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Maniac (1980 film): Wikis


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Theatrical release poster.
Directed by William Lustig
Produced by Andrew W. Garroni
William Lustig
Written by C.A. Rosenberg
Joe Spinell
Starring Joe Spinell
Music by Jay Chattaway
Cinematography Robert Lindsay
Editing by Lorenzo Marinelli
Distributed by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation
Release date(s) December 26, 1980
Running time 87 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget $550,000

Maniac is a 1980 American slasher film (though considered more of a splatter film), about a disturbed and traumatized serial killer who scalps his victims. It was directed by William Lustig, and co-written by Joe Spinell (who also developed the story and starred as the lead character) and C.A. Rosenberg.


Plot outline

Frank Zito is a middle-aged, overweight loner living in an unspecified borough of New York City, where he works as the landlord of a small apartment complex. Unbeknown to his tenants, Frank is a schizoid serial killer who spends his nights stalking and killing women, scalping them and bringing the scalps and their clothing back home to decorate his steadily growing supply of mannequins. Once a mannequin has been decorated to his satisfaction, Frank sleeps with it for several nights, using them to carry on one-sided conversations with his deceased mother, an abusive prostitute who subjected him to years of physical abuse before dying in a car accident and leaving him orphaned. Inexplicably, after several nights, Frank grows tired of each mannequin, posing them around different parts of his apartment before seeking out another victim.

One afternoon, Frank sees that his picture has been taken by a fashion photographer named Anna. Getting her name off of the luggage tag she keeps on her purse, Frank tracks her down, but is impressed enough with her artwork that rather than kill her, he begins dating her. While visiting her on the set of her latest photo shoot, he is so taken with Rita, one of Anna's models that he steals a piece of Rita's jewelry, using it as a pretext to come to her apartment later that night so that he can kidnap her. Frank takes Rita home, where he addresses her as his mother, declaring his undying love for her before stabbing her to death. He then mutilates her body and disposes of it, later attending the funeral with Anna.

His grip on reality quickly deteriorating, Frank takes Anna to his mother's grave one night on the way to the movies. At the cemetery, Frank tries to kill Anna, but she wounds him with a shovel left lying by a freshly dug grave and escapes. Frank begins suffering disorienting, disturbing hallucinations of his mother's corpse rising up from its grave and of his mother beckoning to him from her bed. He returns to his apartment, where he has a vision of the mannequins transforming into the reanimated corpses of his victims and tearing his body apart like in a morbid blood-soaked orgy.

The next morning, two police detectives, apparently alerted by Anna, break down the door to Frank's apartment. They find him on his bed, bleeding from the stomach as the result of a self-inflicted knife wound. The detectives, upon seeing Frank's mannequin collection, leave the apartment, at which point Frank opens his eyes and the movie ends.


  • Joe Spinell – Frank Zito
  • Caroline Munro – Anna D'Antoni
  • Gail Lawrence – Rita
  • Kelly Piper – Nurse
  • Rita Montone – Hooker
  • Tom Savini – Disco boy
  • Hyla Marrow – Disco girl
  • James Brewster – Beach boy
  • Linda Lee Walter – Beach girl
  • Tracie Evans – Street hooker
  • Sharon Mitchell – Nurse #2
  • Carol Henry – Deadbeat
  • Nelia Bacmeister – Carmen Zito
  • Louis Jawitz – Art director
  • Denise Spagnuolo – Denise
  • Billy Spagnuolo – Billy
  • Frank Pesce – TV reporter
  • William Lustig - Hotel manager


The movie is unrated because it was not submitted to the MPAA; if it had been, it almost certainly would have been given an X rating. The poster does say that "No One Under 17 Will Be Admitted", a practice theatres used for ultraviolent unrated films such as Dawn of the Dead.


The film's most infamous and widely talked about scene[citation needed] is the "Disco Boy Scene," in which special effects man Tom Savini, dressed in full 1970s disco regalia, has his head blasted off with a shotgun while making out with a woman in the front seat of a vintage car. The scene, filmed in slow motion and lit entirely by the reflected headlights of the car, is extremely graphic and realistic in its depiction of the damage caused by the man's head being blown apart at near point blank range by 12-gauge buckshot. Savini was a Vietnam War veteran and used his firsthand knowledge of the carnage he saw on the battlefield to create the effect.

Film critic Gene Siskel vociferously described how sickened he was by the film on Sneak Previews, and walked out thirty minutes into the movie (after the shotgun murder scene), saying the film "could not redeem itself" after the amount of violence shown up to that point. However, in the 1990s Siskel was asked if he had ever walked out of a film and did not mention this one, instead saying he left the 1996 film Black Sheep because of his dislike for Chris Farley and the 1971 film The Million Dollar Duck.


Maniac was nominated for a Saturn Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, USA, for Best Low-Budget Film in 1981[1].


Many scenes had to be filmed guerrilla-style because the production could not afford permits. The infamous shotgun sequence was one of them; it was filmed in just an hour.

Spinell planned to make a sequel titled Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie, in which he would have played a host of a children's television series who murders the abusive parents of his fans. A promo film was made in 1986, but Spinell was unable to find financial backers. Portions of the film can been seen on the DVD release.

Pop culture

The song "Maniac" was written by Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky, after Matkosky had been inspired by the film.[citation needed] Its lyrics about a killer were rewritten so that it could be used in the 1983 film Flashdance. The song's use in Flashdance earned it an Academy Award nomination, but it was disqualified when it emerged that the song had not been written specifically for the film.[2]

San Francisco's Melodic Death Metal band Light This City, has as merchandise a vintage t-shirt depicting the movie's poster and the word "maniac" replaced by "light this city".

An extract of dialogue from the film's trailer was sampled on the song "Frank Zito, The Maniac" by metal band Frightmare on their album "Midnight Murder Mania".


Lustig planned a remake of his movie.[3] During the 2009 edition of the New York Horror Film Festival, while receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, Lusting announced that the deal for a remake has been sealed.


External links

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