“You have the right to remain silent… forever!”
Maniac Cop is a movie that has all the elements of being a cult classic.
- Extreme pulp narrative: Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) is a Dirty Harry style cop with a Cobra style muscle-bound body wrongly sent to prison by his superiors and nearly shanked to death by prisoners seeking vengeance for their incarceration at his hands. Somehow he survives, escapes prison, and now kills random victims for no apparent reason in his police uniform. Cordell is also framing Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) for the murders (again for no apparent reason), but Detective Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) sees through the frame-up (yet again for no apparent reason) and with Jack’s help, must stop Cordell before he kills again.
- Perfect cult cast: Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, Conan’s daddy William Smith as the creepy Captain Ripley, even Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree playing Commissioner Pike, plus cameos by Sam Raimi and Jake LaMotta!
- Great grindhouse horror director: William Lustig, the demented mind behind the oft censored and banned slasher film Maniac?
How could this not be a cult classic?
Well, the answer is unrealized plot potential, undefined mythos, off-screen gore, unimaginative kills, lazy writing, and an uninspired performance from Robert Z’Dar. The villain has to be effective, and other than his freakish size, Z’Dar really has no range. When we finally see his scarred face, his expressions of rage and anger are so laughable they rip you right out of the scene. Maybe this is why Michael Meyers and Jason Voorhees wore masks.
Still, if you love Eighties slasher flicks, there is still a lot to like here. Fast pacing, atmospheric set ups, classic B-Movie quotes, better than average acting, and decent action allow Maniac Cop to keep the promise its title suggests.
I could imagine a remake (I’m sure someone already has) that really fleshes out Cordell’s back story, better explains his transition into the Jason-like undead killing machine, amps up the deaths themselves, and explores the corrupt police intrigue. Maybe if they cast a Jack Forrest that more resembled Cordell’s hulking mass, it would make the frame up more believable, say a Duane Johnson or Sam Worthington type.
Despite some genuinely suspenseful scenes and decent plot revelations, Maniac Cop can’t quite rise out of the pile of generic horror. Everything feels too familiar; plot points fall into place exactly where and when you expect them to. Although bloody, there is way too little imaginative gore. The scenes with Bruce Campbell seem to want to cross over into Evil Dead 2 territory and can’t quite decide if they want to be horror or horror comedy, but never quite take the dive. The sequence where Jack Forrest is beaten by Cordell reflects some of Campbell’s earlier splatstick antics, but only enough to take any suspense out of the sequence. Tom Atkins is all kinds of manly and rules as usual, but they really don’t give him enough meat to rise above the generic writing, but damn if Atkins isn’t all kinds of badass as always.
Maniac Cop‘s 1080p MPEG-4 AVC Blu-ray transfer runs an average of 30Mbps in its original aspect ratio 1.85:1 and was struck from the original negatives. Once again, Synapse goes the extra mile on this excellent transfer. Colors are bright and stable, especially in the day shots. Some of the night shots fall a bit flat, but this is more of a source problem. The grain is neither too heavy nor too sharp.
Maniac Cop‘s DTS-HD MA 6.1 lossless soundtrack is surprisingly robust for an eighties slasher flick. There are definitely source issues, as some of the dialog may be a bit tinny, but it is crisp and clear, the surround fields are immersive and deliver Jay Chattaway’s music soundtrack perfectly. This movie sound far better than it has any right to. Balance is decent between dialog and SFX/Music.
Maniac Cop‘s piles on a lot of extras, but they are a bit light in content. No audio commentary track, and where is the interview with Bruce Campbell?
- Maniac Cop Memories — Interview with Robert Z’Dar (1080p, 12:12): Really a nothing piece with a man who over-exaggerates his film impact. Awkward to watch.
- Out the Window — Interview with Tom Atkins (1080p, 10:56): You’ve got to love Tom Atkins. Here is very candid about his involvement and feelings about Maniac Cop. It turns out it is one of his least favorite films.
- Three Minutes with Danny Hicks (1080p, 3:32): Three very long minutes.
- Theatrical Trailer #1 (1080p, 2:12).
- Theatrical Trailer #2 (1080p, 1:50).
- French Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 1:23).
- Animated Promotional Art Gallery (1080p, 3:07): Collected images scored to music from the film.
- Additional Footage Filmed for Japanese TV Broadcast (480p, approx. 1.78:1, 5:43): Filler footage playing up the Mayor’s role in the Maniac Cop conspiracy.
- Television Spot #1 (480p, 0:35).
- Television Spot #2 (480p, 0:19).
- Spanish Radio Spot (1080p, 0:31).
A supernatural slasher flick crossed with an innocent cop on the run story. Should have been, could have been, much, much better, but if you want to see a slasher movie about a Maniac Cop, this is it. Add a cream-of-the-cult cast from the eighties, stir in a couple fun kills, and finish with an over the top fight between Bruce Campbell and Robert Z’Dar – the battle of the chins – and you have an cult nearly classic. Definitely an enjoyable watch and I doubt it has looked better.
“Gina, this isn’t about romance. It’s about murder.”