Maniac (1980) (Umbrella)

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Released 16-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers'
Audio-Only Track-Radio Interview With William Lustig And Cast
Featurette-Documentary -The Joe Spinell Story
TV Spots
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Dawn Of The Dead, I Drink Your Blood, Eaten Alive
Trailer-Last House On The Left
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 87:51
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By William Lustig
Magnum Motion Pict
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Joe Spinell
Caroline Munro
Gail Lawrence
Kelly Piper
Rita Montone
Tom Savini
Hyla Marrow
James Brewster
Linda Lee Walter
Tracie Evans
Sharon Mitchell
Carol Henry
Nelia Bacmeister
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $29.95 Music Jay Chattaway
Coati Mundi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††††Director, William Lustig has had an interesting vocation in the film world. His career spans directing low budget porn films (under the alias of Billy Bagg) in the 1970s, through to becoming the CEO of one of the world's most respected DVD distribution labels, Blue Underground.

†††† Lustig came to prominence in 1980 with a macabre and brutal little film called, Maniac. This film became notorious for its extreme depiction of violence and realistic murder scenes. On its theatrical release, Maniac was often heavily censored or banned outright in some countries around the world. These days the film is still heavy going and confronting, however the degree of censorship has predominantly been eased. This region free DVD edition from Umbrella Entertainment has been transferred from an uncut theatrical print.

†††† The streets of Manhattan are at the mercy of a crazed and brutal serial killer. Each passing day brings newspaper reports of yet another vicious slaying. Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) would appear to be your average New Yorker living alone in a small apartment. However, he does have a couple of underlying issues. Frank is tormented by the inner voice of his dead mother and he is a serial killer. His room contains an expanding collection of mannequins, all sporting the scalps of his unfortunate female victims. Frank's "mummy" problems have seemingly led him to become this sadistic killer. He stalks his victims, viciously kills them and then removes their scalp - all this so that he can keep them with him forever.

†††† As simple as this premise is, Maniac is still an effectively creepy little film. While some elements of the story are lacking in basic common sense, the very nature of this film is enough to keep the viewer on edge throughout.

†††† As previously mentioned, many scenes in Maniac are particularly brutal and realistic. The work of horror effects legend Tom Savini is at the forefront of this film, with an authentic assortment of gruesome murders. Tom also plays a small role in the film as one of Frank's victims. The late Joe Spinelli is well known for his many small roles in films such as The Godfather - Parts I & II, Taxi Driver and Rocky. I believe his role in Maniac may be the only leading role he had in his cinematic career. Apart from his suitably disturbing performance, Joe also wrote the story, co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced the film. On a more trivial note, William Lustig is the nephew of legendary boxer Jake La Motta.

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Transfer Quality


†††† Maniac is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.80:1, 16x9 enhanced. The correct ratio for this film is 1.85:1.

†††† Maniac was shot on 16mm stock and blown up to 35mm so naturally the overall quality of the image is never going to be pristine. I haven't seen Maniac in a cinema so I have no basis to compare images. However, the image on this DVD is quite soft - much softer than I was expecting. Considering the opening titles have reasonable sharpness, it probably indicates an inherent softness in the source material. Strangely though, in many ways it actually suits the film and adds to the gritty ambience. Blacks were generally clean, but shadow detail was only average.

†††† The colours in Maniac are generally subdued and washed out, with a distinctive 1970s appearance. Apart from the obvious vibrant blood red, the palette is quite drab. As was the case with the image softness, these washed out colours have some genuine appeal here. Film-to-video artefacts weren't overly problematic and film artefacts were minimal.

†††† There are no subtitles available on this edition.

†††† This is a DVD 9 dual layer disc. The layer change was quite obvious and occurs at 70:27.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


†††† There are two audio tracks available on the disc - English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded (192Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

†††† Dialogue quality was mostly fine. Apart from a couple of minor ADR issues there were no significant problems with audio sync.

†††† The creepy original music is credited to Jay Chattaway. His score adds significantly to the macabre nature of the film and also to the shock value.

†††† Although this edition is missing the gutsy multi-channel re-mixes, the Dolby 2.0 surround encoded track is still quite effective throughout the film. The subwoofer was lively during certain shock moments and music passages.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



†††† The main menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and features some ambient sound from the film.

Audio Commentary with William Lusitg, Tom Savini, Lorenzo Marinelli and Luke Walter.

†††† These guys clearly enjoy each otherís company and all have great pride in the film. This is a fine commentary full of humorous anecdotes and great insights into the production of Maniac. Virtually every aspect of the production is discussed. Of particular interest to me were the many references to other films made throughout Maniac - some are obvious, some not so much. William Lustig is quite frank about this and talks openly about his homage. Well worth a listen.

Featurette - The Joe Spinell Story (49:18)

†††† An excellent 2001 documentary by David Gregory, produced for Blue Underground. This film showcases the highs and lows in the career of Joe Spinell. This film is full of interesting anecdotes and features numerous interviews with colleagues of Joe. Naturally, the film also features footage from many of Joe Spinell's films. Recommended viewing.

Radio Interview - with William Lustig, Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro (19:12)

†††† This audio only radio interview was recorded for WBAI, New York around the time of the cinema release of Maniac. If you can put up with the interviewer constantly sniffing (I guess he had a cold), it's a reasonably informative piece.

TV Spots (2:02)

Stills/Poster Gallery

†††† A collection of 69 images relating to Maniac. Despite the description, there are no poster images in this collection.

Theatrical Trailer

†††† Maniac (1:19)

More Gore - Umbrella Trailers

†††† Dawn of the Dead (2:36) I Drink Your Blood (2:47) Eaten Alive (2:01) Last House on the Left (1:58)


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† I will compare this Umbrella edition of Maniac with the region free edition from Blue Underground. It seems that in terms of extras this Umbrella edition has been ported over from the US Blue Underground set. However, the latter set has a few additional quality features which are not included on the Umbrella edition; these include:

†††† 6.1 dts-ES audio track - English only

†††† 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX audio track - English only

†††† Additional French and Italian audio tracks.

†††† Optional Spanish subtitles

†††† Closed captions

†††† Footnote: In October 2010, Blue Underground will release a two-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray edition of Maniac. These editions will include many brand new extras.


††††Maniac is a macabre and brutal little film that still has the ability to shock an audience some thirty years after its initial release.

†††† The video and audio transfers are acceptable.

†††† The selection of extras is very informative and relevant.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, August 02, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35 Blu Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
NTSC to PAL conversion? - cztery REPLY POSTED
Maniac - cztery