Maniac is a 1934 American horror feature film directed by Dwain Esper (Reefer Madness) and written by Hildegarde Stadie, Esper’s wife, as a loose adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Black Cat”, with references to his “Murders in the Rue Morgue”.
The film, which was advertised with the tagline “He menaced women with his weird desires!”, is in the public domain.
Don Maxwell (William Woods) is a former vaudeville impersonator who is working as the lab assistant to Doctor Meirschultz (Horace Carpenter), a mad scientist attempting to bring the dead back to life. When Don kills Meirschultz, he attempts to hide his crime by “becoming” the doctor, taking over his work and copying his appearance and manner. In the process, he slowly goes insane.
The “doctor” treats a mental patient, Buckley (Ted Edwards), but accidentally injects him with adrenaline, which causes him to go into violent fits. Buckley’s wife (Phyllis Diller) discovers the body of the real doctor and blackmails Don into turning her husband into a zombie.
The ersatz doctor turns the tables on her by manipulating her into fighting with his estranged wife (Thea Ramsey), a former showgirl. When the cat-breeding neighbor Goof sees what’s going on, he calls the police, who stop the fight and, following the sound of Satan the cat, find the body of the real doctor hidden behind a brick wall…
Reviews [click links to read more]:
“Don’t pass up the chance to see this incredible old adults-only oddity… You won’t believe it!” Michael Weldon, The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film
“Often dismissed as a low-budget mad scientist movie, Maniac is actually a wondrously crude, cleverly modernized retelling of Poe’s The Black Cat, laced with the suggestion and outright depiction of a wide array of forbidden topics: necrophilia, murder, reanimation, nudity, and animal abuse.” Bret Wood in Guilty Pleasures of the Horror Film – Edited by Gary J. Svehla and Susan Svehla, Midnight Marquee Press, Arlington USA, 1996
“Less than an hour long, seemingly stitched together from spare parts like Frankenstein’s monster and therefore discombobulated to the point of delirium, Maniac is a long-lost gem that deserves to reclaim its place in the forefront of incredibly incompetent cinema classics.” John Wilson, The Official Razzie Movie Guide
“Jaw-dropping weirdness, a real piece of showmanship history, and a must for genre aficionados.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics