Maniac (1963)

Clearly not to be confused with the 1980 film of the same name, which didn’t begin with someone getting raped and then the rapist getting killed with an acetylene torch. Of course, if the 1980 film had started like that no doubt we would’ve seen both of those things happen in full detail rather than offscreen, and I doubt it would’ve been any more effective than it is here… Speaking of which, it’s not until near the end of the film that you may notice another fairly important detail has been kept offscreen as well, which bit of work is probably the smartest move this film makes. Written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Michael Carreras, neither of whom were terribly big fans of the gothic style that had, by this point, come to define Hammer, Maniac (technically the latest film in the collection) seems to bear the most marked influence of Les diaboliques (which film I’ve seen invoked in relation to the films in this set a number of times), at least in plot terms; American man drifting through France stops at inn run by mother and daughter, gets involved in plan to spring her husband from the mental hospital where he’s been incarcerated for four years since avenging his daughter’s rapist with that acetylene torch. Complications and plot twists ensue. It’s not bad stuff from which to make a film, and the film might well have been better had Kerwin Matthews been less of a non-event as the male lead (I also suspect Liliane Brousse would’ve had an easier time as the daughter if she could’ve performed in her native French). As it is, it’s not bad, just not hugely overwhelming… still, I’d rather rewatch this than the 1980 film.

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