Combustible Celluloid
Get the Poster
Stream it:
Own it:
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Robert Z'Dar, Sheree North, Nina Arvesen, Nick Barbaro, Lou Bonacki, Barry Brenner, Victoria Catlin, James Dixon, Corey Michael Eubanks, Jill Gatsby
Written by: Larry Cohen
Directed by: William Lustig
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 85
Date: 03/01/1988

Maniac Cop (1988)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Police Gory

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director William Lustig was the man behind one of the most notorious of grindhouse hits, Maniac (1980). But by the time Maniac Cop came around, the 1980s VHS revolution was in full swing and its thrills were slightly more oriented for the small screen. No matter, though: Maniac Cop is still lots of fun for its "let's see what we can get away with" attitude.

In New York, a man in a cop uniform starts randomly killing people. The movie begins with its most subversive scenes. Victims run straight into the arms of the horrible killer, looking for help, their trust totally and suddenly violated. Cop Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) has some ideas as to how to catch him, but the commissioner (Richard Roundtree) doesn't like or trust him.

Eventually Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell, fresh from Evil Dead II) gets the blame. Only his illicit girlfriend Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) knows he's innocent, but coming forward will put their jobs in jeopardy. Robert Z'Dar plays the actual killer, covered in scars, and Sheree North -- lurching around on crutches -- plays his connection inside the department.

Lustig turns Maniac Cop into low-grade exploitation, with killings and chases on cue, and not all of them adhering to the strictest logic. But the little touches, as well as the haphazard casting, force the movie to life. It's a solid effort from veteran screenwriter Larry Cohen who understands the rules and the rhythms of this kind of movie.

Somehow, Lustig's directorial career sputtered out, but not before he directed two sequels, Maniac Cop 2 (1990) and Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993). He now appears to be a producer of short documentaries and industrial films, mostly about exploitation movies. As of now, a remake of Maniac is in production and the acclaimed director Nicolas Winding Refn has expressed interest in doing a remake of Maniac Cop.

Synapse Films released Maniac Cop on Blu-Ray in the fall of 2011, but due to a mix-up, I didn't receive my copy until the spring of 2012. It's lots of fun, and comes with quite a few cool extras, including interviews, trailers, and some hilarious "filler" scenes shot for Japanese television.

CD Universe
Movies Unlimtied