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theatrical poster
Directed by Dwain Esper
Produced by Dwain Esper
Louis Sonney
Hildegarde Stadie
Written by Edgar Allan Poe (story)
Hildegarde Stadie
Starring William Woods
Horace B. Carpenter
Cinematography William C. Thompson
Editing by William Austin
Distributed by Roadshow Attractions
Release date(s) September 11, 1934 (US)
Running time 51 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5,000 (estimated)

Maniac, also known as Sex Maniac, is a 1934 black and white exploitation/horror film, directed by Dwain Esper and written by Hildegarde Stadie, Esper's wife, as a loose adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Black Cat", with references to his "Murders in the Rue Morgue".[1] Esper and Stadie also made the 1936 exploitation film Marihuana.

The film, which was advertised with the tagline "He menaced women with his weird desires!", is in the public domain. A restored version was made available in 1999, as part of a double feature with another Dwain Esper film, Narcotic! (1933). A full length Rifftrax for the movie was released on November 25th, 2009, with commentary by Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. John Wilson, the founder of the Golden Raspberry Award, named Maniac as one of the "100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made" in his book The Official Razzies Movie Guide.



Close-up of Bill Woods as "Don Maxwell" pretending to be "Dr. Meirschultz"

Don Maxwell (William Woods) is a former vaudeville impersonator who is working as the lab assistant to Dr. Meirschultz (Horace Carpenter) a mad scientist attempting to bring the dead back to life. When Don kills Meirschultz, he attempts to hide his crime by "becoming" the doctor, taking over his work, dressing like him, wearing his beard, and slowly going insane.

The "doctor" treats a mental patient, Buckley (Ted Edwards), but accidentally injects him with adrenaline, which causes him to go into violent fits. Buckley's wife (Phyllis Diller) discovers the body of the real doctor, and blackmails Don into turning her husband into a zombie. The ersatz doctor turns the tables on her by manipulating her into fighting with his estranged wife (Thea Ramsey), a former showgirl. When the cat-breeding neighbor Goof (Marian Blackton) sees what's going on, he calls the police, who stop the fight and, following the sound of Satan the cat, find the body of the real doctor hidden behind a brick wall.[2][3]


Typical of the exploitation films of Dwain Esper, Maniac contains gratuitous scenes of women lounging around in their lingerie.
  • William Woods as Don Maxwell
  • Horace B. Carpenter as Dr. Meirschultz
  • Ted Edwards as Buckley
  • Phyllis Diller as Mrs. Buckley
  • Thea Ramsey as Alice Maxwell
  • Jenny Dark as Maizie
  • Marvelle Andre as Marvel
  • Celia McCann as Jo
  • John P. Wade as Embalmer
  • Marian Blackton as Goof, the cat-breeding neighbor
Cast notes
  • Horace B. Carpenter was a producer, director and actor from the silent era who generally portrayed whitehaired characters in Westerns once sound came in.[1][4]
  • This is only film that William Woods performed in. He later became a makeup artist, working in film and television until 1968.[5]
  • Marian Blackton appears in male drag as the neighbor who catches and breeds cats. She was the sister of Maniac's assistant director and daughter of J. Stuart Blackton, founder of Vitagraph Studios and the father of American animation.[1]
  • The actress named Phyllis Diller in this film is no relation to the comedienne Phyllis Diller.
Mad scientist Dr. Meirschultz, played by Horace B. Carpenter.


The fake doctor prepares to give a half-clothed patient an injection.


The footage that is superimposed over the scenes where the actor, disguised as the mad scientists, is descending into madness where from the 1920 Swedish film Witchcraft Through the Ages by Benjamin Christensen and Siegfried, a 1923 silent film by Fritz Lang.[6][1]

See also


External links

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