Maniac (Dwain Esper, 1934)

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Maniac (Dwain Esper, 1934)

#1 Post by Jerryvonkramer » Tue Dec 30, 2014 10:30 pm

I watched this film last night and found it truly jaw-dropping at times. Through all the many weird movies I've seen, I don't think I've seen one as truly bonkers as Maniac. I've spent quite a bit today reading around Esper and it seems that his reputation is that of a huckster and "the one director who was worse than Ed Wood".

But the feeling I've not been able to escape today is that there was some in Maniac that was genuinely captivating. I watched the whole thing transfixed, with a mixture of bemusement, astonishment and shock. I mean, it seems strange to me after such an experience to turn around and call the whole thing "awful". Yes, the acting is atrocious, the editing ... unusual and the camera work amateurish, but the comparisons to Wood seem desperately unfair to me. I never got the sense of that hopeless ineptitude that you get with Wood, but rather something that is properly deranged.

The transformation of the patient into the insane-orangutan-man after the jab of adrenaline is one of the few things that I've been totally gob-smacked by when watching a film. Then the cat's eye ball. Then the fight between the two women with the syringes. It's stayed with me. I'm still thinking about it a whole night later.

I happened to watch it on the same night as The Black Cat -- also made in 1934, also inspired by Poe -- and it's Maniac that I'm thinking about today. Black Cat is nice to look at, but it's cold and angular and left me cold. If I'd come at the two films with no idea of reputations, I'd argue that Maniac might be the more interesting, and maybe even the better.

Anyone else have any views on this one? Are there any Esper fans out there? And I guess I mean un-ironic fans, people who think something Maniac has value rather than to point and laugh at it as trash.

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