May 252020

Maniac may not be a favorite of mine nor do I hold it in as high regard as others, but there is certainly something to admire from Joe Spinell creepy performance to appreciation of some of the technical aspects of Tom Savini’s effects work.




Genre(s): Horror
Blue Underground | NR – 88 min. – $49.95 | May 26, 2020

Date Published: 05/25/2020 | Author: The Movieman

Directed by: William Lustig
Writer(s): Joe Spinell (story), C.A. Rosenberg and Joe Spinell (screenplay)
Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Gail Lawrence
Features: Commentaries, Featurettes, Trailers, Galleries
Slip Cover: Yes
Digital Copy: No
Formats Included: 4K UHD
Number of Discs: 2

Audio: English (Dolby Atmos), English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (DTS-HD MA 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0), Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0), German (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, German, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai
Codecs: HEVC / H.265
Region(s): A, B, C

Blue Underground provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.

Note: This review was originally published in 2018. Only the audio and video sections, with a slight change in features, has been updated.
All screen captures came from the Blu-ray release and do not reflect the 4K video.

THE MOVIE — 3.0/5

Plot Synopsis: Frank Zito (JOE SPINELL) is a deeply disturbed man, haunted by the trauma of unspeakable childhood abuse. And when these horrific memories begin to scream inside his mind, Frank prowls the seedy streets of New York City to stalk and slaughter innocent young women. Now Frank has begin a relationship with a beautiful photographer (CAROLINE MUNRO), yet his vile compulsions remain. These are the atrocities of a human monster. This is the story of a maniac.

Quick Hit Review: Upon my first viewing of Maniac some eight years ago, I wasn’t all that impressed. But with a new edition being released by the same company as the 30th anniversary, Blue Underground, I decided to give it another shot. Although I still don’t regard this as some horror slasher horror (with a psychological spin) all that highly, I did appreciate many elements more so this time around. For one, Joe Spinell was utterly compelling in his Frank Zito’s internal demons he continued to fight which could’ve led to an almost unintentional comedic performance and instead we got some truly disturbing scenes.

The other element that was fantastic was the gore effects, headed by legendary makeup effects man, Tom Savini. These were not only impressive but many were fairly realistic looking, even one decapitation wasn’t half bad even when you can tell it’s a dummy (not that they’d go full-on beheading for sake of realism).

In the end, Maniac is an effective psychological horror film propelled by a disturbing performance from Joe Spinell and under the direction of William Lustig (Maniac Cop Trilogy) from a script written by Spinell and C.A. Rosenberg.



This release comes with an embossed slip cover.

Disc 1:
Audio Commentaries:

  • Producer/Director William Lustig and Producer Andrew W. Gerroni
  • Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter

Both tracks were available on Blue Underground’s 30th Anniversary Edition and although the first one is alright, I generally prefer the ones with more participants with the second track offering a wide variety of information about the project, their roles and in the case of Walter, talking about actor Spinell.

There are also several Theatrical Trailers (15:12), 9 TV Spots (3:09) and 4 Radio Spots (3:21).

Disc 2:
Maniac Outtakes (18:53) has raw footage from 1980 and has narration by Lustig. This was actually rather interesting and Lustig offers his commentary discussing what we’re seeing on the screen.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime (7:53) has Bill Lustig revisiting the filming locations with comparisons with then in 1979 and now in 2018.


  • Anna and the Killer (13:04) – Actress Caroline Munro
  • The Death Dealer (12:07) – Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini
  • Dark Notes (12:12) – Composer Jay Chattaway
  • Maniac Men (10:35) – Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkowsky (who wrote the song ‘Maniac’ for Flashdance as Spinell back in the day insisted the song was meant for his movie, Maniac.

The Joe Spinell Story (49:20) is a great documentary from 2001 about the life and career of the actor with interviews by friends and family and his untimely death.

Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel (7:24) was some footage for a proposed sequel.

PUBLICITY includes a Radio Interview (19:11) with William Lustig, Joe Spinell & Caroline Munro; William Lustig on “Movie Madness” (47:18), a cable access program; Joe Spinell at Cannes (0:43) which is a short interview; Joe Spinell on “The Joe Franklin Show” (13:13) from 1981; Caroline Munro TV Interview (2:53); Barf Bag Review Policy (2:10) which is a humorous TV segment on a local station with Katie Kelly and her system of Barf Bag for bad movies; Grindhouse Film Festival Q&A (22:19) with William Lustig and a couple others; last up is a Still Gallery.

Under CONTROVERSY there are a collection segments from a variety of local TV networks in Los Angeles (7:46), Chicago (2:13) with Gene Siskel, Philadelphia (3:26) and on “NewsBeat” (21:12) and “Midngiht Blue” (6:33) plus a Gallery of Outrage.


VIDEO – 4.25/5

Blue Underground has forayed into the 4K market, releasing Maniac onto the 4K Ultra HD format where the movie is presented in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and given a 2160p high-definition transfer (HEVC / H.265 codec). There’s nothing specific about what was done for this, but presumably the original 16mm camera negative used for the 2018 released was then scanned at 4K 16-bit for this one. For my money, there might be a slight improvement though the Blu-ray already looked quite good considering the film’s very low budget. Detail here is decent albeit not terribly sharp and colors are fine but not particularly vibrant, understandable considering the dark, gritty and grimy NYC streets.

AUDIO – 3.5/5

The disc comes with from what I can tell, the same audio codecs from the 30th Anniversary release. Even so, the English language DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, as well as the accompanying 2.0 Stereo option, sounds pretty good especially for a movie going on nearly 40 years old and not meant for the audio to be dispersed across 7 channels. Dialogue comes through with relative clarity and the music by composer Jay Chattaway, along with some ambient noises, makes up the front and rear channels.

The above is from the 2018 Blu-ray review as this new Dolby Atmos track is more or less the same. Given when this was released in 1980 it probably as on a mono track, the expansion for that 7.1 track gives it more depth and this Atmos one isn’t incredibly different, at least I couldn’t percept a significant distinction.


OVERALL – 4.0/5

Overall, Maniac may not be a favorite of mine nor do I hold it in as high regard as others, but there is certainly something to admire from Joe Spinell creepy performance to appreciation of some of the technical aspects of Tom Savini’s effects work. It’s also quite amusing to see the outrage this film caused back in the day and, frankly, pales in comparison to many of the torture porn that has been released in the last decade.

  2 Responses to “Maniac 4K Ultra HD Review”

Comments (2)
  1. I would have certainly bumped up Maniac’s rating as a film, there’s a reason it’s been a favorite and endured so strongly for 40 years.

  2. All in an opinion, but I do see why it has a following.

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