MANIAC (1963) Reviews of Hammer’s psychological thriller

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‘White-hot terror! Cold, clammy fear!’
Maniac is a 1963 British psychological thriller about an American painter who has an affair with a bar owner in a French village and agrees to help murder her husband, who has escaped from a prison for the criminally insane. Also known as The Maniac

Directed by Michael Carreras from a screenplay by producer Jimmy Sangster.

Maniac 1963jimmy sangster
The for Hammer Film Productions movie stars Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston, Liliane Brousse (Paranoiac), George Pastell, Arnold Diamond, Norman Bird, Justine Lord and Jerold Wells.

In the US, Mill Creek Entertainment is released Maniac on Blu-ray, double-billed with Die! Die! My Darling (aka Fanatic) on March 6, 2018.


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Plot synopsis:
Vacationing American artist Jeff Farrell (Kerwin Matthews) becomes romantically involved with an older woman, Eve Beynat (Nadia Gray), in southern France while holding some attraction for her teenage stepdaughter Annette (Liliane Brousse).

Eve’s husband/Annette’s father Georges is in an asylum for, four years ago, using a blowtorch to kill a man who had raped Annette. Believing it will help make Eve his for life, Jeff agrees to assist her in springing Georges from the asylum. Of course, Eve has a completely different agenda in mind…


Reviews [may contain spoilers]:
“Things do pick up once the escape gets underway, and there are a goodly number of surprising plot twists in the story. However, I’m not sure all of the plot twists were strictly necessary, and some of the sequences (the need to dispose of a dead body) are good for the moment, but don’t really lead anywhere satisfactory in the long run.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

Maniac has one thing and has it in spades – a plot of extraordinary cunning… (It) takes on a twitching suspense that simmers, sizzles and explodes in a neat backflip … Michael Carreras’ direction is uneven and the characters are a generally flabby lot… Maniac remains a striking blueprint, with satanic tentacles, for a much better picture’. Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

‘Sangster”s script includes some thoroughly unexpected twists in its final stages. In this regard, the film cheats outrageously during the early part of the film but it would be unfair to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet and ultimately this knowledge just adds to the enjoyment, showing the efforts the filmmakers did go to fake the viewers out.’ Tipping My Fedora


Maniac toes the line between its noir tendencies and its straight-up horror elements. It’s both a grisly and slick little crime story that keeps you on your toes until the very end; it’s well-written pulp, the type of story that employs cheap tricks and cheaper thrills, but it works.’ Brett Gallman. Oh, the Horror!

Maniac’s Psycho-like midpoint twist, meanwhile, is actually the crux of a double fake-out; its shower scene moment only seems to eliminate its Janet Leigh. That gives Maniac a unity of tone and purpose that Sangster’s other early-60’s thrillers lack, but that isn’t always a point in this movie’s favor. A few more disorienting revelations or whiplash-inducing subgenre shifts might have disguised the glaring unlikelihood of the twists and turns that it does take.’ 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

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Cast and characters:
Kerwin Mathews … Jeff Farrell
Nadia Gray … Eve Beynat
Donald Houston … Henri
Liliane Brousse … Annette Beynat
George Pastell … Inspector Etienne
Arnold Diamond … Janiello
Norman Bird … Salon
Justine Lord … Grace
Jerold Wells … Giles
Leon Peers … Blanchard
André Maranne … Salon

Filming locations:
Montfrin, Gard, France (Eve and Jeff meet at the WWI memorial)
Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France (Roman amphitheatre)
Les Baux-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France (quarry)
Camargue, France
MGM British Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England (studio)

Filmed in May and June 1962. Filmed in black and white and “MegaScope”.

When originally released theatrically in the UK, the BBFC made cuts to secure a ‘X’ rating. All cuts were waived in 2017 when the film was granted a ’12’ certificate for home video.



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