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1981 Movie Reviews – Maniac

by Sean P. Aune | March 6, 2021March 6, 2021 10:30 am EST

Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1981 was an exciting year for films giving us a lot of films that would go on to be beloved favorites and cult classics. It was also the start to a major shift in cultural and societal norms, and some of those still reverberate to this day.

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We’re going to pick and choose which movies we hit, but right now the list stands at nearly three dozen.

Yes, we’re insane, but 1981 was that great of a year for film.

The articles will come out – in most cases – on the same day the films hit theaters in 1981 so that it is their true 40th anniversaries. All films are also watched again for the purposes of these reviews and are not being done from memory. In some cases, it truly will be the first time we’ve seen them.

This time around it’s March 6, 1981, and we’re off to see Maniac!

Quick side note: Since we launched this series this year, we’ve discovered that Vintage Video Podcast is doing the exact same project with two differences: First, it’s audio (naturally), and second, they are doing every major film. We’ve listened to a couple of episodes and it’s fun checking off their thoughts against my own. Check them out over at Vintage Video Podcast.

1981 Movie Project - Maniac - 01

Maniac

Have you ever thought to yourself, “You know what this slasher film needs is more shoe tying and getting dressed scenes”? Well, have I got a movie for you, step right on over to Maniac!

Maniac is a miss-mash of killer tropes thrown into a blender and out pores a pulpy mess of half-baked ideas. The movie follows Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) as he goes on a killing spree that we slowly learn was brought on due to abandonment issues from his mother being a horrible parent. Think of it as Psycho in reverse where Norman Bates was smothered by his mother.

Frank can integrate with society fairly easily and go about his day, but you always know when he is about to get into murder mode as he starts heavy breathing like an obscene phone caller with hay fever. It’s not so much unsettling are terror inducing as gross sounding.

Beyond a lackluster script, sub-par acting, and horrific sound effects, the film is just boring and filled with far too much padding. My opening joke about if you’re looking for more shoe tying isn’t really a joke. This happens fairly early in the movie as we watch him lace up his boots. It’s not done from some avant grade angle, it’s done from high and above so the boot is fairly obscured by his body. And it just keeps going.

Next, when he has lied up another victim – a sex worker – he takes her to a hotel and we get a lengthy check-in scene to a by-the-hour flop house. We didn’t even need to see them check in, just go to the room. But no, we have to have the clerk ask him if he also wants a color television in the room. I guess this was to put the victim at east, but it really just ended up boring the audience.

The strongest asset to this film are the special effects by Tom Savini – who has a small cameo in the film as well – but even they aren’t that great considering other films that would be coming out within months of Maniac.

As slasher films go, you can definitely give this one a pass.

The 1981 movie reviews will return on March 13 with The Funhouse!


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Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing