Saturday, April 30, 2011

THE MANIAC (Michael Carreras, 1963)

A young girl is sexually assaulted by a stranger and her father tortures the perpetrator, losing his mind in the emotional conflagration. Years later, an unlucky American finds a place in this broken home and suffers the fiery consequences. Michael Carreras’ proficient thriller may be lacking in internal logic but burns like an acetylene torch.

Paul is a young American, exiled to a small French village after settling affairs with his girlfriend, where a stiff drink leads to his dropping a stiff in the drink, so to speak. He flirts with Annette, the beautiful waitress whose dark eyes mirror her troubled past but Paul is seduced by her Mother-in-law Eve, who owns the bar. This ménage a trios is a triple threat and Paul soon follows his heart instead of his morals. After discovering the dark family secret (Eve’s husband is sentenced to an Asylum for murdering the rapist who molested Annette), Paul decides to help Eve with a plan to help her husband escape and start a new life. Paul even balks at the idea since he’s sleeping with a married woman, and he knows Eve's husband doesn’t take to having his family ‘spoiled”, but Eve convinces him that the marriage is mutually ended. Why Eve doesn’t just legally divorce her husband is never explained, but Paul’s good intentions pave the road to hell and brimstone.


The black and white cinematography is exceptional adding to the gritty realism with Cinemascope compositions shot on location, and chiaroscuro effects that deepen the suspense. The film slows considerably when the inspector appears and spouts exposition like a narrator, insulting the audience’s temperament. Carreras smartly cuts away at the film’s explosive nexus of events though the surprise is properly foreshadowed, and the last scene utilizes oblique angles and dizzying heights that bring the thrilling climax crashing to the ground.

Final Grade: (B)

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