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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Comedy > Maniac Cop (Special Edition/Synapse)

Maniac Cop (Special Edition/Synapse)

 

Picture: B-   ††Sound: B-   ††Extras: B+   Film: C+

 

 

"You have the right to remain silent... Forever!" - The tagline for Maniac Cop.

 

 

Maniac Cop (1988) is one of the many off-beat exploitation films from the mind of Larry Cohen, a B-movie specialist known for putting subversive spins on low-budget genre flicks.  Cohen has directed some of his own screenplays (such as Black Caesar, It's Alive and The Stuff) while writing many more that were directed by others (such as Best Seller, Guilty as Sin and Phone Booth).

 

Cohen wrote and produced Maniac Cop, while leaving the directing chores to another B-movie vet, William Lustig (1980's infamous Maniac, Vigilante and Uncle Sam, the latter of which was also written by Cohen).  Cohen and Lustig would repeat the same duties on two direct-to-video sequels, Maniac Cop 2 (1990) and Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993).

 

In Maniac Cop, which had a brief theatrical run in '88, Cohen takes the slasher/serial-killer genre and puts a unique spin on it by making the killer a police officer, while adding plenty of gallows humor.

 

A serial killer is stalking the streets of New York City, and a veteran homicide detective played by Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps, 1980's The Fog) immediately suspects the culprit is an NYPD officer.  Naturally, the police commissioner (Richard Roundtree) doesn't want to believe him, and when word leaks out, a worried public turns against the men in blue.

 

Enter a young patrolman named Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell, the big-chinned actor best known for Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies).  Forrest's own wife thinks he's the killer cop, but he's really been sneaking out at night to shack up with a female police officer (Laurene Landon).  So when Forrest's wife ends up dead from a throat slashing, he becomes the prime suspect.

 

Turns out, though, that Forrest is really an unfortunate victim of circumstance, and the real killer is a hulking former cop named Matt Cordell (Robert DíZar).Remembered as a hard-nosed, Dirty Harry-style cop, Cordell was railroaded and sent to prison by slimy politicians, who wanted to make an example of him simply to get votes.

 

Cordell was brutalized by other prison inmates and supposedly died behind bars.  But nobody counted on Cordell barely surviving the vicious attack and being let go by a sympathetic coroner. Now the hideously scarred Cordell is back as a vengeful madman who'll kill anybody who crosses his path, even perfectly innocent civilians.

 

All of this is totally ridiculous, but it can be fun when accepted on the level of a violent black comedy.  What helps the film immeasurably is its entertaining cast of B-movie veterans, which also includes William Smith and Sheree North.  Just watching the cynical, hard-boiled Atkins interact with the other seasoned cast members makes the film worthwhile.

 

Unfortunately, however, Atkins departs the proceedings about two-thirds of the way through, and the movie loses steam once he's gone.  We're then left with Campbell and Landon to battle the maniac cop, and neither of them are good enough actors to carry the film.

 

Interestingly, Campbell has a very pronounced chin while D'Zar has a jawline and chin that rivals Jay Leno's.  As a result, Maniac Cop ends up being a battle of the big chins.  But hey, you know what they say about guys with big chins.

 

Synapse Films' special edition DVD of Maniac Cop comes with a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer mastered in high-definition from the original vault materials.  Even so, the picture sometimes exhibits a grainy look during the nighttime scenes, which probably has more to with the original film stock than this transfer.  The sound, however, is much better, and viewers have the option of listening to it in a new DTS 6.1 track, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or the original 2.0 Dolby Digital.

 

The extras include an enjoyable feature-length audio commentary originally recorded by Cohen, Lustig and Campbell in the mid-1990s for the film's 12Ē LaserDisc release.  There are additional scenes later shot for Japanese television that introduce the entertaining character of a weasely mayor responsible for Cordell's persecution.  Plus theatrical trailers, TV spots and a new retrospective interview with the maniac cop himself, Z'Dar.

 

For more information about this and other great titles from Synapse Films, be sure to visit their site at the following link where you can also order these discs:

 

http://www.synapse-films.com

 

 

- ††Chuck O'Leary


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