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Maniac (1963)

Maniac marks my second venture into Hammer's filmography of suspense, and once again I come out thoroughly impressed, thoroughly entertained and thoroughly convinced that Hammer's goldmine is in the suspense genre.  Maniac is a step above another one of my Hammer favorites, The Snorkel, and manages to be a film that's even more thrilling, dark, murderous and mysterious with ten times the twists and turns.  With that said it should be no surprise that Maniac is now my favorite of the Hammer films I've seen thus far.

The film kicks off rather dark as 15-year-old Annette Beynat (Liliane Brousse) is raped by a neighbor.  Once her father finds out he quickly takes action by beating the man over the head with a wrench and taking him to his garage where he promptly proceeds to murder him with a welders torch.  The court finds Mr. Beynat insane and he's committed to an insane asylum.  Four years later an American by the name of Geoffrey Farrell (Kerwinn Mathews) arrives in town, fresh off a relationship with a snobby and rich English woman, Geoff settles down in one of the Beynat's empty cottages and quickly becomes the object of desire for both Annette and her mother-in-law Eve (Nadia Gray).

Geoff is interested in Annette, yet doesn't make any attempt to quell the advances of her exotic mother-in-law who quickly lays the sexual tension on thick when she notices Annette and Geoff beginning to get close.  She doesn't have much difficulty winning over Geoff, and he doesn't seem to have much trouble with the fact that she's still married, and that she visits her husband every week in the asylum.  They decide that Mr. Beynat should be aware of their relationship, and on Eve's next visit she informs him, the response seems a little too overly positive.  Beynat wants out of the asylum and freedom without his wife tastes better than prison with her, he agrees to let the two of them continue their relationship if they help him to escape.

Maniac was written by the famed Hammer writer Jimmy Sangster and the second Hammer film directed by Michael Carreras, who would soon become a major player behind the camera and as a writer in many forthcoming Hammer productions.  Carreras, known for sometimes over-embellishment of the quality and estimation of success, stated that Maniac is...
a thriller of thrillers, so ingeniously constructed, so packed with surprises, that we defy anyone to predict correctly what's coming next or to anticipate the startling and unexpected climax.
While many of Maniac's twists and turns are not as surprising as they may have been back in the 1960's, Carreras definitely got it right when he said the film's climax is completely unexpected.

Similar to The Snorkel, Maniac has to build itself up to a steady sprint as the first half of the film concentrates on the love triangle between Geoff, Annette and Eve.  The second half of the film is where the twists and turns begin to role after Geoff and Eve assist Beynat in escaping.  But even though the first half isn't as mysterious and fast paced the relationships and interactions between the characters are still quite interesting.  Overall, I can easily recommend checking Maniac out.  With a fairly well assembled cast (including two very lovely ladies), an engaging storyline which never stops you from guessing, and a conclusion that ought to take most people by surprise. Maniac is definitely a worthy addition to Hammers suspense series, and is a nice improvement over The Snorkel which is still a great film also.


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