Friday, 22 June 2012

Maniac 2: Mr Robbie

Hi there! Well after writing about the film "Maniac", starring Joe Spinell, I thought I'd just write a short post on the proposed sequel and the short promo film that was made.

"Maniac 2: Mr Robbie" was made in 1986, and was filmed by Buddy Giovinazzo who had only just made his first film "Combat Shock". Unfortunately shortly after this promo was filmed, Joe Spinell's untimely death cut short any plans for a feature film. Joe Spinell was upset that so many females were upset about the first film (not surprising really), that he decided to make the main character a vigilante who kills abusive parents.

Mr. Robbie is a children's tv personality, and receives a lot of mail from fans. Some of these children talk about how they are beaten up by their parents for watching too much tv. Mr. Robbie is upset about this and decides to bring the law into his own hands!

I could say more about this film, but the video at the bottom of the page says about all there is to know about this short film, and also includes the film as well.

It's too bad that Joe Spinell died before he had a chance to make a feature film. From this concept it looked like a good idea and could have been quite an enjoyable film!

Thanks for reading! (I told you it would be short!)


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Man Bites Dog ( C'est Arrivé Près De Chez Vous/It Happened In Your Neighbourhood)

I first saw "Man Bites Dog" in 1999 when a friend of mine bought it on VHS, and it has really made an impression on me ever since. It is a Belgian film, released in 1991 and was directed by Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde.

The film is a black & white mockumentary about a serial killer named Ben (Benoit Poelvoorde), who is being recorded for a warts and all documentary. The camera crew joins Ben while he is murdering people, visiting his family and friends, or listening to his views on a broad variety of subjects (poetry, cinema, music, the weight ratio needed to sink a human body in the water).

After a while, the camera crew starts to get involved in the killing. Instead of just Ben murdering individual people, they target families and couples in their homes. The killing stops for a bit when Ben gets arrested after a victim escapes. Somehow he manages to escape jail but afterwards he, the camera crew, and his family are being targeted in some sort of revenge attack which pretty much ends in everyone's death.

This is just a brief outline of the plot, but there is so much more to this film than was mentioned. "Man Bites Dog" is very much a very funny at times, black comedy. He talks about how he likes to attack old people in their homes because they are easier to rob, as it can be made to look accidental and old people keep all their valuables in their property. He is very particular to postmen, who are his favourite victims. Ben is a very entertaining person in front of the camera, and has many insightful opinions on many different subjects which he talks about at length. This gives him a bit more depth than most films of this type.

It can be that entertaining at times, that when the violence does happen it can be very sobering. The deaths are filmed quite realistically, and most are very violent. There are some scenes that are very hard to swallow, especially once the camera crew become involved in the killing. In one scene a family at home are targeted, the camera crew smother the child while Ben deals with the family. In the worst scene, after an entertaining scene of the group getting drunk, they target a couple at home. What follows is a disturbing rape scene, followed by a horrific morning after scene of the aftermath.

As disturbing as these scenes are, I hope it doesn't put you off watching the film entirely. As grim as I've made the film sound, "Man Bites Dog" has a lot of humorous scenes and the main character Ben can be really funny and engaging. It won various awards around the world, including two awards at Cannes.

As you can assume, the film was very controversial when released. Even the posters couldn't escape controversy. The poster depicts Ben shooting downwards, while a small amount of blood and a baby's dummy are shown flying through the air. This never happens in the film nor is it suggested. Even though, certain posters for this film replace the dummy with a pair of dentures! At the bottom of the page is a comparison of the two posters. The left image is "graphic" and the right image is "censored".

Saturday, 16 June 2012


In my last post for "Don't Go In The House", I talked about how horror was being attacked by critics and certain groups of people because of the violence, usually against women. I also mentioned another film, "Maniac". This film was released in the same year as "Don't Go In The House", and I think these two films really go hand in hand for fanning the flames of controversy.

"Maniac" is a 1980 released film directed by William Lustig, who has made a few films with the word maniac in the title. He directed the popular films "Maniac Cop" 1&2, and co-directed 3 with Joel Soisson (a writer/producer on many straight to dvd films like "Highlander: Endgame", "Mimic 2", & "Hollow Man 2"). William Lustig is also the CEO of the entertainment company Blue Underground which has released a nice 2 disc region free blu ray of this film.

The film revolves around a lonely figure called Frank Zito (Joe Spinell), who lives in a dingy apartment with his collection of mannequins. He is a serial killer who stalks and kills women, then afterwards he scalps them and takes their clothing to dress up his mannequin collection. He often has conversations and even sleeps with these mannequins. These conversations give a bit of background on Frank. He talks to the mannequins like they are his mother who we find out was an abusive prostitute who orphaned poor Frank after a car accident.

One day Frank notices a photographer in the park called Anna. After a visit to her apartment they start dating and things seem to go well. On the last date, Frank asks if he can visit his mothers grave before going to the cinema. When he visits the grave he goes completely insane and tries to kill Anna, who manages to escape. I hate spoilers so saying anything after this point would ruin things!

Joe Spinell began his film career with a non speaking and uncredited role in "The Godfather". This part opened to door to many other films where he usually played some sort of violent thug. He was a close friend of Sylvester Stallone and starred as the loan shark who employs Stallone in "Rocky". They were already friends beforehand when Stallone was a struggling actor, and Spinell later on became Godfather to his son Sage Stallone. He later starred in other Stallone related films. Spinell wrote, co-produced and developed the story for "Maniac", which is probably his best performance. He is truly believable as this unhinged psychopath who at times can be very charming to people and sometimes be someone you can really sympathise with due to his past. The scenes when he is alone in his flat are the most disturbing to me. A planned sequel was in the works, though there is a short promo that is unfortunately Spinell's last time on camera before his death in 1989. This short promo was directed by Buddy Giovinazzo who was also supposed to direct the sequel. Giovinazzo is famous for his first film "Combat Shock", which is one of the best films Troma ever distributed. I'll put the trailer at the bottom of the post.

Another person who contributes to the notoriety of this film is Tom Savini who done the special effects. The special effects are quite realistic and very bloody, and Savini keeps the best special effect to himself and one of the most infamous effects in horror film history! He stars as a guy who drives his girlfriend out to a nice, dark, secluded area, where they attempt to make out. Spinell jumps onto the front of the car with a double barrelled shotgun and shoots through the windscreen, blowing Savini's head apart in realistic slow motion. This really is the "money shot" of the film. The prosthetic head was filled with animal innards and bits if animal brain, then really shot apart with a shotgun.

As I said before, horror films were being attacked for their violence mainly against women, and there is no denying that this is a violent film. It doesn't have a body count like "Nightmare On Elm Street" or "Friday the 13th", but what it does have is highly realistic, very bloody deaths. At the time, New York was crime capital of the USA, and street violence was commonplace. It wasn't unrealistic to think people like this would be roaming the streets, especially with American serial killers like Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) only recently being caught and still in people's memory.

If you like your horror films gritty and bloody try and get or borrow a copy of this film, I thinks it is without doubt an underrated classic. Very soon the remake will be released, starring Elijah Wood and written by Alexandra Aja and directed by Franck Khalfoun (a very successful team who made "Haute Tension" and the excellent "P2"), and it looks like it could be very good. I'll put the trailer underneath this post too!

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Until next time,