William Lustig watched a huge volume of trashy exploitation fare at theaters in Manhattan while he was growing up and also worked as a movie theater usher in New Jersey, so he seemed destined to carry on the grindhouse torch. After getting his career started behind the scenes in the adult movie industry, Lustig made the grim, gory, and disturbing slasher sleaze landmark MANIAC (1980), which boasts an intense performance by character actor Joe Spinell as a vicious depraved psychopath and plenty of gruesome make-up effects by horror genre icon Tom Savini. In 1982, Lustig followed with the New York urban revenge opus VIGILANTE. In 1988, he delivered MANIAC COP, a violent horror action flick about an undead New York police officer on a killing spree, which was the first of several cinematic collaborations with fellow maverick filmmaker Larry Cohen.

Lustig followed up with the 1989 action item HIT LIST and serial killer thriller RELENTLESS, along with two MANIAC COP sequels. Since 1997, Lustig has produced retrospective DVD documentaries for Anchor Bay, and he currently runs the DVD label Blue Underground, which restores and re-releases popular and little-seen cult movies and other grindhouse action, drama, and horror films.