MANIAC COP Review. [A Year in Film]

Posted by Brian Salisbury - December 1st 2009 @ 6:35 pm

Directed by William Lustig, 1988
Written by Larry Cohen


Welcome back to AYIF.  That’s right people, I have returned from the grave to bring you more wonderful treats form my must-see list.  Sorry for the delay, but I have been hard at work helping Pete over at Horror Squad.  So I’ve been lax in my writing about horror so that I can…write about horror.  Yeah sorry, not sure how that one works.  Today’s film is Maniac Cop.  I have had this movie on my radar since I was a kid and saw the cover art at my local, hopelessly corporate videostore.  I added to my must-see list only a month or so ago because I saw that it was available on the Netflix streaming on the XBOX.  If you have an XBOX and you have Netflix, you have to look into this.  It is easily one of the greatest advances in movie-watching technology.  Me likey!  Anyway, let’s take a big bite of this cinematic cheeseburger.

This film takes place in NYC while it is in the grip of a panic.  A rouge police officer is dishing out his own brand of law and order by dispatching both criminals and innocents alike.  The result of this panic is that citizens begin shooting anyone with a badge who comes near.  Luckily, the police arrest a patsy on whom they can pin the whole affair; happens to be an NYPD cop so that fits nicely.  Turns out the murdering cop is former NYPD detective Matt Cordell who, although considered a hero by most, was sent to prison on account of his itchy trigger finger.  Tired of all the lawsuits against Cordell, certain city officials arrange to have him killed by other inmates.  Despite his deceased status, he is gleefully butchering New York citizens and crooks left and right.

Technically, this is a bad movie.  The story is preposterous, the acting is ham-fisted at best, and some of the action sequences seem like nothing more than people awkwardly falling over.  And I loved every last second of this!  This is exactly the type of cheesy 80’s horror that makes me giggle inside like a nine-year-old girl trading “who’s got cooties” stories with her BFF.  It has classic slasher film elements with the gore effects, the shadowy killer, and the revenge-from-beyond-the-grave plot.  But I liked the added irony of the slasher being a cop; playing with the established exemplars of safety and order.  Sure Jason is scary, but if you see a guy in the woods wearing a hockey mask and brandishing a machete, you are not likely to approach said creep.  But everyone knows that cops are the paradigm of protection so there is no risk in approaching them right?  Wrong!

One of the best things about Maniac Cop is its cast.  Good God, it was like someone took cult movies from the 70’s and 80’s and shook ‘em until all the actors fell into this film.  We’ve got Richard Roundtree, the baddest mofo in blaxploitation, as the police commissioner at the end of his rope.  We’ve got Tom Atkins, a staple of 80’s horror and one of my personal heroes, as the one detective who believes the killer is Cordell returned to life.  And last, but in no way least, the scapegoat officer desperate to clear his name is played by the legendary Bruce Campbell.  He exudes beef-headed charm and hokey hero energy both of which perfectly season this film.  I also have to give special props to Robert Z’Dar who plays the zombie cop with a vendetta.  The guy has the biggest face I have ever seen and that panoramic jawline really made him look monstrous while also silly (canonizing 80’s horror).

This is just a really fun, campy 80’s horror film.  The killings aren’t terribly creative, but I liked the knife within the nightstick gag that tied into Cordell’s backstory.  There is one murder that just looks too wacky to actually have killed anyone; wherein he’s got a woman lifted up against a wall and seems to be rubbing her face against a bulletin board until she….is dead?  It looks incredibly awful; to the point where I feel like there had to be something that was cut out of that scene.  But that was forgivable.  The dark, shadowy, stalking killer stuff was actually done pretty well.  I also really enjoyed the ending which doesn’t just suggest a sequel, it writes sequel on a billyclub and beats you in the face with it.

All in all, this is my kind of movie.  Like I said, I have no illusions that this is a good film.  But if you can’t enjoy the ride of a bad movie every now and again, I really don’t know how to talk to you.  Sure, I like a seared fillet mignon with sautéed garlic mushrooms and a fine wine.  Does that mean that every so often I don’t get a craving to buy a box of McNuggets and stuff them into a Whopper?  Hell no!  I’m a guy who goes into movies with two expectations: 1.) it should hold great artistic merit or 2.) it should be fun.  If it manages to do both that’s terrific, but if the film is sentient of its camp status and makes no pretense of quality, then there is no cause to judge it by film school standards.  There is something to be said for unabashed entertainment.

That does it for today’s AYIF.  Tune in next time, which I hope is not months from now.  Good to be back!

Brian’s Rating: B+

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rss 5 comments
  1. Matt J.
    December 1st, 2009 | 7:22 pm | #1

    YES…finally someone shows some love for Tom. Creepshow,Escape from N.Y.,Night of the Creeps,The New Kids…need I go on. He is one of those actors that will never get the attention he deserves. He’s not the best actor around…but i’ve yet to see a performance I did’nt get a kick out of. Thank you Brian.

  2. Brian
    December 2nd, 2009 | 8:49 am | #2

    I believe the word that best describes MANIAC COP is “awesome.” Not “great,” or even “good,” just AWESOME.

    Too bad this is the only Larry Cohen movie you like. I think that makes you a bad person.

  3. December 2nd, 2009 | 6:15 pm | #3

    And to think, they made 3 of these films! An instant classic, that’s what it was/is

  4. December 3rd, 2009 | 1:25 pm | #4

    I remember this one from years ago and have been dying to see it ever since. Your post has renewed the energy in me to begin searching for it again!

  5. D
    December 11th, 2009 | 11:34 am | #5

    I always loved this film and Maniac Cop 2 as a kid.

    Not so much the cheap action comedy that Maniac Cop 3 somehow became.

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