Maniac (1934)

Maniac (1934)

“Doctors and scientists often have some queer things on their mind.”

Mad Dr. Meierschultz (Horace Carpenter) enlists the help of his assistant, an ex-vaudevillian (Bill Woods), in stealing corpses to bring back to life. After killing Woods in self-defense, Carpenter assumes his identity and continues his work, going mad himself in the process.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Mad Doctors and Scientists
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is a huge fan of this “legitimate challenge to Plan 9 from Outer Space as the worst film ever made”, calling it “unbelievable and unforgettable”, a “consistently hilarious Poverty Row sleaze masterpiece”, and “the camp-lover’s dream come true”. He argues that it “manages to be tasteless and ridiculous the entire way through”, and notes that the “acting is sublimely bad”. I’ll admit I’m not nearly as enamored by this Z-grade flick as Peary is; sure, it’s ludicrous through-and-through, but it comes across merely as a pastiche of inept scenarios “interrupted throughout with text describing various forms of mental illness”. The two most infamous scenes show Wood wreaking gory vengeance on a cat who has eaten a preserved heart by “squeezing out its eyeball and swallowing it”, and an unlucky visitor (Tod Andrews) who is accidentally shot up with the wrong solution and “goes into an astonishing dying routine, rubbing his hands over his body and then his head, distorting his face, and speaking of terrible burning pain”, then imagining “himself as the orangutan murderer from Murders in the Rue Morgue” and picking up a “revived but catatonic ‘dead’ woman as she just happens to walk through the office”, carrying “her through the woods — her bare breasts show! — and then put[ting] her down and… strangling her”. If this all sounds like your cup of tea, go for it — but truly, this one simply belongs to the annals of early cinematic ineptitude.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some creepy imagery and reasonably effective low-budget cinematography

Must See?
No, though you may be curious to view it once for its cult status — and it’s easy enough to find as a public domain title.


One thought on “Maniac (1934)

  1. First and last viewing – and in agreement with the assessment given above. Yes, there are some (ok, more than some) bad films that are so bad they’re good. …I wouldn’t put this one in with those. Sometimes bad is just bad – and this is bad. Personally I don’t see any camp value here (but…perhaps – in a certain group of people – anything’s possible).

    Overall, I think it’s a bore.

Leave a Reply