If you haven’t seen William Lustig’s seminal undead law enforcement horror film from 1988, part of me wants to beat you over the head with a nightstick. But a larger part of me, the part that isn’t currently being indicted in several states, is envious that you now have the ability to see it for the first time via Synapse Film’s stunning Blu-ray release. For years, Maniac Cop languished in limbo between VHS and DVD. What few DVD releases were available during this dark time were just a half-step above complete bootlegs. But then, in 2006, Synapse Films gave us the only loving-treated, passable release of Maniac Cop and there was much rejoicing. Now, Synapse has just released the first ever (at least in the U.S.) Blu-ray edition of the film and we couldn’t wait to read you its rights…because it actually doesn’t have many wrongs.
Nuts & Bolts
The picture quality on this cult exploitation gem has never been better. It is clear, sharp, and highlights several interesting usages of color throughout the film. The picture isn’t perfect, but I in no way mean that as a slight against Synapse; quite the contrary. What I mean is that a suitable amount of grain remains on the screen from the 35mm print from which this release was remastered. One of my biggest pet peeves in regard to Blu-ray transfers is when the company in charge of the transfer opts to use DNR (digital noise reduction) to remove any and all perceived imperfections from the picture. To be fair, DNR does remove artifacts and scratches on the print that would otherwise mar the quality. So yes, DNR is not a bad thing in-and-of-itself. But applied too liberally, it makes the images appear artificial and plastic. I applaud Synapse for leaving an infinitesimal, but still effective amount of grain in this transfer.
As to the sound quality, the Maniac Cop Blu-ray offers DTS-HD audio options in 6.1 and 4.0 Surround as well as 2.0 Stereo. The levels are a bit extreme here, the dialogue is recorded quite low while the action and score are much, much louder. I feel there could have been more done to prioritize the dialogue so that it wouldn’t be necessary to continually adjust the volume to accommodate for these changes. Oddly enough, the 2.0 Stereo audio track does not have this issue.
Bells & Whistles
1 Previous & 2 All New Featurettes (All in HD)
“Maniac Cop Memories”–The film’s titular psychopath, actor Robert Z’Dar, and his gargantuan face are interviewed in this quietly introspective featurette. Z’Dar proves to be funny in a very weird, offbeat way. He seems really excited at the idea of doing a Maniac Cop 4 now that he’s “got two new hips.”
“Out the Window”–Interview with Maniac Cop star, horror movie mainstay, and personal hero Tom Atkins. Tom is colorful and charming as he recounts how he landed the role, working with the various talent on the project, and his career in general.
“Three Minutes with Danny Hicks”–By far the most superfluous extra of this release. Danny Hicks, who had a bit part in the film, is really only given these three minutes because he was a friend of Bruce Campbell’s and appeared with him in Evil Dead II. There’s only so many interesting things you can say about one innocuous scene in the film. But it’s as well shot and edited as the other features.
Animated Promotional Art Gallery–So you know how a lot of DVD/Blu-ray releases offer a promotional gallery and you spend roughly 30 secs mindlessly flipping through posters and what not? Synapse decided that wasn’t good enough for Maniac Cop. They provide a beautiful backdrop for the auto-scrolling posters (both foreign and domestic), DVD covers from around the world, and VHS artwork all while the film’s eerie theme music plays; creating an honest-to-goodness ambiance for a promotional gallery. It’s fantastic and…did I mention VHS ARTWORK!!!
2 English Trailers, 1 French Trailer (All in HD)
2 TV Spots (SD)–One of which hilariously ADRs a line wherein Cordell (who doesn’t speak once in the actual film mind you) says, “I’m gonna read you your rights.”
Spanish Radio Spot–Maldita Impresionante!
Odds & Ends
Included with the special features on this release is additional footage which was actually filmed for the Japanese TV broadcast of Maniac Cop. This feature is a bizarre series of scenes involving a heretofore absent mayor character played by legendary character actor Ken Lerner. It is literally just several scenes of the mayor reacting to events in the film. However, it does give us an alternate ending wherein the last shot is not Cordell’s hand reaching up from the watery depths, but instead showing up in the mayor’s office and killing him. Why did the producers of the film feel the Japanese audience needed this character to 1.) be introduced, 2.) be involved in some satellite way with the plot, and then 3.) get his comeuppance?
The Long & The Short
This is one of the better horror Blu-ray releases I’ve seen. The treatment of the film itself is phenomenal; the picture pristine. Synapse also went out of its way to not only create brand new special features, but to offer those features in HD whenever possible. They also put unique twists on tired, predicable features like promotional galleries. The additional Japanese footage, though not new to this release, is utterly fascinating. The one complaint I have is that the audio commentary with Bruce Campbell, producer Larry Cohen, director William Lustig, and composer Jay Chattaway–the commentary that was on the 2006 Synapse DVD–is absent from the Blu-ray. Would it really have been that difficult to port that commentary over? Seems like a glaring oversight.
Overall, I’d definitely label this release as a must-have for fans of Maniac Cop and novices alike.