Thursday, December 3, 2009

Maniac (1934)

I had free time after work and was too tired to do any reading. I popped in a disk from my public domain horror collection and watched Maniac. The greybeard scientist is working on his plan to reanimate dead tissue. Apparently he watched Frankenstein a couple years earlier and wanted to do exactly that.

Dr. Meirschultz's Ygor is a vaudeville actor named Maxwell who is wanted by the police. His specialty is impersonations and here he is impersonating an actor. Seriously. The actor was apparently a makeup artist in his only acting role. Meirschultz needs a body to do a full scale experiment and has Max impersonate the coroner to gain entry to the morgue. Max is worried but agrees.

Is this supposed to be a comedy? The script is bad but the acting is among the worst I've ever seen. And that is saying something! "Once a ham, always a ham!"

In the morgue they find what they are looking for: a young hottie who committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. The undertaker, believing Maxwell as the coroner, makes some risque comments. The body is brought back to the lab.

Time for the next step. Need to find a body with a shattered heart and replace it with a throbbing prop he has in a jar. Meirschultz had a great idea! He tells Max to kill himself and promises to bring him back from the dead. Nope, no red flags there. Instead Max kills his mentor.

Here the story becomes a little disjointed. Max impersonates Meirschultz, a woman arrives seeking help for her schizoid husband and sees the body, schizoid husband goes berserk and carries reanimated hottie (who's goodies are briefly visible) off to a park to do the Zombie Mambo. Max's wayward wife learns that Max has inherited a fortune and seeks him out. Max sinks lower and lower into insanity while scenes from crazy-weird silent films are superimposed over him.

And quite frankly, so do I. This film is nuts. There are montage scenes where it is implied Max/Schultz molests a woman (who's goodies are briefly visible). Oh, right, this is Sex Maniac, the exploitation film. Now I remember.

Oh, and the cat fights. There are several scenes where cats are fighting each other, chasing mice, and being all around annoying. In one scene they tied a cat and dog together to make them really go at it. Charming. Don't get be started about the crazy cat man. All this was brought together at the end when the schizoid's wife and Max's wife have a cat fight of their own. There may have been a little boobage there as well.

The schizoid's wife, by the way, was played by Phyllis Diller. Not THE Phyllis Diller, just a Phyllis Diller. I wonder if the original run time was longer. What I saw was just under 51 minutes and there were jump cut scenes that may have contained more naughty bits. There is a fully restored version but I won't be looking it up.

The film was loosely based on Poe's The Black Cat and written by the director's wife. Imagine that. "Honey, I want to do a sex film. Could you write it for me?" There was another Poe reference, when The Murders in the Rue Morgue was mentioned.

I kinda enjoyed the film but you can't get around the fact that it was a really poorly made film. The dialog was poor, the acting was terrible, the best thing I can say is the sets were good. The weird montage scenes were interesting if for no other reason that because they were so unique. In the final analysis, I can't truly say I'm glad I watched it. AMRU 2.5. Watch it for yourself.

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