Film Title: Maniac
Release Date: 1980
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 88 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Blue Underground
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA 7.1 & 2.0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: 2018 Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 12/11/18
Director: William Lustig
Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini, Hyla Marrow, James L. Brewster, Linda Lee Walter
“Maniac” was a 1980 horror classic directed by William Lustig. Lustig is best known for directing such other films as “Maniac Cop“ (1988), “Vigilante“ (1982), “Relentless“ (1989), “Maniac Cop 2“ (1990), “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence“ (1992), and “Uncle Sam“ (1996).
The film’s story was written by Joe Spinell, who also co-wrote the screenplay along with the help of C.A. Rosenberg. Spinell was best known for his acting roles in such classic films as “The Godfather“ (1972), “The Godfather Part II“ (1974), “Rocky“ (1976), “Taxi Driver“ (1976), “Rocky II“ (1979), “Brubaker“ (1980), “Nighthawks“ (1981), “Vigilante“ (1982), “Monsignor“ (1982), and “The Last Horror Film“ (1982).
Before I start with this synopsis, let me first offer you up a question, especially the horror fans. What is the scariest thing that you can honestly realistically think of? To me, it’s the average stranger that you pass by on the street or even perhaps your nextdoor neighbor. Throughout the years here in the United States we have seen a few decades, namely the 1970s and 1980s where serial killers were rampant. It all makes you wonder what causes these people to go insane, and make them do the most horrendous of acts? There’s usually some reason, although sometimes it’s just something that we will truly never know or understand.
This film takes a glimpse into the life of a serial killer and tries to show you the perspective of their daily life. Be warned, this film was considered very offensive during its original release back and 1980 and still is sure to leave some a bit shocked – even by today’s standards of horror. What you need to remember here is that it’s going to end with a bit of a moral and/or message of sorts, and prove to be a cautionary tale – and not at all something for someone to copy.
The film follows a very disturbed man that lives alone by the name of “Frank Zito” (Joe Spinell), that has some real psychological issues, as we can tell from the very start of the film. We first see Frank watching a young couple through a pair of coin-operated public binoculars at the beach. Let’s just say the couple are victims of something utter horrific and haunting, and so haunting that it even wakes Frank up later from his sleep screaming. The simple reason he’s screaming is because he’s the one responsible for what has happened, and is well aware of it.
Frank wakes up in his bed sitting next to a mannequin, crying for what he has done, and then as simple as that… he’s fine. He goes to the mirror and looks at scars that appear to be either self inflicted or from abuse. Then he decides to put on his clothes, his winter jacket and cruise the streets of New York City in search of a prostitute. The odd thing is that once Frank gets in the room with the prostitute he only wants her to pose for him, and refuses for her to take of her clothes. It’s at this point we realize what is about to happen, yet again, and it’s because Frank decided to go out tonight. He has to go out to feed his urge to kill young women that he finds to be to a certain sense like his mother, who he has a shrine to in his bedroom.
After our maniac has his way with his victim he likes to use a razor blade and cut a part of their scalp to get a chunk of their hair. He then takes this hair and proceeds to hammer it to a mannequin’s head and then takes the victim’s clothing and dresses up the mannequin. He does this and eventually fills his bedroom full of these, and it seems he’s apparent to keep repeating this.
Something happens though and for a minute we think that he might actually be changing, as a female photographer manages to snap a photograph of him while he’s walking through the park. Frank becomes concerned she could he the one that gets him caught, so he goes to the trouble of looking at her bag nearby to find her address. Frank shows up at the apartment of the female photographer “Anna” (Caroline Munro) asking her about the photograph she took of him in the park and asks to see it a nice manner, but afterward he strikes up conversation with her about her work.
Frank and Anna actually seem to get along, as he poses to be a painting, and asks her to have dinner. The two have dinner, seem to be hitting it off. A day later Frank invites himself to come visit her on one of her photo shoots offering a gift. She doesn’t find it to be the slightest bit creepy that a person she just met shows up unexpected at her workplace, but instead sweet. It really seems like maybe this man could manage to actually have a real relationship with a human being that doesn’t involve him taking their life. Will he? What’s his real problem as to why he does this? You’ll have to watch to find out, and it does explain. It ends with something that seems fitting and leaves you to think about what you’ve just watched.
Over the years the film has received some mixed reactions from critics and from the easily offended for being something that exploits the killing of women. This film was to try to make sense of the serial killers and what a lot had in common: either abuse or a mother issue. Let’s just say that it tries to make as much sense of it as it can, and doesn’t try to exploit the murders as much as it tries to make sense of why they happened. I’ll be honest, this film is not at all for everyone, but it’s a horror film that I think has been misunderstood over the years and is best served as a bit of a cautionary tale.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
This film was shot originally on 16MM film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which it is presented in here. This 1980 horror classic has received a new 4K restoration, taken from a new scan of a recently discovered 16MM original camera negative. Here’s a quote on this from Greg Chick of Blue Underground describing how the missing negatives were found:
“The 16mm negatives had been thought lost or destroyed in 1980 by the original lab, until they were discovered in a warehouse earlier this year. The new 4K restoration from the 16mm negative is the first time the film has been presented as originally shot.”
Now, to show off how much of an improvement that this new 4K restoration truly offers, I’m going to offer up some screenshot comparisons between this new 2018 Blu-ray and the original 2010 Blu-ray release.
Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons
2018 versus 2010:
(Blu-ray sources: 2018 / 2010)
So, as you can tell from the screenshot comparisons above, there have been a lot of changes, namely to the framing of most all of the scenes. You’ll see some areas you have never saw before thanks to the framing changes. There have also been some changes in the brightness on some scenes, as you can see in the first (top) comparison shot. However, some seems don’t come across as bright as before but instead appear more natural much thanks to the color timing. This you can see with the third (bottom) comparison shot, where fleshtones appear less red and more accurate as seen in the second (middle) comparison shot.
This is absolutely the best the film has ever looked. Some of these comparisons (above) left me absolutely amazed. Preserved film grain is solid throughout, which should be expected for a Super 16MM source. There really is a very nice amount of detail to be found here and that is especially true in closeups. Admittedly some scenes do feel a tad bit soft, but you need to look at the original screenshot to appreciate how much of an actual improvement it is – a tad soft or not. This video presentation comes with a solid black level, and a much improved color timing. The colors can actually be pretty vibrant at times, especially the bright color of blood in Tom Savini’s make-up effects. Speaking of his effects, they really show off well here with the newfound amount of detail from the restoration effort. It’s all the more disturbing to watch now, which is good in a horror way.
Simply put, this new 4K restoration of the original true 16MM negatives looks absolutely stellar, especially for a 1980 film that was shot on a small budget. Blue Underground has delivered here on yet another perfect 4K restoration and Blu-ray Disc release that greatly impressed me, even after a total of two viewings. It truly feels remarkable at times when you really take into appreciation of this more cinematic feeling presentation here, that you can experience in your home theater. I’ll end by saying I’m just as glad as everyone that this thought to be lost 16MM negative was discovered earlier in the year, so that we now later this month get this massive improvement in terms of video quality found on this release, especially in comparison to the original release from eight years ago.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in both the originally released DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio and the new DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio Stereo. As director William Lustig states on an audio commentary, this was released during its theatrical rung using Dolby Stereo, so it is nice to finally get to experience that Stereo mix – especially in a lossless format. This was previously released in 2010 on Blu-ray, but only included a lossless surround mix, and another lossy surround mix. I’ll first be focusing on the 7.1 lossless mix, and later on the 2.0 lossless mix.
Music composed by Jay Chattaway comes across very nice, mainly presented in the front left and right channel speakers with a tad bit of rear channel presence. Dialogue is delivered from the center channel speaker, as you’d expect. Just a little after 6 minutes in some music starts up, sounding very disco-like with a good amount of bass presence coming from the subwoofer in this lossless surround mix.
When there’s no music, and not much dialogue, you’ll notice sound effects such as background traffic and sirens get a nice amount of rear channel presence. The surround mix helps set the vibe of the big city quite well. It can get somewhat intense during the climactic moments when our maniac does his killings. The music during the murders can pulsate like a heartbeat throughout the entire surround soundscape, with a nice subtle but effective use of bass via the subwoofer.
When Frank talks to himself you will actually hear his voice all throughout the speakers in the 7.1 mix, especially from the front and rear channels. It’s literally surrounding you and creepy as hell to hear a maniac talking to himself in his own head, when you feel like you’re just sitting there right inside: listening. It’s pretty unsettling at times, and that’s what makes horror all the more effective. The original music can get used this way in the lossless surround mix to give you a bit of a psychological aspect similar to used in a lot of “slasher” films. It’s music can go from building up in intensity, to then a mellow bass riff carrying things for a bit in, and eventually it spikes back up in an intense fashion – enough to make the horror all the more startling.
30 minutes in and the music translates nicely with its bass into some subwoofer action. Also the sound effects getting a nice use of the rear channels at this point and throughout. A scene 31 minutes in involving a helicopter makes some real nice use of the rear channels in a pan. The way the music builds up is so suspenseful, no damn matter how many times you’ve seen this film: it’ll always leave you on feeling right on the edge in terms of suspense from the terrifying original Score. Let’s just say the sound effects sound really great in the surround mix.
The mixes both prove to be very impressible, be it the original 7.1 lossless surround mix – which has not changed (I can confirm) – or the newly added lossless 2.0 Stereo mix. I found both to be enough to do the film justice while listening at my usual reference volume level on each. There’s obviously not as much bass to be found in the Stereo mix, but it does prove to deliver the music nicely, and offer up as realistic sound effects in terms of sound quality. All and all, I’m very much happy with this mix as it feels it never needed any changes at all to the surround mix, and it’s nice to finally have a lossless original Stereo mix. This comes as an improvement in terms of audio quality when you factor in the new Stereo mix and the carrying over of the already very impressive lossless 7.1 mix.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are mostly presented in HD video with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono sound – unless otherwise noted below. The physical bonus contents on this release include:
- NEW! A Collectible Booklet (18 pages) includes an essay titled “Maniacs That Might Have Been” written by Michael Gingold. The booklet can be seen below.
- A CD (Compact Disc) of the film’s original Soundtrack is included, which was composed by Jay Chattaway. This includes a total of 16 tracks as listed below:
- “Maniac’s Theme (Main Titles)” (3:12)
- “Apocalypse New York” (2:08)
- “On the Beach” (0:28)
- “Hookers Heartbeat” (1:14)
- “A Little Knife Music” (0:55)
- “Inner Voices” (4:11)
- “Maniac Strikes Back” (1:13)
- “Blast Him” (2:21)
- “Blast Her” (1:03)
- “Window Shopping” (1:30)
- “Subway Terror” (3:27)
- “Goodbye Rita” (1:01)
- “Cemetery Chase” (1:14)
- “Cry for Mother” (2:05)
- “Mannequins’ Revenge” (4:10)
- “Maniac’s Theme (End Titles)” (2:24)
Blu-ray Disc 1 (aside from the film) includes the following bonus materials:
- Audio Commentary #1 with Producer / Director William Lustig and Producer Andrew W. Garroni
- Audio Commentary #2 with Producer / Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter
- Theatrical Trailers (2:52 – HD) are featured for numerous countries. The United States received a “Hard” and “Soft” trailer, as funny as that sounds. Speaking of sound, these all feature Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.
- TV Spots (3:09 – HD) nine total are included. These all feature Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.
- Radio Spots (3:21 – HD) four total are included. These all feature Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.
Blu-ray Disc 2 includes the following bonus materials:
- NEW! “Maniac Outtakes” (18:53 – HD) feature excellent audio commentary from director William Lustig. Lustig really gives us some amazing insight here regarding all of these scenes. This proves to be very informative and enjoyable for the fans. It’s a really good thing they found the 16MM negatives where not only this new restoration but also these came from.
- NEW! “Returning to the Scene of the Crime with William Lustig” (7:53 – HD) features the film’s director returning to where the scenes were shot in New York City and offering up conversation as we see the visual comparisons that 38 or so years has done to the areas. The interview that Lustig gives here is very informative, entertaining, a tad bit emotional, and even funny. This is definitely worth seeing if you’re a true fan of the film.
Previously released extras include:
- “Anna and the Killer” (13:04 – HD) is an interview with the film’s co-star Caroline Munro.
- “The Death Dealer” (12:07 – HD) is an interview with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini.
- “Dark Notes” (12:12 – HD) is an interview with the film’s musical Composer Jay Chattaway.
- “Maniac Men” (10:35 – HD) is an interview with Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky. These guys wrote the song featured in the 1983 film “Flashdance” that was rumored to have been originally wrote to be included in this film. This was recorded in May of 2010 and features the film’s director William Lustig traveling to Pennsylvania to meet with the songwriters to discuss this rumor. This proves to be very entertaining, and I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say you’ll have a laugh.
- “Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel” (7:24 – HD) is for a film that Joe Spinell was trying to get made with Buddy Giovinazzo as director. It ended up being presented only as a short film here in this promo reel. It was in no way supposed to follow the first film, just be a sequel of sorts, as Spinell played an entirely different character. This sadly is just a promo for a sequel that never was.
- “The Joe Spinell Story” (49:12 – HD) is a documentary that was directed by David Gregory about [this film’s star] Joe Spinell. This was made by Blue Underground in association with Anchor Bay Entertainment for the 2001 DVD release. This includes interviews with Joe Spinell’s friends & co-workers including: Grace Raimo (Joe’s Sister), Frank Pesce (Actor / Producer), Luke Walter (Actor / Joe’s Assistant), Richard Lynch (Co-star “The Seven-Ups” / “The Ninth Configuration”), William Kennedy (Writer / Director of “The Undertaker” – Joe’s last film), William Lustig (Co-Producer / Director of “Maniac” / “Vigilante”), Robert Forster (Director of “Hollywood Harry” / Co-star in “Vigilante”), Sonny Grosso (Producer on “Strike Force” / “A Question of Honor”), Jason Miller (Co-star “The Ninth Configuration” / “Monsignor”), John C. Scott (Actor), Tom Rainone (#1 Fan), Tony Conforti (Broadway Producer), Patrick Jude (Actor), Joe Cirillo (Writer of “Mr. RobbueL Maniac II”), Caroline Munro (Co-star in “Maniac” / “The Last Horror Film”), Kate Forster (Co-star “Hollywood Harry”), and Buddy Giovinazzo (Director of “Mr. Robbie: Maniac II” Promo Reel). There’s the biography style story of his childhood, and how he got his big break with a role in the film “The Godfather“ (1972), along with discussion of his entire acting career – as told mostly by his sister. You also will get to see some old archival footage, home videos, and photos of Joe, as well as a glimpse at some paintings he did, as well as clips from films that he starred in. This documentary also features clips of a TV interview that Joe did on “The Joe Franklin Show” in 1981, which you can find in its entirety elsewhere on the disc. A video is included of Steven Spielberg made at his offices after he had released his film “Jaws” right before the Academy Award nominations, as he had his friend Joe actually sitting there rooting for him. Joe justifies why they [the Academy] should have nominated Spielberg for best director on that film. Some discussion eventually comes regarding this film [“Maniac”] along with his writing, funding, and acting he contributed to the film. The documentary ends on a bit of a sad note regarding some of Joe’s latter days and his untimely death in 1989. It’s worth noting that Joe was a huge fan of movies, of all genres, but especially the horror genre, of which he left us with this contribution.
- “Maniac Publicity” includes:
- “Paul Wunder” Radio Interview with William Lustig, Joe Spinell, and Caroline Munro (19:11 – HD) was hosted by film critic Paul Wunder for WBAI Radio in New York City. Wunder in the original programming block first offered up his review of the film and then interviewed the director and cast members during this interview.
- William Lustig on “Movie Madness” (47:18 – HD) was from a cable TV show it seems that was recorded on VHS February 18th, 1981. The show featured a format where viewers calls were answered by the guest and occasionally the host. This proves to be very entertaining and informative.
- Joe Spinell at Cannes (0:43 – HD) comes from a VHS tape.
- Joe Spinell on The Joe Franklin Show (13:13 – HD) was recorded in 1980. This talk-show ran from 1965 through 1993.
- Caroline Munro TV Interview (2:53 – HD) is featured as a short clip.
- “Barf Bag Review” (2:10 – HD) has a local TV news critic lashing out on the film for being bad. Nobody knows horror better than little grey haired old ladies, right? This proves to be a downright laugh.
- “Grindhouse Film Festival Q&A” (22:19 – HD) features William Lustig (Director) with some of the cast members at a screening at film festival. There’s not a lot to say here, as Bill says, that hasn’t been said. Just kidding, there’s a lot of great information here and it’s very much worth the watch.
- Still Gallery (2:02 – HD) will not play as a slideshow. You can use the remote buttons >>| and |<< to skip through the images. These include promo stills, behind-the-scenes photographs on the set, and promotional materials like movie posters.
- “Maniac Controversy” is comprised of archival broadcast TV news clips, interviews and the critics reactions to the film in certain areas. This is split up into six different featurettes:
- Los Angeles (7:49 – HD) includes coverage from Channel 7 News & Channel 11 News, as well as “NBC Tomorrow Show” – all of which aired in March of 1981.
- Chicago (2:13 – HD) includes coverage from Channel 2 News that aired in February of 1981.
- Philadelphia (3:26 – HD) includes cover from Channel 10 News, Channel 3 News, and Channel 6 News – all of which aired in March of 1981.
- “Newsbeat” (21:12 – HD) did two specials on the subjects of Violent Movies and Movie Violence. Aren’t those the same thing? Apparently not.
- “Midnight Blue” (6:33 – HD) features two segments where critic Al Goldstein goes on numerous rants about violent films, and namely this one on a cable TV show he hosted.
- Gallery of Outrage (0:28 – HD) will not play as a slideshow. You can use the remote buttons >>| and |<< to skip through the images of critics’ negative reviews for this film.
Overall these bonus materials prove to be very informative and entertaining. The two new additions come in the form of the newly discovered outtakes that are narrated by the film’s director William Lustig. Lustig on a new featurette revisits a lot of the locations where he shot the film at in New York, by returning to the scene of the crime – both literally and metaphorically. It’s a lot of fun hearing Lustig reminisce about making this film, the NYC area, and most importantly remembering his late friend Joe Spinell. These two new features alone are great and prove to even be a tad bit emotional and pay tribute of sorts.
There’s almost five hours here of extras, not including the two audio commentaries. Plus, you get the film’s original soundtrack included on a CD, a collectible booklet that features an essay about the film, and even reverse cover art (pictured further below).
Bonus Materials Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“Maniac” comes to Blu-ray with a new 4K restoration roughly 37 years after its original theatrical release and it looks better than you have ever seen it look before. The newly discovered original 16MM film negatives give us the original presentation as it was intended. The comparison to this 2018 release and the original 2010 Blu-ray is downright enough to leave you amazed by the amount of newfound detail, tasteful amount of film grain to be expected, and so much closer to a perfectly solid black level.
The audio presentation here is the same as the original 2010 Blu-ray in terms of the 7.1 surround lossless mix, but this is the first time we ever get a 2.0 Stereo lossless mix. The Stereo mix proves to be really nice, just as does the original 7.1 mix. This film just sounds great, no matter which audio configuration you now choose, if it’s English they both are lossless.
Then, there’s the hours of bonus materials that span across a total of 3 discs. You get two new featurettes that total up to a good bit themselves, as well as the physical bonuses of the included Compact Disc (CD) of the film’s original Soundtrack and a collectible booklet featuring an essay on the film. Then, there’s even a reversible cover art that you can find pictured a bit further below. It’s one perfectly rounded out set of bonus materials. Almost five hours of extras and all, that is well worthy of getting 5 out 5 for that rating in that section.
This is the best version of the 1980 horror classic that you’re going to probably own for a while. The folks at Blue Underground have absolutely done this film justice with this new “Limited Edition” Blu-ray Disc release. It’s sheer perfection in every single area. Even if you own the previously released 2010 Blu-ray Disc release, you might want to look closely at those screenshots and comparisons as this looks a whole lot better. 5 across the board here for ratings, and that’s something very rare for me to be able to justify.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
5 (out of 5) for bonus materials
Very Highly Recommended
2018 Blu-ray Disc Screenshots: