Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Maniac"(1980)d/William Lustig

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I proudly hung this thing on my bedroom wall for ages.Hard on,bloody knife,woman's scalp...pure art,friends.
If you're looking for a picture that raised the bar on "gross" at the height of explicit violence in movies,then look no further.I'm probably forever mental because of that fateful day at the Forty Fort theater in 1980.My aunt Julia,a hardcore horror nut from midtown Manhattan(obviously she was my favorite),had no idea what was going on inside the theater as she must have gone out to the lobby seven hundred and fifty times for cigarette breaks during this one.I was a helpless eleven year old left to fend for myself in the dark,and I wouldn't have it any other way.Even when Joe Spinell isn't blowing heads to smithereens,scalping hookers,or rocking back and forth mumbling to himself in his junk-laden cesspool of an apartment,you can actually feel the grit and grime of the forty-deuce sliding off the screen and sticking to your skin here.This is a grim,bleak,depressing movie to watch,and an experience you shouldn't rob yourself of.
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Meet Frank(Joe Spinell),he doesn't like women very much.Thank his mother for that.
A couple camps on the beach in the early morning hours of the day.When the man goes to get firewood,he is lifted off the ground by a barbed wire noose from behind and killed.His significant other gets her throat slit with a tile cutter.Frank(Joe Spinell),a psychotic serial killer,is the culprit.Frank has deep rooted issues stemming back to his childhood,and the maltreatment he suffered at the hands of his mother,acting out psychodramas from memory,playing both parts,often culminating in the violent death of innocent women when his anger and bloodlust are heightened.His apartment is decorated with mannequins garbed in the bloody clothes of the women he kills,their scalps nailed to the dummies heads,gruesome trophies of the hunt,the play he acts out nightly to cope with the demons his mother has scarred him with.He solicits a 42nd street prostitute,strangling her to death,before removing her scalp,all the while repeating conversations he once had as a child with his mother.
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"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."
He follows a night nurse into the subway,running her through on a bayonnet in the bathroom.He tails a couple from a discotheque to a spot where they park to make out under the bridge,jumping on the hood of the car and blowing the man's(Tom Savini)head to a grue-splattered pulp before turning the shotgun on the hysterical girl in the backseat,already engulfed in her boyfriend's brains and blood.The authorities are clueless as the killings continue uninterrupted.
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All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Savini's head back together again.
A beautiful fashion photographer named Anna(Caroline Munro)inadvertantly snaps Frank's picture out in the park,forcing him to interact with her on a normal level.He takes her to dinner,brings her gifts on a photoshoot,and breaks into one of her model's apartments,gutting her and making off with her scalp when his manias take over.Before Frank and Anna's next date(you've gotta wonder what a beautiful professional woman could ever see in a scarred,greasy,overweight guy like Frank in the first place)he suggests that they stop to place flowers on his mother's grave.At the gravesite,his psychosis takes over,and he mentions Anna's missing model's name while rocking back and forth at the plot.Anna swings a spade at Frank,cutting into his arm,and runs off into the night.As Frank sobs,he hallucinates his rotting mother's corpse bursting out of the ground to grab him,before returning to his apartment,apparently content in letting Anna escape.
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Genre queen Caroline Munro plays Anna D'Antoni,a beautiful fashion photographer.
As Frank lies bleeding on his bed,he envisions his mannequins transforming into all the girls he's slain,taking up weapons,and tearing him to pieces for the horrible crimes he's committed against them.When the police arrive on the scene,Frank has apparently bled out from the shovel wound on his arm and lies dead on his bloody bed.As the officers leave the room,Frank's eye opens.
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All pasta and no cuddles make Frank a dangerous boy.
Lustig fully captured both the lonely psychosis of an abused serial killer and the seedy feel of the 42nd street of yesteryear with this film.I spent years worth of Friday and Saturday nights there(often getting into midtown around nine pm and not leaving until noon the next day) revelling in the gritty atmosphere of grindhouse theaters showing kung fu,horror,and porn movies all night long,head shops,strip joints,homeless winos,prostitutes, before Giuliani gave it the massive dose of pennecillin it didn't need,effectively erasing a piece of New York history.Whether you remember that part of the Big Apple,or just want to sit down to a truly disturbing horror film,you ought to give Maniac a shot,for the tour de force performance of character actor Joe Spinell("The Godfather","Rocky",etc),the marvelous special effects of Tom Savini at the height of his craft(he actually did the car hood stunt himself,blowing his own head off!),and the nasty vibe that comes off the screen here.They don't make 'em like this anymore!
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Four out of four B.W.'s


Victoria said...

This was an amazing movie and some how romantic in the sense that you are watching Joe Spinell beautifully act out a heavily damaged man try to fill out a different life due to his attraction to a charming woman... though in the end its a grim reminder that things work in their natural direction. Also, applause to Savini for always stunning the viewer with his great effects(ground breaking at the time!). The Italians, you HAVE to love them!

beedubelhue said...

Listen to YOU....oh,shush now.Heh heh.Don't you though?


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