Not to be confused with the 1980 splatterfest starring Joe Spinell, this completely insane exploitation flick was the work of Dwain Esper, one of the “40 Thieves” of the early grindhouse days who responded to the Hayes Code of Hollywood by rushing out and making movies that broke all the rules. They could only get away with this by feigning a stance of Social Education, so in Maniac we get a lot of text scrolls defining various psychological ailments, as if this were a serious inquiry into modern maladies of the mind. Between the definitions, we have a story that might make sense if you’re drunk off your ass.
A mad doctor is experimenting with bringing the dead back to life. His assistant, a failed Vaudevillian who does impersonations, kills the old doc and assumes his identity. Most reviews prefer to rattle off a list of the movie’s crimes against coherence rather than trying to decipher its plot (an exception is the hilarious review at Bad Movie Report). All I can say is that what you may have heard is true: there is a female catfight involving hypodermic needles; there is female nudity; there is a cat who gets its eye popped out and eaten; and there is the greatest laughable freakout scene in movie history when the faux doctor injects a live human (who already thinks he’s an orangutan) with the re-animating potion — oh, God, scenes like that are why I love bad movies. A true trash masterpiece, destined to be cherished by anyone who loves to while away an afternoon watching atrociously acted black-and-white exploitation sleaze from 78 years ago.