|Copyright 1934 Roadshow Attractions
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 7 September 2008
- Maxwell - He suffers from at least half a dozen different types of insanity, and he likes to play with makeup (no, it's not Ed Wood, wise guy). This is exactly the kind of individual you do not want to meet in a doctor's office, especially if he has killed the doctor and assumed the dead man's identity.
- Dr. Meirschultz - A medical genius, interior decorating hack (glassware is so 1818), and complete lout. He is also a poor judge of character, which leads to his demise.
- Mr. Buckley - Graduate of the "Creature from the Black Lagoon School of Dating."
- Mrs. Buckley - Oh, like the world needs another homely and manipulative woman with an annoying voice.
- Alice Maxwell - She must be insane as well. That is the only possible explaination for the pointy black party hat, collar doily, and the rest of her attire. The woman is hopelessly insane.
- The Police - They are tired of being called to arrest all the crazy people. Day in, day out - arrest the crazy people. It gets monotonous, you know? The detectives would love it if, just once, they could deal with a nice, normal well-adjusted criminal.
|Dr. Meirschultz needs a dead body to test his life-giving serum, and the cadaver must be fresh. Why fresh? There is nothing worse than bringing a rotting someone back to life, then watching them stumble around the room, losing random mushy parts in the process. Besides committing murder with the intent of bringing the murdered soul back to life, the doctor's only option is to steal a body from the city morgue. The coroner is not likely to approve such a request. Coroners tend to discourage any sort of bedeviling with the bodies under their care, because once the coroner signs a death certificate, the deceased is supposed to stay dead.
Fortunately for the mad doctor, his assistant is a master of deception (due to vaudeville experience). With Maxwell disguised as the city coroner, Dr. Meirschultz gains access to the morgue. It is a smorgasbord of immaculate corpses! The doctor picks the perfect specimen for his experiment: a young woman who committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Signs of life quickly return to the damsel, so the two men hustle her out before she wakes up completely and starts complaining about not being dead and not being properly dressed.
The poor coroner (meaning him - the real one) spends the next day at the police station with his assistant, trying to file a report that he, but not him, stole a corpse, and that his two employees saw him, but not he, do it. He was not him, because he was away (probably at home, having dinner with his wife), so the real problem is figuring out who he was, because it couldn't have been him. Besides, the assistant describes an older man with him, which does not fit the description of anyone he is known to consort with. The obvious course of action is to find the other man, and thus find him.
I am convinced that the English language is a major contributing factor in many cases of mental illness. Anyone who has written anything is not likely to argue with me.
Restoring life under optimum conditions is not enough for Dr. Meirschultz. He wants to resurrect someone whose vital organs are completely shattered (but not rotting, because then we get back into the icky stuff). The brilliant, yet obviously mad, physician already has a beating heart that he keeps in a jar. Flushed with the excitement from their earlier success, the doctor orders Maxwell to obtain another body immediately; one that is "more dead."
A nearby funeral home offers the best opportunity to snatch a corpse, but Maxwell's attempt to pilfer a cadaver is spoiled by a pair of scrapping housecats. The angry felines tear into each other with so much fury that the mortician comes to investigate. Maxwell scrambles out and flees down the empty street. Okay, so the street is not completely empty, because a cat and a small dog attack each other as Maxwell passes by.
It seems that Maxwell's personal aura causes hate and discontent in anyone (or thing) around him. Not the sort of person you want at the Armistice table, that guy.
Returning to Dr. Meirschultz's house, Maxwell reports his failure. The doctor is...disappointed. Actually, what takes place sounds something like this: "You didn't get it? I need a body. Here, take this gun. Now, shoot yourself! Shoot yourself so that I can fix you! Ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!" **BANG** "You idiot, you shot me!" **THUMP**
Once Dr. Meirschultz is dead, the mentally unstable assistant completely loses it. The older man's strength of will was the only thing holding Maxwell's insanity in check. Before Maxwell can get his insane groove on, there is a knock at the door. Wouldn't you just know it, Mrs. Buckley is looking for the doctor. Her husband, Mr. Buckley, is having another one of his morosely deranged episodes. Maxwell excuses himself to look for Dr. Meirschultz, pulls out his disguise kit, and transforms himself into the spitting image of the dear departed doctor. He will transplant the previously prepared heart into the dead man, and resurrect Dr. Meirschultz with the crazy genius' own formula! But first, there is the little matter of the Buckleys...
Believing "something that is nothing is something better than nothing" the impersonator gives Mr. Buckley a shot and assures Mrs. Buckley that it will calm her husband down. Well, that might have been the case - had Maxwell injected the man with distilled water like he intended. Maxwell did not administer 60cc (it's a large syringe) of water. He accidentally gives Mr. Buckley a shot of opiates, horse adrenaline, or Mountain Dew. Whatever it was, the shot causes Mr. Buckley to develop an instant case of the screaming meemies. He freaks out and grabs the girl who was resurrected earlier (she has been aimlessly wandering around the house). The whole world is out to get him, so Mr. Buckley carries the pretty girl away to a secluded place. Once they have a bit of privacy, the energetic madman alternates between ripping the girl's clothes off and strangling her.
As you might imagine, Mrs. Buckley is taken aback by all of this. She gets another shock when she discovers Dr. Meirschultz's body. She does not see the face, just knows it is a body, and Maxwell continues his deception by telling her that it is himself (Maxwell), and that he committed suicide. Maxwell goes on to detail his plan to rekindle the spark of life in the dead body. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Mrs. Buckley agrees not to notify the police if she also benefits from the deal.
Almost forgot to mention (I must be losing my mind): whenever Maxwell has a psychotic episode scenes from an older movie about Satan and devils is superimposed over the film. At least some of these appear to be from Häxan.
Finally alone after Mrs. Buckley leaves, Maxwell encounters another hitch in his plans when the doctor's mean-natured grimalkin gets hungry and eats the reanimated heart! Maxwell deals with the situation quite calmly. He grabs the troublesome kitty and squeezes its eye out! The first time you see this it is pretty wild, because there obviously is not any movie magic going on. The actor playing Maxwell definitely grabs the cat playing the cat and pops the wailing animal's eye from its very socket! The trick is that the cat has a glass eye. Still, that scene is just incredible, and it gets even better because Maxwell croons over the eye before swallowing it, and the cat is either thrown or jumps through a glass window!
Elsewhere, the police are still investigating the case of the missing body. The officers of the law are getting closer to discovering Maxwell, but they keep getting distracted by the local weirdoes (who are all taxpayers). In fact, one of Dr. Meirschultz's cat raising neighbors confides to a detective that the doctor has been stealing his cats for experiments. He also tells the policeman that he is breeding rats and cats as part of home fur business. The cats eat the rats, the man skins the cats, then feeds the leftover cat carcasses to the rats. It is like a Möbius strip made of felis catus and Rattus norvegicus, and the twist is homo sapiens.
To paraphrase the prior pair of paragraphs: probable paranoid pontificator partakes of pussy's purloined peeper prior to porthole punting punishment; police puzzled.
Lacking a rejuvenated heart, there is no way that Dr. Meirschultz can be resurrected from the land of "Gave my assistant a pistol and the darn fool shot me instead of himself." Maxwell hides the body behind a brick wall in the basement.
Another kink in the story is Maxwell's estranged wife, Alice. She could care less about her worthless husband, and just spend all day laughing and joking with her girlfriends in her underwear, but the little trollop spots a newspaper article that Maxwell is the sole inheritor of a rich relative's estate. Well, that is a horse of a different color! Alice puts on her Sunday finest for a visit to Dr. Meirschultz's place. Won't her husband be surprised!
Yes, Maxwell is surprised. He is also mistrustful of his wife, and has noticed that same demonic "gleam" in the eye of Mrs. Buckley. The insane impersonator pits the two women against one another by telling each of them that the other woman is a dangerous psychopath. Maxwell provides both of the women with syringes filled with tranquilizer, then locks them in the basement together. Okay, that is one way to create complete bedlam in the basement. The two women go nuts, screaming and clawing at each other! Upstairs, Maxwell cackles with glee as he jumps up and down. A frog jumps across the cellar! Alice starts beating Mrs. Buckley with a piece of wood!
The police finally arrive and separate the shrieking women, and they take poor, insane Maxwell into custody. All of the characters go their merry ways, just a little less sane than when the story began. I guess in the case of Maxwell, you could say he is quite a bit less sane, and Dr. Meirschultz is dead, so nobody knows what his mental state has become.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- You can tune a guitar, you can tuna fish, but you cannot tune a man who thinks he is a guitar-playing fish.
- Never let the Devil give you a scalp massage.
- Necessity is the mother of cosmetics.
- It goes without saying that you should never add water to "dehydrated maniac."
- If it is in a glass container on the table, the cat is going to eat it.
- Mortar is just dirt and spit.
- The only difference between a grape and a cat's eye is how many come in a bunch.
- Girls: wearing lingerie to your (creepy doctor's) appointment is simply asking for trouble.
- Sanity is an accident, because Creation itself is insane.
- 1 min - M.D., F.A.C.S., and, I suspect, devout Roman Catholic.
- 11 mins - That man's hat is making me giggle.
- 15 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST GLASSWARE!
- 25 mins - Cut the soliloquy, Hamlet. We are all right here, and we already know that you are crazier than a bed bug.
- 26 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A TABLE!
- 27 mins - RANDOM GRATUITOUS BREAST SHOT!
- 30 mins - "I am running a medical clinic, not a Chinese take-out."
- 33 mins - Hahahahaha! OOOoooooo! Ah-HAH-HAH-HAH!
- 37 mins - Honey, I think it is about time you bought new underpants.
- 43 mins - From this angle it appears that Maxwell is talking to a black jellyfish that is just floating there in midair. He is insane, so I guess that makes sense.
- 45 mins - That cart has wheels, so you can easily move it out of the way, which is something I have been waiting for you to do for half an hour.
- Morgue Worker #1: "Between the gangsters and the auto drivers we don't need another war to carry off the population."
Morgue Worker #2: "You didn't even mention the suicides; even got the coroner working overtime."
- Maxwell: "The gleam! It was in Meirschultz eyes when he wanted to murder me. It was in Mrs. Buckley's eyes when she wanted to murder her husband. Alice had the gleam in her eye when she wanted to find me. She'd murder me! That's what she wants to do!"
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Dr. Meirschultz: "What I want is a victim with a shattered heart. Yes, a heart...that I can replace with this beating thing I have forced life back into! Hahahahaha! You will get me such a victim, Maxwell. It will be my supreme accomplishment! Mwah-hahahaha!"
||Mrs. Buckley: "Doctor, he seems to be getting worse, instead of better."
||Nosey Neighbor: "They're sort of queer, I'd say. Lots of queer goings on up there. Why, they even brought a dead dog back to life once." |
Detective: "That sounds very remarkable to me."
Nosey Neighbor: "Maybe, but to my notion, those that monkeys with what they got no business to get queer sooner or later."
Detective: "Maybe you're right."
||Detective: "Man, you're crazy! What kind of a place is this?" |
Maxwell: "Oh, I'm crazy, am I? Well, let me tell you something: those women have the gleam!"
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|Mr. Buckley is not the sort of person you invite to your house for a nice little chat over tea and biscuits.
| ||Leave a comment||EXTRAS||Buy the movie|| |
|Re: Maniac (1934)
Reply #1. Posted on September 08, 2008, 12:00:43 AM by JMR3000
Wait, a madman kills a mad scientist, then takes his place? What madness! I guess, when the madman is the scientist's assistant and he is a master of disguise, this is reasonably plausible.
Mad scientists, mad non-scientists, people made mad with syringes, reanimated corpses...where will it all end??
Thanks, Andrew, for a top-notch review of an insane movie.
|Re: Maniac (1934)
Posted on September 08, 2008, 07:49:56 AM by Psycho Circus
You can tune a guitar, you can tuna fish, but you cannot tune a man who thinks he is a guitar-playing fish.
Great review Andrew!
|Re: Maniac (1934)
Posted on September 08, 2008, 09:19:59 AM by trekgeezer
|Re: Maniac (1934)
Posted on September 08, 2008, 10:33:41 AM by Rev. Powell
This is an insane classic that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with PLAN 9. Esper definitely gave the 1930s audiences what they wanted, scenes they couldn't see in mainstream Hollywood flicks... orangutan men abducting topless women, a guy eating a cat's eyeball...
|Re: Maniac (1934)
Reply #5. Posted on September 10, 2008, 04:56:57 PM by C Peter
Yes, Phyllis Diller plays the Buckley woman, but not THAT Phyllis Diller.
What realy hot me was the coroner's assistant's assistqant, who is clearly drunk or high and is directly reading his lines form the cue cards.
I would swear they had written thewhole movie with lugopsi in the part of the old doctor; the actor even seems to be imitating Bela--badly. Maybe they wanted Dwight Frye for the asistant as well; he certainly seems Renfieldesque.
|Re: Maniac (1934)
Posted on May 31, 2010, 11:12:13 PM by Fredleted
What? Only one page of comments. What a disgrace for all the time spent on review. I'm fascinated by the plot & need to larn more.
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