The film, which was advertised with the tagline “He menaced women with his weird desires!”, is in the public domain. A restored version was made available in 1999, as part of a double feature with another Dwain Esper film, Narcotic! (1933). A full length RiffTrax for the movie was released on November 25, 2009, with commentary by Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. John Wilson, the founder of the Golden Raspberry Award, named Maniac as one of the “100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made” in his book The Official Razzie Movie Guide.
Don Maxwell (William Woods) is a former vaudeville impersonator who is working as the lab assistant to Dr. Meirschultz (Horace B. Carpenter), a mad scientist attempting to bring the dead back to life. When Don kills Meirschultz, he attempts to hide his crime by “becoming” the doctor, taking over his work and copying his appearance and manner. In the process, he slowly goes insane.
The “doctor” treats a mental patient, Buckley (Ted Edwards), but accidentally injects him with adrenaline, which causes him to go into violent fits. In one of these fits, Buckley kidnaps a woman, tears her clothes off, and rapes her. Buckley’s wife (Phyllis Diller) discovers the body of the real doctor, and blackmails Don into turning her husband into a zombie. The ersatz doctor turns the tables on her by manipulating her into fighting with his estranged wife (Thea Ramsey), a former showgirl. When the cat-breeding neighbor Goof sees what’s going on, he calls the police, who stop the fight and, following the sound of Satan the cat, find the body of the real doctor hidden behind a brick wall.
By Dwain Esper (Internet Archive) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons