May 13, 2018 Maniac Cop – Upholding The Law 30 Years Later
“You have the right to remain silent… forever.“
This utterly chilling tagline was featured on all of the advertising for the William Lustig (Maniac Cop 2 1992, Uncle Sam 1996) directed Maniac Cop weeks prior to the film’s theatrical release back on May 13th in 1988 through the now defunct low-budget Horror and action films production/distribution company, Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment. Featuring an cast of faces many Horror lovers know and love including Tom Atkins (The Fog 1980, Halloween III: Season of the Witch 1982) as Detective Frank McCrae, Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead 1981, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn 1987) as Officer Jack W. Forrest, Jr., Laurene Landon (Armed Response 1986, Maniac Cop 2 1990) as Officer Theresa Mallory, and the late Robert Z’Dar (Tango and Cash 1990, Maniac Cop 2 1992) as Officer Matthew Cordell, aka the Maniac Cop, 30 years later, the film is still taking audiences into custody.
Written and produced by legendary B-Horror Filmmaker Larry Cohen (It’s Alive 1974, The Stuff 1985), Maniac Cop opened on Friday the 13th in an estimated 50 theaters around the USA. Opening with a woman running from two thugs, suddenly, she runs into a large police officer. Just when she thinks she is safe, the behemoth lifts her up by her neck, snapping it. When other innocent people start dying at the hands of this monster, Detective Frank McRae begins digging and finds that the cop is none other than Officer Matthew Cordell – a good cop that was framed by politicians and sentenced to death row when he discovered the mob ties to city hall. Thought to have been killed in prison, Cordell is now out for revenge, not just on the city officials that put him in that hellhole, but against the very citizens he took an oath to protect and serve.
Also in the mix was Officer Jack W. Forrest, a good cop with marriage problems. After his wife discovers him with his lover, Officer Theresa Mallory, she leaves and is killed by Cordell. She is then placed in the same hotel room Forrest and Mallory were in, and naturally, her husband is pinned with her murder. Even when McCrae makes it known that it was Cordell, everyone dismisses it as a ghost story. Not until Forrest and Mallory visit the death house coroner do they discover that Cordell was still very much alive. Can anyone escape the vengeful wrath of the maniac cop?
Overall, Maniac Cop was very light on character development, and honestly, the only character really focused on was the titular Maniac Cop, Matthew Cordell. That in mind, there is a great flashback sequence showing Cordell being sent to Sing Sing and shanked in the shower, but not before he thrashes the three inmates pretty well, looking like a pro wrestler in doing so. The story that would have been nice to see was what led Cordell to be framed by the city officials. This was explained through exposition, sure, but for as good of a cop as he was explained to be, it would been nice to see him as a pre-maniac cop outside of a photo in a newspaper clipping. Now it is Cordell’s world, everyone else was just trying to survive in it.
Beyond such, Tom Atkins once again shines in the role of the hard-nosed detective, McCrae, but unfortunately, he is dispatched before the end of the film, but in a pretty cool way. He plays detective/officer roles so well, that fans have asked if he was actually a cop once. Then there was Bruce Campbell’s Jack Forrest, a relatively small part. Considering he is one of the main characters, he spends most of the film either incarcerated or running from Cordell. Finally, there was Campbell’s love interest, Theresa Mallory, played by Laurene Landon; she was definitely one badass woman as she rushed into the fight rather than being the damsel in distress.
Interestingly enough, there were alternate scenes for Maniac Cop shot exclusively for Japanese television featuring characters completely cut from the theatrical release. The scenes follow Mayor Jerry Killium (Ken Lerner: Robocop 2 1990, Unlawful Entry 1992) and his Chief of Staff (Leo Rossi: Halloween II 1981, Maniac Cop 2 1992) reacting to the Maniac Cop events as they unfold. Mayor Killium is cowardly and seemingly one of the top people that framed Cordell in the first place, and his Chief of Staff is sort of the voice of reason and dissent by the end. The additional scenes are only a total of five minutes forty-three seconds, but add some meat to Cordell’s revenge plot.
One scene in particular shows Officer Clancy (James Dixon: Black Caesar 1973, It’s Alive 1973), whom earlier in the film showed McCrae the files on Cordell, was summoned to the Mayor’s office. Clancy outright accuses the Mayor of murdering Cordell once he discovered the mob ties to City Hall. The Mayor threatens Clancy’s job, but Clancy advised he is retiring in a week and closes with “will there be anything else?” all the while wearing a shit-eating grin.As the scenes go on, Mayor Killium gets increasingly paranoid.
Wait, there is more. Yes, there is an extended ending as well. When the news finally breaks that Cordell has been taken care of, he loosens his tie, sits back, and takes a drink. The camera pans from a relieved Mayor, to a pair of wet black shoes sticking out from under a curtain. The legs that go with the shoes emerge from the curtain, the camera stays on the curtain, and the viewer hears a slash and the Mayor screaming.
With an estimated budget of $1,100,000, Maniac Cop only grossed a little over $670,000 at the box office. That withheld, it was enough to spawn 2 direct-to-video sequels – 1990’s Maniac Cop 2 and 1993’s Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, although, Maniac Cop 2 is widely regarded as the best in the trilogy. However, in a 2017 interview with CrypticRock, Larry Cohen stated, “I wasn’t too crazy about those, they did three of them. I didn’t direct them, I just sold them the scripts. The money was nice, but I really had nothing to do with the picture.”
Negatives and positives balances, Maniac Cop has a big enough cult following that a remake is in the works being produced by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive 2011, The Neon Demon 2016.) There are not many details out yet, but the synopsis from IMDB reads: “There’s a monster on the loose on the streets of Los Angeles, or is it just a killer cop out to punish the city that destroyed him?” We shall see what this new edition has to offer. All this in mind, though not the strongest film of the series, Maniac cop is still a fun watch even after 30 years.