"Maniac" is a 1934 film that was written by Hildegarde Stadie and directed by Dwain Esper. The film is 51 minutes long, which wasn't uncommon back in those days. I have developed a passion for watching old black and white horror films so I thought I'd write a review on this one when I stumbled across and subsequently watched it.
The film stars Bill Woods as Don Maxwell and Horace Carpenter as Dr. Meirschu. This was Woods' only film role as he was noted for being a make-up artist and had worked on films such as "Samson and Delilah" (1949) and "Buckskin" (1968) as well as the "I Spy" TV series. Carpenter was an actor of some 300+ films and wrote and directed a number of westerns. "Maniac" has been listed on the 100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made, but is it really that bad? Read on to find out!
The plot reads as follows: A vaudeville performer becomes the lab assistant to a research scientist experimenting on reanimating dead tissue. When the doctor is accidentally killed during one of his experiments, the assistant takes on the persona of the doctor and continues his work. The imposter does succeed in reviving the deceased doctor but then slowly falls into madness.
I will start out by saying this was the longest 51 minutes of my life and 51 minutes I will never get back again. This really is one of the worst films I've ever seen. The acting was horrendous and wooden - almost as if the 'actors', and I term that loosely, were reading from cue cards. The doctor had a fake beard which, even in black and white, you could see it wasn't the real deal. I did wonder how long this took to shoot because if it wasn't done in a day and one shoot per scene, I'd be highly surprised.
There is a scene where the doctor and his assistant visit the local morgue to steal a body and the woman is clearly breathing, and this happens to 'dead bodies' throughout the film. Then you have poor Mrs. Buckley (Phyllis Diller) who brings her sick husband (Ted Edwards) to see the doctor. Mr. Buckley proceeds to go stark raving mad and runs off into the night, while his wife proceeds to carry on a conversation with the doctor as if nothing happened.
Another scene that didn't make sense until the very last moment was a group of Vaudeville actresses that were apparently backstage waiting to go on-stage. They talked loosely - so loosely that they were barely audible - and decided to do something about Don Maxwell. What part they had in the film is unclear and the by now very thin plot was starting to grow tedious. Then there is the fight between Mrs. Buckley and another young woman in the doctor's basement which wasn't really a fight, but a few love taps and plenty of screaming.
In summary, if you like cheesy horror films from the early days of cinematography, there are better out there than this. But if you want something that's just plain awful no matter which way you look at it, this is for you. I know there are a lot of people out there that love that sort of thing, and I know some of those will enjoy this because it's so bad. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people. The acting was awful, the effects were poor, and the film just didn't get going as far as I'm concerned. Shame really, but there are better films out there, but are there many worse than this? That's for you to decide.
My rating: 2/10