Music Video of the Day: Maniac by Michael Sembello (1983, dir. Adrian Lyne)

Warning: If you’re epileptic, then you might not want to watch the video. It does include some very quick flashing for an extended period of time.

I thought I would go with something that wouldn’t immediately jump to mind for October unless you already know the story behind it.

As closely as this song is associated with Flashdance (1983), it wasn’t originally written for it. It was written with William Lusting’s 1980 film Maniac in mind. I can’t find out for sure if it was written for or was inspired by the movie. Everything I have read seems to indicate the latter. In particular, the fact that it was apparently nominated for an Academy Award, but disqualified because the song wasn’t originally written for Flashdance. It didn’t play in my copy of the film either. It was written for a movie about someone with an obsession for trapping people as they are at a certain place in their life by killing, scalping, and then placing their hair on mannequins. He has other issues intertwined with that as well. The remake explains the motive behind what he does a bit better by expanding his relationship with a photographer who was played by Caroline Munro in the original.

Something that’s amazing to me is that Sembello didn’t change much to get the version we all know from Flashdance. With a few tweaks, you can play this over certain sections of the original film, and it would fit just fine. In addition, there are sections of this video that feel like they were put together in such a way because they would resemble a scene from Maniac.

The part where she’s running in a building while we watch via a tracking shot. That instantly made me think of the scene where the nurse is trying to get away in the subway station.

Maniac (1980, dir. William Lusting)

Also, he hammered the scalps onto the heads of the mannequins.

Maniac (1980, dir. William Lusting)

One last thing that caught my attention was the prostitute at the start of the film who is dressed like she could start dancing, and is shown to be as flexible.

Maniac (1980, dir. William Lusting)

Maniac (1980, dir. William Lusting)

Maniac (1980, dir. William Lusting)

I wouldn’t be surprised if these things were intentional because according to Songfacts, this was the first music video to use nothing but scenes from the movie the song was from. I have a strong feeling that Lyne and editors Bob Lederman, Walt Mulconery, and Bud Smith put those in there for that reason.

The postings of this video on YouTube are numerous, unofficial, and all appear to have been marked for monetization or have a link inserted to where you can buy or rent the movie. That makes sense. In retrospect, this music video acts as a trailer for the movie.

So, there you go, Flashdance for October. If Songfacts is accurate, some of the lyrics originally went like this:

He’s a maniac, maniac that’s for sure
He will kill your cat and nail him to the door

Gruesome. The story is that producer Phil Ramone is the one who got Sembello to write lyrics for “a girl possessed with the passion of a gift for dance.”

All three editors worked on Personal Best (1982). They have all done many things over the years from editing The Karate Kid (1984) to producing a lot of Star Trek to directing Johnny Be Good (1988).


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