Maniac Cop Review

Larry Cohen should have something named after him. He is the patron saint of all number of B-movies and an ideas factory of the novel and twisted. Watching Maniac Cop again it struck me that what makes it so much fun is not Lustig's rather ropey direction, but the puckishness of the films ideas and screenplay. It is rather a pity that Cohen didn't decide to direct this film himself as more could have come from the humour and the satire of the piece.

Bad things are happening to innocent people. A woman is mugged and fights off her attackers only to have her neck snapped by a cop, a young motorist is beaten to death during a drink drive test and a pedestrian is drowned in wet cement. Public fears are raised and a hunt for cops with a grudge unearths the name of Jack Forrest. Detective McCrae thinks Forrest has been fitted up and discovers that a betrayed supercop is behind the killings. Can they stop the Maniac Cop and prove Forrest's innocence?

Maniac Cop is a B-movie slasher pic that does exactly what it says on the tin. The plentiful murders are provided often enough to justify the title and the film has great fun with playing with the public's attitudes to the police. When the public start to become hysterical about a killer policeman, it's hard not to enjoy the vox pop TV news coverage -"In my day you respected the police and if you didn't they roughed you up a little so you would. I guess nowadays they have to kill you to be noticed". The film also dusts off a few genre staples and uses them to good effect - the cop screwed by City Hall, the dirty politicians, and damsels in distress. Cohen's familiarity with the movies he apes and his warmth for cinematic cliché are a large part of the fun here as well as the solid casting and acting. As for Lustig's direction, it often means that actors are not quite in the same picture as one another and that the comedic moments remain little more than subtext. As the hero Bruce Campbell does violence and fun well but his arched eyebrows rather interfere with more dramatic moments. The rest of the cast are familiar character actors mining the script for any nuggets it may have, whilst Robert Z'dar lumbers round like a NYPD version of Frankenstein's monster.

Maniac Cop is a superior genre flick largely courtesy of the screenplay and production from Larry Cohen. The film promises gore and offbeat violence and delivers it in spades. Sequels followed but this film didn't need the company.

The Disc
After several R1 and R2 releases, it is high time that Maniac Cop got a decent release after an assortment of full-frame and letterboxed transfers, and here we are presented with an anamorphic transfer which is the same as original aspect ratio. This transfer is far preferable to what has gone before it with little noise apparent and strong solid colours. The contrast seems genuinely well judged but the overall look is not as sharp as it could be. The film though was never made to be studied like an Antonioni and the image here is as good as could be expected bar odd specks on the print. The sound comes with fully loaded options and the DTS track is smooth, clear with well defined surround effects, and with a lack of soundtrack noise or distortion.

The extras are plentiful, and for once this is a commentary with a point as Cohen, Lustig, and Campbell are entertaining throughout. Cohen and Lustig mention their fights whilst making the film and trying to shoot scenes in Los Angeles which were meant to be in New York. Campbell has a blast and plays the idiot brother to the two old hands. A plethora of trailer, TV and Radio spots are served up, but fans will welcome the inclusion of the extra scenes filmed for Japanese TV and an interview with Robert Z'dar. Z'dar jokes about making another sequel despite having two replacement hips and alludes ungallantly to the closeness of his friendship to Laurene Landon.

The Synapse release beats the pants off previous DVD releases of the film. It keeps the commentary and extra scenes from the laserdisc, and serves them up with a fine transfer and excellent sound. All Maniac Cop fans will be happy to have this.

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