When Hammer was at its most productive during the 1960s, they not only produced horror films but movies of every genre including dramas, adventure and thrillers. Maniac is one such thriller that happens to have elements of horror throughout and while it is a good movie, it never rises above being more than that. It is of no fault to director Michael Carreras or writer Jimmy Sangster (maybe a little); it is simply due to the fact that when compared to other films of its ilk, including Hammer’s own Paranoiac also written by Sangster, this one just falls a little short. Like all Hammer films though, good or bad, it still manages to keep you entertained and interested in what is going on, with a good dose of tension and by setting up a little bit of a mystery. When it comes right down to it though, it simply falls a little flat as none of the characters really grab you nor does the picture feel very exciting. Interesting yes, compelling no.
That is not to say that there were not a few moments that really grabbed you when they happened. The opener is a good example of how to capture your attention where a young Annette is raped, off-screen of course, all the while a vibrant jazz score plays in the background and after which her father murders the man who did it. The end of the film holds you as well where Annette and Eve’s co-conspirator are making their way through the ruined building and trying to make their way perilously across a ledge, while the man tries to kill her. There are a few others as well, but they seem so few and far between and while there is some good drama to be had, it goes on for a little too long.
There are some good performances despite the material’s lack of adrenaline like Kerwin Mathews who stars in the lead as the quintessential good guy and even better was Nadia Gray as the conniving Evelyn. If there is one woman you do not want to tangle with, it is her. Liliane Brousse has a real air of innocence about her as the tortured Annette and you have to feel bad for her from the start of the film to the last as she seems to be unable to catch a break. The film does have a very moody atmosphere and towards the latter half of the film, the suspense starts to build and draws you in a bit more than it did during the first, but overall it simply needed something more to really push it over the top into a really fine piece of cinema. For what it is though, Maniac is still a decent film and one of Hammer’s more intriguing movies that came out amongst its onslaught of horror.