“The Maniac” (1963)
Studio: Hammer Film Productions
Starring: Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston, Liliane Brousse
Directed by: Michael Carreras
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 86 min.
Synopsis: An american has an affair with a young French girl and her stepmother, who ask him to help them break out the young girl’s father from an asylum.
This isn’t the classic 80’s horror film by William Lustig and starring the late great Joe Spinell nor is it the 1930’s film from Dwain Esper, this is Hammer’s 1963 thriller directed by Michael Carreras. This is an unconventional Hammer film that doesn’t include vampires or werewolves, but is a good suspense shocker in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock. The Maniac involves a love triangle with a man, a girl, and her stepmother that takes places in a small town in the countryside of France that has plenty of twists and turns.
The first frame of this film has you in chills with a close-up of a man’s eye. It widens out to reveal a creepy man leering at something. We soon find out that he’s looking at a young teenage girl, Annette, who is walking home from school. You know when you see the cold creepy look on this man’s face that he has evil intentions for Annette. The man hops in his truck and offers Annette a ride. At first she turns him down, but he somehow lures her in. Lucky for her, one of her friends saw her get in the truck and followed them by bike.
The friend finds the truck parked by a field, but instead of checking out the place and seeing if the girl is in danger (that’s what the kid should have done), he runs off to get the Annette’s father. Minutes later he returns with the father and as they pull up they see Annette come out of the field and fall to the ground. The father than sees the man emerge from behind his truck. The father takes a wrench and knocks out the old pervert.
Annette survives the attack, but before her father goes to the police with her attacker he decided to take the law into his own hands and locks the man up in his garage. The father becomes the creeps judge, jury, and executioner when he ties him up and takes a blowtorch to his face. The father kills the man that raped his daughter, but he will have to pay for the consequences.
Years later an American painter, Paul, comes to the small town and rents a room at a bar and house run by a woman, Eve, and her stepdaughter, which happens to be Annette. Paul is very taken by Annette at first and so is she. It also seems that her stepmother is jealous that Paul is very interested in Annette. Eve puts a stop to this and seduces Paul, making him fall for her and leaving Annette in the dust.
Eve than informs him about her husband and how he murdered his daughter’s rapist. He was found insane after that and was locked away in an asylum. Eve visits him once a month and during her latest visit she tells him about the affair she is having with Paul and wants her marriage with him over. Eve mentions to Paul, if they help him escape and give Annette over to him, that he would let the two run off together. Both of them agree and help the husband escape. Once he is free the three of them sort out a plan, but nothing goes to plan for Paul and Eve and they soon find out the husband’s devilish plans.
A very well done film that will have you on the edge of your seat for the most part and will keep you guessing every step of the way. One thing I liked about this film was the cinematography by Wilkie Cooper. The whole film has these great shots of the French countryside that give the film a big scope. They are a variety of close-ups and mid shots that stand out and capture the intensity of the film. The movie has a great film noir feel to it with being shot in black and white, the lighting, and the use of shadows. Although some shots were very big in scale, others were very confined and seemed isolated. That gave the film a dark creepy feel with the smaller settings making you feel trapped.
The acting was well done from pretty much all of the characters. Kerwin Mathews (Paul), Nadia Gray (Eve), and Liliane Brousse (Annette) carry the film and are a joy to watch. Also, another character that’s a big part of the madness of the film is the husband played Donald Houston who plays a great maniac. He’s only he a few scenes in the film, but the ones that he is present stand out greatly. The supporting players are very good as well and the whole cast gives a top-notch performance.
Some parts of the film are slow mostly during the middle, which slows down the pace a bit, but overall the story flows good throughout. The best parts of the film are towards the end where there are a lot of twists in the plot that I won’t give away and there are a few things you didn’t see coming which makes the film very interesting. The Maniac is available for the first time on DVD in a set with other Hammer films, such as Never Take Candy from Strangers, which are making their DVD debut. Maniac is a good film that is worth checking out.