He knows, judging from “the size of those hematomas” on one victim’s neck. He’s right: It is the work of a cop … a “Maniac Cop.”
Astounding coincidence: That’s the title of a 1988 cult gem from director William Lustig (“Relentless”) and writer Larry Cohen (“Cellular”) that plays like exploitation gangbusters with each viewing, and is new to Blu-ray from Synapse Films.
Suspicion for the murders falls on Officer Jack Forrest (a very skinny Bruce Campbell, TV’s “Burn Notice”), especially after his wife is next on the kill list. Finally, McCrae discovers that the real culprit is former cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar), but hey, wait: Isn’t he supposed to be dead? Proving this case ain’t gonna be easy, although Cordell sure sticks out: He’s the one with the white gloves, enormous head and Sizzlean face, glimpsed only at the end.
Although budgetary seams show, “Maniac Cop” overcomes such perceived inefficiencies with a kick-ass concept that bears better performances that such exploitation exercises of the genre normally could (or would) get. Campbell proves his leading-man chops extend beyond “Evil Dead,” and he sure takes a beating. Providing able support are lovely Laurene Landon (“Airplane II: The Sequel”) as his partner (both on the beat and ‘tween the sheets) and Richard Roundtree, “Shaft” himself, as the thoroughly unconvinced police commissioner.
I’m actually more a fan of the two sequels, if only because they don’t have to muck around with this one’s setup. Synapse goes almost the distance on this release in way of extras, spotlighted by a pair of conversations with Z’Dar and Atkins, but one loses the commentary of Campbell, Lustig and Cohen from Synapse’s own previous DVD. Interesting, although terrible, are the six minutes of additional footage for “Maniac Cop”’s Japanese TV broadcast, complete with a stunningly awful (and awfully predictable) new ending. It’s a hoot, but in a much different way than the actual finished film is. —Rod Lott