From what I've gleaned, "Maniac" was originally titled "Sex Maniac". I can only assume its title was changed because "Sex Maniac" was too shocking a title for film-goers in 1934. I feel, though, that more people would have gone to see it had its title not changed.
As "Maniac" begins, you hear the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky's sixth (and last) symphony as the following words scroll down:
The brain, in and of its physical self, does not think any more than a musical instrument can give forth melody without the touch of the musicians hand. The brain is indeed the instrument of thinking, but the mind is the skilful player that makes it give forth the beautiful harmony of thought.Then the following scrolls down:
It is because of the disastrous results of fear brought not only on the individual but on the nation, that it becomes the duty of every sane man and woman to establish quarantine against fear.
Fear is a psychic disease which is highly contagious and extraordinarily infectious. Fearthought is most dangerous when it parades as forethought.
Combat fear by replacing it with faith. Resist worry with confidence.
--- Wm. S. Sadler, M.D., F.A.C.S., Director of the Chicago Institute of Research and Diagnosis.
Unhealthy thought creates warped attitudes which in turn create criminals and manias. The Chicago Crime Commission made a survey of 10,000 convicted criminals and found them all suffering from some mental disease.If you've guessed that mental illness is a theme of "Maniac", you're right. As for the fourth moment of Tchaikovsky's sixth symphony, well, it's very doleful. Tchaikovsky committed suicide shortly after he'd composed it. He must have been mentally ill.
- William Samuel Sadler (1875-1969), psychologist, psychiatrist and surgeon at Chicago for over 60 years, teacher of Psychology at the McCormick Theological Seminary.
In "Maniac"'s first scene you see two men working in a laboratory. They are a physician, Dr Meirschultz, and his assistant, Don Maxwell, who is an actor on the run from the police. Dr Meirschultz knows about Maxwell being on the run from the police, but he doesn't tell them.
Perhaps it's because Dr Meirschultz is absorbed in matters more important. He's just developed a serum that brings dead bodies back to life. It's already worked with dead dogs and dead cats. What about dead humans? The problem is, where to get a dead human on which to try the serum? The obvious place is the city morgue. But, how to get in there and retrieve a body without raising suspicion?
This is where Don Maxwell is useful. Being an actor, he can impersonate people, and so can impersonate the city coroner who's boss of the morgue. Under this guise, Maxwell enables Dr Meirschultz to get into the morgue late one night. A beautiful young blonde woman had recently been brought in. She had killed herself through inhaling carbon monoxide. She's perfect for Dr Meirschultz to try his serum on. He injects her. Soon her eyelids are moving. Other parts of her begin moving too.......
However, the Doctor wants to achieve more. In his laboratory there's a jar with a palpitating heart in it. He wants to put this heart in a dead human to see if it will make him alive again. He takes out a gun, hands it to Maxwell and says, "If you vill shoot yourself, I vill bring you beck to life by putting ze heart in zat jar, into your body in place of ze heart zat you hef now. Zis vill make me famous, and you vill be famous too."
Maxwell, not liking this idea at all, points the gun, not at himself, but at the Doctor, and fires........
What to do with the Doctor's body? Well, there's a bricked-up wall in the basement behind which to put it without busybodies finding out........
What if people come asking, "Where's Dr Meirschultz?" There's only one solution, which is, become Dr Meirschultz.
Maxwell dresses himself up in Dr Meirschultz's clothes, puts on a false beard and glasses, and soon looks like the Doctor. He can also speak with a German accent, and so can sound like the Doctor too. But, can he do like the Doctor? He reads all the medical writings of the Doctor he can find. Then he begins treating the Doctor's patients, most of whom seem to be attractive young women.......
What has all this to do with mental illness, you may ask. Well, Maxwell begins thinking he's actually Dr Meirschultz. For instance he begins laughing, when alone, in the same demoniacal way that Dr Meirschultz used to laugh when in the grip of his delusions.
When Maxwell's young women patients are in advanced states of undress, he fantasises making love to them.
Maxwell tries to strangle the Doctor's black cat, "Satan". One of Satan's eyeballs pops out onto the floor during the struggle. Maxwell picks it up and eats it. It tastes to him wonderful, like an oyster..........
When watching "Maniac" (and I highly recommend that you do) you may find yourself thinking of your own doctor. How do you know he's not merely pretending to be a doctor? Like most men who present themselves as doctors, he'll have a framed document on his office wall that certifies he's a doctor. But, how do you know it's not a fake certificate?
When he examines you with your clothes off, does he look at you funny?................
Should you wish to watch "Maniac", *click here*.