Maniac Cop Blu-ray Review


Written by Steve Pattee

Blu-ray released by Synapse Films

 

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Directed by William Lustig
Written by Larry Cohen
1988, Region ABC (NTSC), 85 minutes, Rated R
Released on October 11th, 2011

Starring:
Tom Atkins as Frank McCrae
Bruce Campbell as Jack Forrest
Laurene Landon as Theresa Mallory
Richard Roundtree as Commissioner Pike
William Smith as Captain Ripley
Robert Z'Dar as Matt Cordell

Sheree North as Sally Noland

 

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Review:

 

Before he was releasing fantastic cult films from his company Blue Underground, Bill Lustig was making fantastic cult films for a moviegoing audience. Directing such movies as Maniac, Vigilante and the Maniac Cop series,  Lustig has a pretty good track record of making some enjoyable flicks on a limited budget from 1980 to 1997 and 1988's Maniac Cop is no exception.

Maniac Cop stars Tom Atkins (Halloween 3, Night of the Creeps) as Detective Frank McCrae hot on the trail of a serial killer (Robert Z'Dar) who dresses like a police officer and murders people at random, throwing the city in a panic. The legendary Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-tep) gets thrown into the investigation as a cop who becomes suspect number one after his wife is murdered — it doesn't help that they were having marital problems and he was cheating on her.

 

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For all intents and purposes, Maniac Cop should be nowhere near enjoyable as it is. Larry Cohen, the writer behind horror favorites such as Q and It's Alive and blaxploitation classics Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem, is credited for penning Maniac Cop, which comes as a surprise since the script is mediocre at best . There are numerous plotholes, such as how did McCrae know almost right away that the serial killer was a real police officer? I mean McCrae zeros in on this immediately. In addition, there are a lot of forced scenes that move the plot along, like the whole story involving Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell's character). I'm a firm believer in suspension of belief, but the randomness of Forrest's infidelities in a troubled marriage is entirely too convenient.

However, this is one of those cases where good direction and solid acting makes up for a rather weak script. Tom Atkins does what he does best, which is not disappoint. He seems to have that "guy with no time for bullshit" part down best, as you've seen it in Halloween 3, Night of the Creeps, or almost any movie he's been in. Robert Z'Dar is Robert Z'Dar, which is one beast of man built to play the baddie because he does it so well. Richard "Shaft" Roundtree even makes an appearance as the police chief. But the winner here is genre favorite Bruce Campbell, who plays the role pretty straight, free of wacky physical comedy — which in of itself is a bonus. I'm a huge fan of Campbell, but I prefer his straight roles in films like Bubba Ho-tep and TV shows like Burn Notice over the Three Stooges-esque shlock. (Which, of course, doesn't stop me from watching any of the Evil Dead movies on occasion.)

 

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What also works for Maniac Cop is just how flat out mean it is. Normally in revenge-based films (which, ultimately, this is), those being led to the slaughterhouse are generally involved in the antagonist's motive. Not here, though. Matt Cordell, the killer in question, destroys lives at random. Dude is pissed off at everybody, it doesn't matter if they are guilty of anything or not. If he catches you, you are dead. Plus, this is one of those movies where, in true grindhouse fashion, no one is safe. Although I knew what was going to happen to one of the characters, having seen the film years ago, it still bothered me when their fate was ultimately delivered.

Maniac Cop is far from a great movie. It's a by-the-numbers slasher flick with the benefit of a cast that takes it a few levels higher than where is should be, but it really delivers by being overly mean and cruel to its characters. Fans of Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins will naturally want this on their shelf, as will slasher fans in general.

 

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Video and Audio:

 

Synapse brings Maniac Cop home with a very solid picture overall. It succeeds most during the day or brightly lit scenes with natural flesh tones and vibrant colors with no bleeding. The darker scenes suffer some, with a noticeable loss of detail, but it doesn't distract from the viewing experience in any way.

The DTS-HD MA 6.1 lossless soundtrack is as solid as the video. Dialogue is always crisp and there is plenty of use of sides and rears for ambient noises.

 

Click on images to enlarge.

 

Special Features:

 

  • Maniac Cop Memories - Interview with Robert Z'Dar
  • Out the Window - Interview with Tom Atkins
  • Three Minutes with Danny Hicks Featurette
  • Animated Promotional Art Gallery
  • Additional Scenes Filmed for Japanese TV Broadcast
  • Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
  • Spanish Radio Spot


All things considered, there is a very little in the way of special features found on this Blu-ray. The interviews with Robert Z'Dar and Tom Atkins run about 23 minutes total. Both men look fantastic for their age and each discuss their experiences on Maniac Cop. Robert Z'Dar spends a lot of time dropping hints that he's willing to still in great shape and wants an acting gig. It's a bit uncomfortable.

The only other thing worth mentioning is the additional footage filmed for Japanese broadcast. It's an interesting scene involving the Mayor getting some just desserts.

I'm surprised there isn't anything with Bill Lustig, as I think he would be accessible. Perhaps his commentary or interview will be on the inevitable Blue Underground release down the road.

 

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Grades:

 

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Video:
Audio:
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Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.

 

About The Author
Steve Pattee
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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