The Invisible Maniac

Adam Rifkin’s ‘THE INVISIBLE MANIAC’ Vinegar Syndrome 4K Restoration Review

I’m no prude, certainly, but once I left my teen years I started to veer away from sexploitation more and more. Occasionally you’d get a funny one, but after a while, they seemed like the majority of directors wanted to see boobs in exchange for promises of possible future returns and stardom. Vinegar Syndrome’s 4k re-release of The Invisible Maniac leans more towards a funny one, living in a bizarro world where women do elaborate strip-teases before jilling, and high school girls do synced dances while showering.

Invisible Maniac

Let’s Talk About Kevin

Kevin’s abusive misogynist mother is sold to the campy nth degree. Not only does she hate women and sex (though she’s clearly had it at least once to make Kevin). But on top of that, she looks like she had Kevin post-menopause, and emits a proper witch cackle.

During the scene where he presents his invention, Kevin must either be desperate or hated by his peers, because he is so sure of his invisibility serum that he says he’s going to skip animal testing and inject it straight into himself. The follow-up where they all harass him like schoolyard bullies only cements things. 

When Kevin inevitably goes berserk (even the film describes it that way), his acts of violence are not brutal, but slowed to the point of hilarity. Think of William Shatner’s Star Trek martial arts finesse. It’s nice to see that he didn’t want to hurt his co-actors, but it funnily defeats the intent of the action. Meanwhile, the actors who have to act as if being attacked by an invisible opponent vary in quality of performance, but all are clearly having fun with it. Debra Lamb is one, in particular, hamming it up for her death sequence.

This was well before the release of even CLERKS, but when Kevin escapes from the asylum to continue his experiments, his using the alias Kevin Smith is wonderful riff ammunition. 

Invisible Maniac

There are more than a few scenes with Chet, the stereotypical jock pursuing the cheerleader berating the disabled janitor is a sign of horror’s uncomfortable history with the differently abled. Unfortunately the film cycles between making him a victim and a creep. One minute he’s a peeping Tom like any of the other men in the film, the next he’s getting harassed and assaulted by the teens, though Chet is the main one. The film has some uncomfortable humor in the finale playing up the extent of the character’s disability for what seems to be comedy at his suffering.

Problematic 4K

While the FX are not great early on, some of them lead to weirdly funny kills like the sandwich suffocation scene. The downside of a movie like this getting (a very well done) 4k restoration is much like what Mike Stoklasa discusses during his Star Trek TNG retrospectives, that the film was probably not meant to be viewed at that fidelity, so little things slip through. A fishing line to support a hose here, a “dead” actress’ chest heaving big breaths, and obvious pools of spray bottle “sweat” on some of the post-coital teens were the biggest ones I could catch. However, visual and audio fidelity is solid. Much like the re-release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that Vinegar Syndrome also produced, the visuals are sharp while not removing the inherent grain of the original 35mm print.

Invisible Maniac

The Extras

Perhaps the best part of the Blu-Ray (where the special features are located, for some reason only the Blu disc contains them, not the 4k) are three specific special features. The first is a fun tie-in music video, “He’s Invisible”. The second is “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Sight”, a 32-minute documentary on the film’s production. Not only do you get to see that the film, while definitely sexploitation, was a fun production for everyone involved. You even get to find out that the aforementioned music video was produced and performed by a young Dan Povenmire, who may be more commonly known to animation fans as Doctor Doofenshmirtz. It’s fun to see the strange way his career developed, from sexploitation to Disney, but he clearly has no disdain for it, talking fondly about it in the documentary.

The final special feature of note is the special 13-minute scene director Adam Rifkin/Rif Coogan made almost entirely out of spite for the distributors. Being told that his film didn’t meet length requirements, Rifkin made a surreal dream sequence filled with Dutch angles, wide lenses, and even more concentrated toplessness than the rest of the film. It even features the late Julie Strain (Heavy Metal 2000) as one of the gaggle of barely clothed babes.

The Invisible Maniac Bonus Features List

  • 4K Ultra HD / Region Free Blu-ray Set
  • 4K UHD presented in High-Dynamic-Range
  • Newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative
  • Commentary track with writer/director Adam Rifkin, moderated by filmmaker Elijah Drenner
  • Commentary track with The Hysteria Continues!
  • “Fast, Cheap and Out Of Sight” (32 min) – a making-of documentary featuring interviews with writer/director Adam Rifkin, executive producer Cassian Elwes, composer Marc David Decker, actress Stephanie Blake, actress Debra Lamb, actor Rod Sweitzer and crew member Dan Povenmire
  • Deleted scene: Dream Sequence
  • Archival Rif Coogan (aka Adam Rifkin) interview from the public access TV show Request Video (12 min)
  • “He’s Invisible” music video (4 min)
  • Behind-the-scenes footage from the “He’s Invisible” music video production (10 min)
  • Original video trailer (2 min)
  • Reversible sleeve artwork
  • English SDH subtitles

You can order your copy of The Invisible Maniac from Vinegar Syndrome’s website today!



About Chris Filipowicz

Born in small town Montana, Chris is a writer, artist, raccoon rehabilitator, and general supporter of disability rights and awareness. He loves film, especially horror, sci-fi, and animation; and has read comics since he was a child.

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