more believable manner. In fact Lustig admits on the commentary track that Munro's appearance, and subsequent scenes were more of an obligation than anything else.

Is this a good film? It would take a really unhinged person to say Maniac is "enjoyable." However, what Lustig and Spinell have done is created a damn unsettling movie that doesn't try to hide any unpleasantness from the viewer. It's all there in the open, like a festering sore. Women are scalped, garrotted, stabbed and strangled. In what became the film's signature scene, a character (played by make-up effects whiz Tom Savini) is shot in the head, point blank, with a shotgun. But is it a good film? Well, I guess I would say it certainly delivered the intended effect.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay has presented Maniac in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Moderate grain is present occasionally, but in general the transfer is very clean. The color palette, limited as it is, does look very good, with a noticeable improvement on black levels over the 1998 Elite release.

This a very strong transfer of a low budget film.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Italianyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Anchor Bay's high quality audio transfer would undoubtedly have made Joe Spinell proud. The highlights are a pair of first rate mixes in 5.1 and DTS, digitally mastered in THX. Both mixes are excellent, and breath new life into Jay Chattaway's eerie score. Dialogue, which is minimal at best, sounds resoundingly clear, and appears to be a drastic improvement over the 1998 Elite release. Nice directional imaging is present, though not excessive.

Three mediocre 2.0 mixes in English, French, and Italian are also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
7 Original Trailer(s)
9 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by William Lustig, Tom Savini, Lorenzo Marinelli, Luke Walter
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. THX Optimization
  2. Radio Spots
  3. Photo Gallery
  4. Gallery Of Outrage
  5. Soundtrack CD
Extras Review: Anchor Bay's Maniac: Limited Edition Tin contains a great selection of bonus materials. Sure, some of it was lifted from the laserdisc, but who cares? Let's take a look at what is offered on this release:

Limited Edition Tin
If you're a collector, then this heavy-duty tin is whispering your name. The lid has a sharp reproduction of the original poster art, with the THX logo running across the bottom. The back of the case has a small color sticker featuring a wild-eyed Joe Spinell, as well as the specific lot number of that particular tin (for example, mine is 0037/5000). On the inside, the DVD is housed in a standard CD jewel case, nestled in a black plastic insert.

Radio Interview (19m)
A somewhat combative radio interview done around the time of the film's opening, featuring Spinell, Munro and Lustig. The sound quality is mediocre, with the cast sounding somewhat faraway. The interview is obviously worth inclusion due to the fact it features Joe Spinell, and his attempts at defending Maniac.

The Joe Spinell Story (51m)
This is a terrific bio on Joe Spinell, featuring interviews with an assortment of people that lived and worked with the late actor. The high point for me was the snippet from Jason Miller (The Exorcist) discussing his take on Spinell, and his encounters with him.

Radio Spots
There are four radio spots consisting of two 60-second spots, one 35-second spot, and one 30-second spot.

Photo Gallery
A whopping 130-image gallery. Everything you could ask for: behind-the-scenes, poster art, stills, and production photos.

Gallery Of Outrage
This text-based feature includes quotes from various newspaper reviews of Maniac that utterly condemn the film and everything it stands for. Very funny stuff, in hindsight.

TV Spots
A total of 9 television spots consisting of four 30-second spots and five 10-second spots.

Theatrical Trailers
7theatrical trailers are provided, broken down into the following categories: United States R-rated version, United States Unrated version, International version, French version, German version, German version and Italian version (my personal favorite due to it's creepy red tint).

Soundtrack CD
Jay Chattaway's Maniac score, his first ever, is provided on an included soundtrack cd, and is bound to generate nightmares. It's 32 minutes of creepy movie music, and if that weren't enough for you, it's shaped like Spinell's head and depicts his face on the disc.

Poster Art Card
A heavy stock insert card that highlights a number of print ads, all presented in a nostalgic sepia tone. The flip side of the card has the chapter selections and another full color photo of Spinell.

A full-length, scene-specific commentary from director William Lustig, special make-up effects artist Tom Savini, editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell's assistant Luke Walter. This commentary track was lifted from the laserdisc release of Maniac, but it is still a good one. Lustig dominates the discussion, providing insight on their creation of what he termed "Jaws on land". The comments during the infamous shotgun scene are humorous, as are their open admittance of their so-called "guerilla filmmaking." Lustig also offers some nice trivia, such as the helicopter shots of New York were actually lifted from Dario Argento's Inferno, due to the extremely low-budget of Maniac. A few silent gaps, but otherwise a steady dose of info.

THX Optimization
Since this release has been digitally mastered in THX, Anchor Bay has kindly included optimization instructions to enhance your auditory viewing pleasure.

The following extra is an easter egg. To access, go to the "Extras" menu. If you press the "right" button on your remote, you'll highlight the cross over Caroline Munro's face. Click it to access an audio outtake from William Friedkin's commentary to The Guardian, where he praises William Lustig and Maniac.

Spanish subtitles and 23 chapter stops round out the supplementals. Whew! This is an incredible set of bonus materials, and Anchor Bay should be quite proud.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

Joe Spinell's Maniac is one of the most well-known domestic gore films of the last 25 years. A disturbing, twisted film that pushed the limits of cinematic violence in 1980 is still an incredibly intense viewing experience today. Not necessarily a great film, but a memorable one. Certainly not for everyone, by any means.

Anchor Bay's impressive Limited Edition Tin DVD release is really the ultimate package for any fan of this film. Excellent supplementals, and a pair of great audio transfers in 5.1 and DTS.



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