Ask people to name the best movie of all time and you’re going to hear a lot of answers. Ask them to name the worst and the list shrinks to a few titles. Plan 9 From Outer Space. Manos, the Hands of Fate. The Phantom Menace. Bad, yes, but all Oscar-bait compared to the cinematic trainwreck that is Maniac.
Produced in 1934 by Dwain Esper of Reefer Madness fame, Maniac (originally “Sex Maniac”) was a roadshow film – too lurid to be shown in reputable theaters, screened only in sideshow tents and burlesque houses. Today it is remarkable mostly for its stunning lack of production values and a gaping deep-space vacuum of talent on either side of the camera.
When I say this film is worse than Plan 9 from Outer Space, I’m not just whistling in the wind — Plan 9 scores a lofty 3.5 rating on IMDB, compared to 2.6 for Maniac. That’s a whopping 25 percent less good than the film many believe to be the least good ever made.
Though it’s ostensibly “based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe,” I don’t recall any Poe stories about Frankenstein-like mad scientists reanimating corpses, then being murdered by their ham-actor assistants, who in turn impersonate the mad scientist, and suck the eyeballs out of cats, and, well, other stuff that makes even less sense. if I were the moldering corpse of Poe I would sue!
As bad as the writing is, the acting is worse. If the scenery’s not being chewed to a soggy mess by some wild-eyed, over-gesticulating thespian, it’s being gummed to death by an inarticulate troglodyte who reads every line as “Rar-rar-rar.” Or two snarling b-girls having a cat-fight with hypodermic needles.
As bad as the acting is, the directing is worse. Not content to make one bad movie, Esper seems to have made three or four, and spliced them together randomly: a low-budget Frankenstein rip-off, intercut with images from a silent film about witches and devil worship, intercut with text from an old psychology book (endless title boards describing various mental conditions in obsolete terms, i.e. Dementia Praecox), intercut with a nudie reel, intercut with random scenes of animal violence.
As bad as the directing is, the cinematography is worse. Seriously, if there is a special circle of Hell for crappy filmmaking, this guy should be up to his ears in lava. Low light, bad light, no light – there are scenes that look like two crows fighting at the bottom of a well. Actors shot from behind, actors blocking each other, actors totally obscured by scenery and props.
I have seen a lot of bad movies, but this is it: the unholy grail of bad movies, the bottom of the bottom, the worst of the worst. Rar-rar-rar! Zero stars. Stu-Bob says check it out.