Directed by William Lustig
Distributed by Arrow Video
“The Chin”, Bruce Campbell, goes up against “The Face”, Robert Z’Dar, in William Lustig’s cult classic Maniac Cop, now on UK shelves in high definition courtesy of Arrow Video. Campbell stars as Jack Forrest, a cheating husband and cop who, alongside veteran detective Frank McCrae (Atkins), is drawn into a world of conspiracy and murder when a serial killer dressed as a policeman begins mounting a body count on the streets of New York. A victim of police corruption, once super-cop Matt Cordell is back from an apparent brutal death at the hands of the criminals he put away. Heavily scarred, severely brain damaged and almost completely impervious to pain, the hulking stalker has only one goal: wreaking bloody retribution against the system he once devoted himself to.
As police officials and members of the public alike are sliced and diced, director William Lustig crafts a pacy (once it gets going after the slightly slow first act), highly enjoyable piece of low-budget schlock that rarely falters. The story itself is simple but well played out with a consistently pleasing cast, effective shocks and well-staged kill scenes that rely less on gore and more on thrills. Cordell is an effortlessly iconic villain — his creepy, under lit image for most of the film bolstered by Jay Chattaway’s unnerving, whistling score. Underpinned by a knowing sense of irreverence and a gleeful will to off even principle cast members when you least expect it, Maniac Cop is a hugely satisfying ride that has most certainly stood the test of time, remaining as entertaining today as it ever was.
On the negative side of the matter, as mentioned Lustig’s film is initially quite slow, taking its time to truly shift gears and with the climactic revelation of Cordell’s physical appearance, the understated nature of his disfiguring makeup is goofier than it needed to be. Speaking of the climax, the final confrontation between Forrest and Cordell is also distinctly lacking in punch, however the concluding stunt remains as impressive as it was back in 1988. It isn’t an out-and-out cult masterpiece (Lustig would perfect that recipe with the infallible Maniac Cop 2) yet Maniac Cop most definitely remains amongst the cream of the crop of late-eighties low-budget horror, and therefore essential viewing for fans of its ilk.
Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Maniac Cop comes sporting a high-definition transfer that just about hits all the right notes for a film of this age. Image quality is consistent, with solid blacks and good colour reproduction. Some print damage is evident, which is almost a given with this type of flick, but the picture is generally stable with a good amount of filmic grain and some pleasing texturing. It won’t blow you away in comparison to modern titles, but it’s most certainly the best that Maniac Cop has looked on any platform thus far. The soundtrack is provided via a clean and balanced Stereo presentation which does exactly what it needs to.
On the special features side of the fence, first up actor Tom Atkins talks Maniac Cop, Night of the Creeps, appearing at conventions and more in a snappy, personable and high-spirited interview session that’s well worth the circa 20-minute runtime. Next on the table is a roughly 12-minute interview with star Laurene Landon. Here, she talks about the beginning of her acting career with All the Marbles, leading on to Maniac Cop including an interesting little titbit on her absence from the third film. The final interview extra comes in the form of around 18 minutes with Writer/Producer Larry Cohen, with plenty of short, punchy bursts of information regarding the genesis of Maniac Cop and his work with William Lustig.
As is the norm for Arrow Video releases, a slew of physical extras are also included here, but were not provided for review purposes. Check out the list below for the complete details. It’s most certainly a respectable set, but the absence of Lustig’s existing commentary for the film will be disappointing to those looking for a more definitive edition of Maniac Cop for their shelves.
4 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5