Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 87 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Joe Spinell (everything from STARCRASH to CRUISING to ROCKY to TAXI DRIVER to THE GODFATHER to THE SEVEN-UPS– damn!), Caroline Munro (everything from DR. PHIBES to CAPTAIN KRONOS to SINBAD to THE SPY WHO LOVED ME to TO DIE FOR to STARCRASH), Abigail Clayton (HOT COOKIES, SPIRIT OF SEVENTY-SEX), makeup and acting by Tom Savini, and was supposed to star Argento's then-squeeze Daria Nicolodi, but there were scheduling complications of some kind- stock footage from Argento's INFERNO was used, however.
Tag-lines: "I warned you not to go out tonight."
Best multi-liner: "Now you tell me what I should do. I heard about it, I always do. I can't go out for a minute. It's impossible. Fancy girls, in their fancy dresses and lipstick, laughing and dancing. Should you stop them? I can't stop them. But you do, don't you? And they can't laugh and they can't dance anymore. You've got to stop, or they'll take you away from me. I will never, ever, let them take you away from me. You're mine now forever. And, I'm so happy."
Fun fact: Michael Sembello's "Maniac," later toned down and used in FLASHDANCE, was originally composed for this film!
MANIAC. Before I begin- let's talk about the director. Bill Lustig, is a pretty damned interesting guy. Like another underground NYC auteur, Abel Ferrara, he started off directing blue pictures, and his first 'mainstream' feature was a Manhattan slasher with the killer as the protagonist (like Ferrara’s DRILLER KILLER). Lustig’s also Jake LaMotta's nephew, a friend and collaborator of Larry Cohen, and currently runs Blue Underground, a grand purveyor of paracinema and ridiculous Italian gems.
Also, I’ve really gotta hand it to him for having the word "Maniac" in the title of about half of his directorial output. Anyway, on to the MANIAC at hand: it's good.
It's got that classic 70's NYC gritty realism, Tom Savini gore (and a cameo as "Disco Boy"),
lots o' hookers, the legendary Caroline Munro,
and an amazing fashion montage set to some rockin' 80's tunes. Joe Spinell (he’s kind of like Ron Jeremy meets Vincent Price)
is damned scary, and there’s something about his delivery that is consistently, terrifyingly believable. The film is a love letter to the Italian slashers that Lustig adored (black-gloved killer, female victims, over-the-top kills, visuals that pop, and childhood traumas like Bava and Argento, mannequin madness like Lenzi's SPASMO) and as that, it succeeds. (I'd also say that it was probably the direct precursor to HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.) Overall, a very solid underground slasher, and, in my opinion, it’s far better and more personal than the other Savini effort of 1980, the original FRIDAY THE 13TH. Four stars.