Maniac 1980/30th Anniversary Edition Blu Ray Review

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Film Review

Joe Spinell, the charismatic character actor many film fans will know from his small but memorable parts in The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Rocky co-produced, co-wrote and starred in this grisly 1980 grindhouse horror classic. Spinell plays Frank Zito, a psychotic killer who murders women in and around New York City. What makes Zito so realistic and disturbing is how Spinell plays the different sides of his mentally macabre makeup. On the surface, Zito seems normal and can even come off charming enough to get a date with a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro) while he secretly feeds his murderous urges to slaughter fellow human beings.

Although this movie is considered part of the slasher film genre, it does have more going on in it than just a mindless killer chopping up coeds. Maniac stands out amongst these movies since it acts as part character study giving us a look inside Zito's mind. The results create some sense of empathy for his actions due to a horribly abusive childhood at the hands of his cruel mother. This is where it shares a common theme with other horror classics such as Psycho, Friday The 13th and Don't Go In The House in its portrayal of the psychopath with mommy issues. There is also a weird artistic aspect to Zito as he owns a collection of mannequins and strange artwork which he uses to complete his obessive rituals of scalping the beautiful women he butchers. Maniac really gets to the core of what many serial killers are like psychologically. Most can go unnoticed long enough to lead a normal life and blend into the general population. On the flipside there is a deranged alternate personality that is frightening to witness.

Along with an unforgettable performance by Joe Spinell, Maniac features some amazing special FX by master artist Tom Savini and his talents are featured in several scenes including one in which a shotgun wielding Zito blasts some unsuspecting lovers apart while they sit in a car. This movie delivers on all the most shocking levels that makes grindhouse cinema so thrilling and exciting to watch. The direction and cinematography are equally excellent albeit done in a guerrilla style since this was William Lustig's first feature and he didn't have the luxuries of a big studio picture. 35 years later Maniac remains a raw, daring work of independent cinema that takes us directly into the twisted lifestyle of a psycho set against the backdrop of a long gone, late 70s New York City.

Blu Ray Review

  • VIDEO: Presented in (1:85:1) Widescreen 1080p Hi-Definition. - The newly restored transfer brings a whole new level of clarity and depth to this movie. A stellar example of the work Blue Underground is best known for with their genre classics on home video.
  • AUDIO: 7.1 DTS-HD (English / DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 SURROUND EX / DOLBY 2.0 (French, Italian, German)
  • SUBTITLES: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai


Audio Commmentary #1 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig and Co-Producer Andrew W. Garroni - For those who want to hear all about the history and experience of making MANIAC, this excellent commentary explains everything about where it all came from. A very entertaining and heartwarming story about two friends taking a leap into the world of moviemaking, whilst remembering the many adventures they had working with their good friend Joe Spinell & Co.

Audio Commmentary #2 -with William Lustig & Special FX Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Joe Spinell's assistant Luke Walter. - More humorous and revealing insight on what it was like working on MANIAC from the production standpoint. A real family affair that gave everyone involved a chance to do their best as artists.

ANNA and THE KILLER: An Interview with Caroline Munro - A brief interview with star Caroline Munro who explains how she got the role in the film, her history in the entertainment business and views on the film's controversy and legacy.

THE DEATH DEALER: Interview with Special FX Artist Tom Savini - The Master of Movie Gore discusses how he came up with ideas to bring the most gruesome and shocking FX to the cult horror classic.

DARK NOTES: Interview with composer Jay Chattaway - The musician who made the brilliantly haunting score for the film talks about his prestigious career and how he came to be involved in the production.

MANIAC MEN: An interview with songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky - Did you know there was a connection between the hit pop song "Maniac" by Michael Sembello and this movie? Well Director Bill Lustig pays a visit to pals Sembello & Matkosky to get the laugh filled lowdown on the song that was featured in the 1983 film Flashdance and how it was strangely influenced by the horrific genre gem.


THE JOE SPINELL STORY - A 49 minute documentary on the life and career of the late great character actor Joe Spinell. Featuring interviews with close friends and family including: Bill Lustig (Maniac) actors Jason Miller (The Exorcist, The Ninth Configuration), Frank Pesce, Luke Walter, Robert Forster (Hollywood Harry) and many others. Watch for a special bit of footage from when Joe and his pal Frank visited Steven Spielberg during the days of JAWS.

MANIAC PUBLICITY - Paul Wunder Radio Interview with Bill Lustig, Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro | Bill Lustig on Movie Madness: A black & white cable access TV show interview with the director of MANIAC. | Joe Spinell at Cannes: a short 1 minute interview with the actor | Joe Spinell on the Joe Franklin Show: Joe appears on the famous local New York City talk show. | Caroline Munro TV Interview: a 1980 local TV appearance talking about her upcoming role in MANIAC | Barf Bag Review Policy: Katie Kelly explains her ratings system for "bad movies" | Grindhouse Film Festival Q & A: Bill Lustig and friends have a special screening at The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles | Still Gallery

MANIAC CONTROVERSY - Upon MANIAC's release it caused much outrage among rights groups and critics. This extra feature has several retro news reports and reactions from the public.


THE FINAL WORD: Blue Underground's 30th Anniversary release of MANIAC is a completely satisfying and superbly produced home video package. From the new hi-def restoration which brings a new vitality to the footage, to the great commentaries to the Joe Spinell Tributes, longtime fans will surely love this BluRay presentation. It's a must own for the hardcore horror fan's home video collection.


Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He holds an AS with Highest Honors in Communications and Interactive Media Design.

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