Maniac (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: May 21, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Maniac (4K UHD Review)

Director

William Lustig

Release Date(s)

1980 (May 26, 2020)

Studio(s)

Magnum Motion Pictures Inc/Analysis Film Releasing Corporation (Blue Underground)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A+
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: A+

Maniac (4K UHD Disc)

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Review

[Editor's Note: We are using a censored version of the cover art. We cannot post the original artwork or Google will flag the site and crush our advertising.]

Few films stirred up as much controversy in the 1980s as Maniac (outside of Silent Night, Deadly Night and The Last Temptation of Christ). One of the most violent and effective slasher films of the era, it managed to get down and dirty while also working as a compelling piece of narrative. Protest groups went after it, attacking it for its assumed misogyny and disturbing content, but failing to recognize it as a complicated character study.

Joe Spinell stars as Frank Zito, a low-life serial killer living in New York City who murders and scalps women, adding to his collection that he keeps tacked to the heads of mannequins inside his grungy apartment. After meeting a sexy and kind-hearted photographer (Caroline Munro), he begins to struggle with his inner demons, and whether or not to murder her as well.

Maniac is definitely one of those films that requires a shower after watching it. It’s not trying to be disgusting or disturbing for the sake of it, but simply telling a story about a horrible individual that you’re also meant to empathize with on some level, which is why so many people are turned off by it. Nobody likes being in the head of a murderer, much less relating to one. Frank Zito is both likable and despicable, and you’re rooting for him as much as you are cheering for his demise. It exemplifies what a truly great actor Joe Spinell was.

Above all else, Maniac is a powerful piece of low budget filmmaking that, even today, still gets under one’s skin, but it does it with more than just carbon copied viscera and uninteresting characters. Between Spinell’s performance and the special make-up effects work, courtesy Tom Savini who continually topped himself throughout the 1980s, Maniac is certainly more favorably looked upon and accepted now than it was when it originally opened.

Maniac was shot on 16 mm and blown up for 35 mm theatrical projection. It was finished on film as a cut negative with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The Ultra HD is sourced from a 4K 16-bit scan of the original camera negative (also used for the Limited Edition Blu-ray release in 2018). It features a high dynamic range color grade in Dolby Vision (with HDR10 available as well). The 4K presentation actually improves upon its 2018 counterpart, adding further clarity and fine detail, as well as tightening up the grain slightly. Every square inch of Spinell’s sweaty, hairy persona is now on full display, even more so in 2160p. Black levels are more natural and less crushed, revealing the minutiae of detail found in the shadows. The color palette is also striking, particularly blues, reds, and browns. As far as print artifacts or age, minor speckling is all that remains. The presentation is stable, organic, and the best the film has ever looked on home video.

For the audio, several options are available, including English (7.1 compatible) Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 and 2.0 in DTS-HD, and Spanish, French, Italian, and German 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai. The new Atmos track provides a solid experience that builds upon its surround and stereo counterparts, widening out the soundstage and adding height to specific cues, including the score and sound effects. Essentially, the film still sounds as it always has, just with a bit more room to breathe. The original stereo track is clean and clear too, with good uses of sound placement and ambience. The 5.1 track is the loudest experience of the three, but with equal sonic power. On all of the tracks, dialogue exchanges are clear and discernable. There are no instances of hiss, crackle, or dropouts.

This release also contains the following bonus materials:

DISC ONE: FILM (UHD)

  • Audio Commentary with William Lustig and Andrew W. Garroni
  • Audio Commentary with William Lustig, Tom Savini, Lorenzo Marinelli, and Luke Walter
  • US “Hard” Trailer (HD – 1:32)
  • US “Soft” Trailer (HD – 1:19)
  • International Trailer (HD – 3:48)
  • French Trailer (HD – 1:22)
  • German Teaser (HD – 0:54)
  • German Trailer (HD – 2:50)
  • Italian Trailer (HD – 3:24)
  • TV Spot #1: Stalking (SD – 0:32)
  • TV Spot #2: Models (SD – 0:32)
  • TV Spot #3: Subway (SD – 0:32)
  • TV Spot #4: Helicopter (SD – 0:12)
  • TV Spot #5: Car (SD – 0:12)
  • TV Spot #6: Cemetery (SD – 0:12)
  • TV Spot #7: Toy (SD – 0:12)
  • TV Spot #8: Poster (SD – 0:12)
  • TV Spot #9: I Warned You (SD – 0:32)
  • Radio Spot #1 (HD – 1:03)
  • Radio Spot #2 (HD – 1:05)
  • Radio Spot #3 (HD – 0:39)
  • Radio Spot #4 (HD – 0:36)

DISC TWO: EXTRAS (BLU-RAY)

  • Outtakes (HD – 18:53)
  • Returning to the Scene of the Crime (HD – 7:53)
  • Anna and the Killer (HD – 13:04)
  • The Death Dealer (HD – 12:07)
  • Dark Notes (HD – 12:12)
  • Maniac Men (HD – 10:35)
  • The Joe Spinell Story (SD – 49:20)
  • Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel (HD – 7:24)
  • Soundtrack Radio Interview with William Lustig, Joe Spinell, and Caroline Munro (HD – 19:11)
  • William Lustig on Movie Madness (SD – 47:18)
  • Joe Spinell at Cannes (SD – 0:43)
  • The Joe Franklin Show with Joe Spinell (SD – 13:13)
  • Caroline Munro TV Interview (SD – 2:53)
  • Barf Bag Review Policy (SD – 2:10)
  • 2010 Grindhouse Film Festival Q&A (HD – 22:19)
  • Still Gallery (HD – 121 images)
  • 1981 Channel 7, Los Angeles News Report (SD – 2:18)
  • 1981 Channel 11, Los Angeles News Report (SD – 1:35)
  • 1981 NBC Tomorrow Show, Los Angeles (SD – 3:55)
  • 1981 Channel 2, Chicago News Report (SD – 2:13)
  • 1981 Channel 10, Philadelphia News Report (SD – 0:29)
  • 1981 Channel 3, Philadelphia News Report (SD – 0:51)
  • 1981 Channel 3, Philadelphia News Report (SD – 1:12)
  • 1981 Channel 6, Philadelphia News Report (SD – 0:53)
  • Newsbeat: Violent Movies (SD – 12:45)
  • Newsbeat: Movie Violence (SD – 8:26)
  • Midnight Blue: Al Goldstein Rants Against Violent Movies (SD – 3:53)
  • Midnight Blue: Al Goldstein Mutilates His Love Doll (SD – 2:39)
  • Gallery of Outrage (HD – 26 images)

This is a massive amount of bonus materials, most of which have been ported over from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. On Disc One, the two audio commentaries go hand in hand with each other as they both provide a wealth of background information on the film from all of the participants in an upbeat manner. Anybody who has have ever heard William Lustig speak knows that they’re in for a treat. A set of trailers, TV spots, and radio spots round out the extras here. An Easter egg can also be found by highlighting any main menu option and pressing up, which will reveal a hidden drop of blood on the knife. Click on it to make it drip and a one-minute audio interview outtake with William Friedkin discussing the film will play.

On Disc Two, there are 19 minutes of newly-unearthed outtakes hosted by William Lustig. In Returning to the Scene of the Crime, William Lustig revisits the filming locations while talking about his experiences making the film. In Anna and the Killer, Caroline Munro recounts being cast in the film and her experiences working with Joe Spinell and William Lustig. In The Death Dealer, Tom Savini talks about his various make-up effects for the film. In Dark Notes, Jay Chattaway speaks about how he got into composing and his work on the film. Maniac Men features William Lustig interviewing songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky about their song Maniac from Flashdance and whether or not it was associated with Lustig’s film. The Joe Spinell Story is a fantastic 49-minute documentary by David Gregory of Severin Films about the actor and is a must-watch. The promo reel shows what a sequel to Maniac might have been. The interview from the radio show Soundtrack features Lustig, Spinell, and Munro delving into the making of the film and the controversy surrounding it. Movie Madness is a black and white 1981 TV program in which William Lustig is interviewed. The brief interview with Joe Spinell at the Cannes Film Festival shows him talking about future projects. The footage of Spinell on The Joe Franklin Show sees the actor talking about a variety of subjects. The TV interview with Caroline Munro features her talking about the film during its opening. Barf Bag Review Policy features a TV news segment with reporter Katie Kelly attempting to talk about the film. The still gallery features 121 images of promotional stills, behind-the-scenes shots, posters, trade ads, soundtrack artwork, home video art, lobby cards, and newspaper clippings. A set of local TV reports from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, as well as the news segment Newsbeat and the late night TV program Midnight Blue (hosted by Al Goldstein) examine the controversies surrounding Maniac and movies like it, or set out to attack them. Gallery of Outrage features 26 pages of various newspaper review quotes of the film. An Easter egg can be found by highlighting any main menu option and pressing down, which will reveal a hidden drop of blood on the end of the knife. Click on it to make it drip and reveal Joe Spinell at The Dive, which is 8 minutes of low quality VHS footage of Spinell on stage in front of an audience.

Not included from the Limited Edition Blu-ray package is the two-sided paper insert advertising comic book adaptations of both Maniac and Zombie; a 20-page insert booklet containing the essay Maniacs That Might Have Been by Michael Gingold; a CD featuring the film’s score by composer Jay Chattaway; and the lenticular slipcase.

Maniac, for all intents and purposes, is a truly frightening, unsettling, and unforgettable movie experience. Blue Underground has once again exceeded all expectations and delivered a mouth-watering UHD package of the film that is an absolute must-own. Highly recommended!

– Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

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