Director: John Frankenheimer
Writer: Mae Woods
Cast: Blythe Danner, Salome Jens, Clarence Williams III, Obba Babatunde, Adam Ant, John Kassir, Dion Basco, Harper Roisman, Laurie Franks, and Irwin Keyes
Composer: Bill Conti
Air Date: 8/19/1992
While working overtime, a meek librarian named Margaret (Blythe Danner) believes herself to be the next victim of an erratic serial killer. Unfortunately, Margaret learns a “painful” lesson about the dangers of overreacting.
Despite taking place in a single location, “Maniac at Large” creates and sustains a compelling layer of mystery. Especially worth mentioning is the opening credits sequence, the music of which establishes a haunting and suspenseful atmosphere befitting the events that follow.
By employing a variety of red herrings, e.g. Mrs. Pritchard (Salome Jens), the austere head librarian; Grady (Clarence Williams III), a firm but unassuming security guard; and Pipkin (Adam Ant), a bothersome guest whose creepy manner borders on hyperbole, “Maniac at Large” draws attention away from the true culprit until his/her reveal in the final scene. Also effective are the reactions of Blythe Danner, which, though exaggerated at times, allow the viewer to share in the suspicion, paranoia, and eventual terror felt by Margaret when confronted with each of the potential killers outlined above.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
After stabbing Mrs. Pritchard to death, Margaret offers a relatively weak motive to justify her vicious behavior.
“Maniac at Large” teaches a lesson on underestimating those perceived as weak or defenseless. Specifically, Mrs. Pritchard pays the ultimate price for ignoring the tormented pleas of a quiet and seemingly gentle woman under her employ.
A captivating murder mystery, “Maniac at Large” will appeal to audiences who appreciate horror devices of a subtle nature. Tales from the Crypt fans may therefore enjoy this episode, which complements a gory climax with many exciting plot twists.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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