Revisiting the “Classics”: MANIAC (1934)
Had this film not been made a couple of decades before Ed Wood started directing, writing, and producing, one might easily believe that MANIAC is one of his early efforts. It’s that bad, and that “good.” But then there is an undercurrent of meanness in MANIAC that Ed would never have promoted, scenes of animal cruelty (fake, thankfully) and sexual victimization of women, fare that Wood would have found unpalatable. MANIAC, then, is like the work of a sleazier Ed Wood. But unlike any of Wood’s films (and I’m not counting the porno films Wood had to make late in his career out of economic necessity alone) where there is a clear “vision” and a love for the piece of cinematic Art, its painfully obvious that the creators of MANIAC had no interests whatsoever beyond making a quick buck.
Those “creators” were ex-carnie turned exploitation specialist Dwain Esper, who directed, and his wife Hildegarde Stadie, who wrote the screenplay (the only portions of this latter that can qualify as a “plot” are the pieces she stole whole-cloth from Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Black Cat”). MANIAC, which features onscreen nudity, tapdanced around the Hays Code (Adopted in 1934, and officially known as the Motion Picture Production Code, this governing body forbade depictions of nudity, drug use, etc. in movies; it was replaced in 1968 with the current MPAA ratings system, although it had only been loosely enforced for years before that.) by being shilled as an “educational” film!
You honestly have to see this one to believe it, friends. You won’t believe how bad the acting is, how incompetent and amateurish the direction, how low the production values of the overall piece. (That’s allowing that there actually WERE production values involved, but honestly it’s hard to spot any.) This flick is SO amateurish and unprofessional that the identities of several of the performers in the cast remain unknown. The ones whose names ARE known probably wished, during life, that they hadn’t been. Odds bodkins, but this movie is BAD!
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!