Why do you guys like Maniac Cop? And by “you guys” I mean whoever created the demand for multiple sequels and this upcoming Blu-Ray? Maybe it’s Bruce Campbell fans, maybe it’s Tom Atkins fans, or is it just people who had a really good year in 1988? I mean, I love Atkins and Campbell as much as the next guy but as Atkins himself insinuates in his supplemental interview, it’s far from the best work he’s ever done.
Maniac Cop starts out promisingly enough, with a hulking uniformed figure choking a woman on the run from two pre-Giuliani street thugs. It sets up a nice, pulpy atmosphere that film is only able to maintain in fits and starts. Maniac Cop’s main problem is that it’s unable to decide what kind of movie it is. It alternates between actually having a sense of humor and then being incredibly dour for what it is. I like the moments of levity and carnage that recognize the game the film is supposed to be playing, but too often they’re beset by a stiff script with flat direction.
Skinny Bruce Campbell is required to play it almost too straight as the philandering and wrongly accused cop Jack Forrest (who gets over the death of his wife in what must be some kind of record time). Tom Atkins’ Frank MacCrae is given slightly more pathos but none of it adds up to much. Laurene Landon’s character is never developed enough for the audience to feel any kind of investment in her survival. Adding to our rogues gallery of wasted performances, Robert Dzar’s titular villain looks utterly ridiculous in the daylight (where the 3rd act of the film takes place). The movie also features probably the single weakest “it’s not over yet” final shot that I have EVER seen.
All that being said, nostalgia is powerful stuff. I’d actually never seen the film before but I found myself hankering for the gold old days of hard boiled 80′ slasher films – albeit ones that have half decent kills. The carnage in Maniac Cop is practically non-existent. There’s plenty of offings, but none that are remotely scary or memorable. Many of them are played almost off-camera with synth stabs indicating the supposed wounds being inflicted.
With all that out of the way, if you’ve seen Maniac Cop and are one of the film’s seemingly many cult fans, I can report that the transfer is actually pretty good. Grain is well preserved, the picture is clear and the colors are solid and stable. I suspect this was never a terribly good-looking film, but the print on display here seems fairly pristine.
Maniac Cop Memories: Interview with Robert Z’Dar – A 12 minute conversation with the actor behind the film’s villain. He would like you to know that he has had two hip replacement surgeries and is thus ready to return to work!
Out The Window: Interview with Tom Atkins – A candid interview with Atkins wherein he recalls having a good time on set but admits that Maniac Cop is not one of his favorite films, ranking it far below Night Of The Creeps and even his brief appearance in Lethal Weapon.
Three Minutes with Danny Hicks – Take a guess.
The supplements are sounded out with a few trailers and some additional scenes filmed for the Japanese television version that don’t really add much.