DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
MANIAC (director: Michael Carreras; screenwriter: Jimmy Sangster; cinematographer: Wilkie Cooper; editor: Tom Simpson; music: Stanley Black; cast: Kerwin Mathews (Geoff Farrell), Nadia Gray (Eve Beynat), Liliane Brousse (Annette Beynat), Donald Houston (Georges), George Pastell (Inpsector Etienne), Norman Bird (Salon), Justine Lord (Grace), Jerold Wells (Giles, handyman), Arnold Diamond (Janiello), Leon Peers (Blanchard); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jimmy Sangster; Columbia Pictures; 1963-UK)

 
"More plot twists than there are feathers on a chicken."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lurid black-and-white shot psycho-thriller produced by the exploitive B-film people at Hammer. There's something loony and incredibly maddening about Maniac that reminds you of a more twisted and much less accomplished artistic version of Psycho (Hey, this is a Hammer film, you would have to be nuts to expect it to be fully in Hitch's class!). 

It's stylishly but unevenly directed by Michael Carreras ("Slave Girls"/"The Lost Continent"/"The Steel Bayonet") and cleverly written to a point until it becomes overwritten by producer Jimmy Sangster, with a stunning denouement that is unfortunately filled with big holes in the plot that you must get by if you are to find this film as entertaining as I did.

It's set in Southern France, in the rural Camargue region of the French Provence around Aries and Les Baux. Handsome American artist Geoff Farrell (Kerwin Mathews) splits from his rich travel companion Grace after an argument over travel destinations and remains in this remote marshy wasteland that has no tourists. The town is infamous for the violent incident four years ago, when the 15-year-old Annette Beynat (Liliane Brousse) was abducted and raped in the woods while walking home from school; her male classmate went back by bike to tell her father Georges Beynat (Donald Houston), and he returns to the spot with a wrench and after knocking out the rapist drags him back to his shack and uses an oxyacetylene blowtorch to eliminate him. For that nasty deed he's sent to the local mad house. Georges's wife Eve (Nadia Gray), Annette's stepmother, takes over running his inn and visits him regularly.  

At first the thirtysomething Geoff makes a play for the attractive 19-year-old Annette, but her thirtysomething stepmother makes a stronger play for Geoff and they become lovers. Eve easily convinces the not-too-bright American in the short time they are together to help Georges escape, and he consents even though it's a crime to be an accomplice in such an act. She tells Geoff all they have to do is drive Georges to the nearby Marseilles docks in her Citroën after he goes over the hospital wall, as he's being aided by a sympathetic male nurse. Eve says this is the only way Georges will give her a divorce to marry him and after his escape he will disappear from their lives. Things seemed to have gone well on the night of the escape until the next day they discover the body of the male nurse in the trunk of Eve's car and an inquiring police inspector (George Pastell) from nearby Marseilles shows up to lead the investigation of the escape, convinced Georges is a dangerous homicidal maniac that must be caught before he murders again. 

All the characters are unlikeable and all the actors are not good enough thespians to pull off all the incredible twists and shocks that start mounting up, that leave the film with more plot twists than there are feathers on a chicken.  

REVIEWED ON 3/15/2008        GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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