The 1930s produced a cornucopia of grindhouse exploitation films (aka "sexploitation" movies), usually disguised as "educational" movies that were ostensible cautionary tales about one social problem or another.
This week's feature is Maniac from 1934:
This is another huge hot mess from Dwain Esper, the "King of the Celluloid Gypsies".
While it's kind of hard to tell what's going on in any given scene, the whole thing is a forced march through the many manifestations of 1930s ideas of insanity, with explanatory titles popping up periodically to tell us about things like Dementia Praecox, Manic-Depressives, and Paranoia.
Briefly, it's about a mad doctor, his crazy assistant and a large variety of sex-infused craziness. We're thrown a lot of wacked out stuff in a short period of time, including the weird goon of a neighbor who raises cats and rats. He has a thousand of each -- cats for the fur, rats for the cats to eat, and the rats in turn eat the corpses of the cats after they've been skinned, a nifty self-contained backyard entrepreneur operation.
There's a lot of emphasis on cats in this movie, including cats fighting in a funeral home(?), a cat that gets his eye gouged out and eaten(!) by the crazy assistant -- who has killed the mad doctor and assumed his persona -- and two women in a hypodermic-syringe-weapon "cat fight" in the cellar.
Wikipedia says that the plot is loosely based on "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allen Poe. Okay.
Along the way there's a lot of scenery-chewing hyper-thespianism by pretty much everyone involved, especially the mad doctor in the opening scenes. It's been heralded by several sources as the "worst movie ever made". I can believe it.
The money shot: Several of them, all of them completely gratuitous, including the simulated rape of a nude zombie girl, several "examinations" of women in various stages of undress by the mad doctor/crazy assistant, and a "meanwhile back at the ranch" scene with the crazy assistant's ex-wife and her skeezy female roommates in which everyone prances around in their briefest skivvies. I told you it was a hot mess...
Lessons learned: Beats me.
Directed by: Dwain Esper, whom we have seen before on this blog.
Taglines: He menaced women with weird desires! A Subject Seldom Discussed, True and Authentic/Nothing Withheld, Strange Loves Exposed, What Are the Dangers of Desire? What Wrecks Romances? The Truth About Love Fearlessly Told
Also known as Sex Maniac
- Maniac on the IMDB.
- Dwain Esper: King of the Celluloid Gypsies -- short documentary about Esper on YouTube.
- A Collection of 22 Exploitation Movie Trailers on YouTube.
- "Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!": A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959 by Eric Schaefer, the OPOVet Book of the Month for May 2015.