What's happening in and around Phoenixville, PA.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Director William Lusting to Introduce Maniac at the Colonial Theatre on Friday, May 6

PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. – Horror fans rejoice! On Friday, May 6, 2011, the Colonial Theatre will screen Maniac (1980) as part of their First Friday Fright Night series. The film’s director, William Lustig, will make a special appearance to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A after the screening. This is the only appearance by Lustig and screening of the new 35mm print in the area.

Launched in 2008, FFFN has quickly become the Colonia’s most successful film series and presents an eclectic mix of horror, cult, camp and sci-fi films on the first Friday of the month. Past screenings have included films as varied as A Clockwork Orange, Jaws, Blade Runner, Young Frankenstein, Old Boy, Suspiria, Zombie, and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Upcoming screenings include The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension on June 3 and The Planet of the Apes on August 1. Show time is generally 9:45PM but is subject to change. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and $5 for members of the theatre and can be purchased online at www.TheColonialTheatre.com.

About William Lustig
As a film director, Brooklyn-born William Lustig is best known for his films Maniac, Vigilante, Uncle Sam, and the Maniac Cop series. Lustig has also worked as an actor playing small roles in his own films as well as in films by Sam Raimi, most notably as a fake shemp in Army of Darkness and as a dockworker in Darkman. Since 2009, Lustig has been the CEO of Blue Underground; an entertainment company specializing in the release of obscure and exploitation films on DVD. Lustig is a nephew of boxer Jake LaMotta.

About Maniac
“Upon its release in 1980 (on Christmas Day, no less), the slasher classic Maniac, directed by William Lustig, was outright panned. Perhaps I’m being coy: It was charged on and seized as if it were the kingdom of a medieval conqueror who had raised a hellish army whose mission it was to do nothing but massacre the innocent, defile women, feed on the leftover flesh, and quench their thirst with the puddles of excess blood. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel very nearly issued a fatwa in the name of cinema, imploring viewers of Sneak Previews to boycott the film and deeming it unwatchable and vacuously cruel. Feminist groups nationwide went into an epic tizzy over the film’s grotesque depiction of women’s deaths in studio lofts, seedy motel rooms, and on subway platforms throughout Manhattan. New York City parents, taking their kids along with them to see First Family and passing by the poster with a woman’s decapitated head gripped in one hand and a bloody knife in the other, wrote letters to local politicians and newspapers, made irate phone calls to radio stations, and screamed their heads off at PTA meetings.

What was the result of this red tide of pure, unhinged vehemence? Maniac, which cost all of $350,000 to produce and wasn’t screened for the MPAA in fear of a dreaded X rating, grossed somewhere north of six million during its limited New York City run and went onto receive a Saturn Award nomination for Best Low-Budget Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. For most filmmakers this would be no big thing, but for Lustig, who had previously directed The Violation of Claudia (something of a skin-flick classic), Maniac was a legitimate triumph and something to make a name out of. The story of Frank Zito (Joe Spinell), a lonely, Queens-born man who took to randomly slaughtering innocent women and their dates, may not have been pretty, but hey, it was a living.

An exploitative, grungy riff on Psycho, the film gleefully embraced its laughably bad production, rolling with countless incongruities, deplorable sound design, and performances that were, at best, stiff and awkward. This was even true of Spinell, who co-wrote the film’s script with C.A. Rosenberg and is present in nearly every shot of the film. Gushing with chunky, sanguine gore (thanks to the legend himself, Tom Savini), Maniac was nevertheless a haunting film as a whole; you could never quite shed the grime that it immersed you in. It was grizzly, unkempt, and unpredictable not only in its narrative, but from a technical standpoint. The film, in fact, has nearly no plot, with the arguable exception of a preposterous romance Zito attempts to spark with Anna, a photographer (Caroline Munro). But then it’s not much of a character study either, as nearly all of Zito’s scenes either involve him stabbing and scalping women, muttering to himself in his rancid apartment or hanging out with Anna.

It’d be tempting to go as far as to deem Maniac an avant-garde work, but its ends are not explorative nor is it in any way groundbreaking or, by standard definitions, “good.” Maniac simply exists as a wretched yet unforgettable succession of scenes meant to corrupt even the purest of minds, if you can help yourself from laughing uncontrollably at its overwhelming amount of inconsistencies. It’s an oddity even among oddities, if for no other reason than it was marginally successful. Lustig would go on to direct the far less successful Vigilante and, afterward, the generally unwatchable Maniac Cop series, and Spinell, a close friend of Sylvestor Stallone and Francis Ford Coppola, went on to have a healthy acting career until his untimely death in 1989. Both would have their successes, but Maniac remains the work that the two men became characterized by—the blemish they couldn’t get rid of even if they wanted to.” (Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine)

About The Colonial Theatre
The Colonial Theatre is located in the heart of downtown Phoenixville, Pennsylvania at 227 Bridge Street. Opened in 1903, the Colonial is the last surviving of four theatres once existing in the borough and is the only theatre of its kind in Chester County. In its early days, the Colonial was home to live stage shows, vaudeville acts and musicals including appearances by Harry Houdini and Mary Pickford. Real movie buffs know that the Colonial was featured in the 1958 science fiction classic, “The Blob,” starring Steve McQueen and filmed in and around Phoenixville.

The theatre is owned and operated by the Association for the Colonial Theatre (ACT), a nonprofit corporation, which re-opened the theatre in 1999. The Colonial’s programming includes art and independent films seven nights a week, classic films, children’s programs, live concerts, and community events. ACT is committed to the full restoration of the Colonial as a cultural arts center. ACT is currently fundraising for Phase IV of the theatre’s restoration that will include a renovation of the third floor as a community room, allowing ACT to present additional film screenings, lectures, classes and special events. Find out more about the Colonial at www.thecolonialtheatre.com. The mission of the Association for the Colonial Theatre is to enhance the collective well-being of our region by restoring the landmark Colonial Theatre and promoting cultural, economic and civic life. To that end, ACT presents film, live theatre, music, dance and other community events in the heart of Phoenixville’s historic business district.

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