Maniac Cop 2

Director: William Lustig
Screenplay: Larry Cohen
Stars: Robert Davi (Detective Sean McKinney), Claudia Christian (Susan Riley), Michael Lerner (Edward Doyle), Bruce Campbell (Jack Forrest), Laurene Landon (Teresa Mallory), Robert Z'Dar (Matt Cordell), Clarence Williams III (Blum), Leo Rossi (Turkell), Lou Bonacki (Detective Lovejoy), Paula Trickey (Cheryl), Charles Napier (Lew Brady), Santos Morales (Store Clerk)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1990
Country: U.S.
Maniac Cop 2 Blu-Ray
Maniac Cop 2Director William Lustig is fond of referring to Maniac Cop 2 as “Frankenstein Meets The French Connection,” which is an apt description for this silly, but genuinely entertaining generic mishmash. The film is, in every sense, a Frankenstein’s monster, cobbled together out of the body parts of other movies and genres, some fresher than others. Part slasher film, part police procedural, it also incorporates flashes of film noir, Hong Kong action, and gothic horror (there’s probably some melodrama and spaghetti western floating around in there, too). Boasting a significantly larger budget than its predecessor, Maniac Cop (1988), which was also written by B-movie auteur Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, The Stuff), Maniac Cop 2 looks much better than you would expect, and its action sequences have a real sense of grit and danger due to their pre-CGI use of actual city locations and stuntpeople lighting themselves on fire, jumping out of buildings, and hanging on the outside of speeding cars.

The story picks up right where the first Maniac Cop left off, even reprising one of that film’s final scenes (which is a doozy, depicting the apparent death of the titular killer as he is impaled on a pole while driving a van that then jumps a pier and crashes into the bay). The main survivors of the first film, a pair of cops played by Evil Dead stalwart Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon, stick around long enough to provide some continuity between the two films, but otherwise surrender the spotlight to Robert Davi’s humorless Detective Sean McKinney, who comes to believe that a new spate of murders in New York City are being committed by the undead “Maniac Cop” (Robert Z’Dar), who in his previous life was a straight-arrow New York City police office who was framed by corrupt politicians and supposedly executed in Sing Sing. Now a hulking, silent behemoth with a horribly scarred face and a police baton that doubles as a sword, Cordell is once against stalking the mean streets (this being the seedy, late ’80s, pre-Disneyified Big Apple) slaughtering cops and criminals alike.

McKinney, who acts and dresses like he wandered out of a ’40s film noir, pairs reluctantly with Susan Riley (Claudia Christian), a police psychologist who also comes to believe that Cordell is back at work, much to the chagrin of the shady police commissioner Edward Doyle (Michael Lerner), who wants the public to believe it’s the work of a copycat criminal. McKinney is not the only one taking on a partner, though, as Cordell teams with Turkell (Leo Rossi), a scuzzy, overly verbose serial killer who preys on strippers. Like most of the semi-familiar faces that populate the film’s cast, Rossi is a prolific character actor who digs deep into the role (and disappears behind a beard reminiscent of Bela Lugosi’s manimal in Island of Lost Souls), turning Turkell into both offbeat comic relief and the closest thing the film gets to depicting something really, genuinely scary.

Lustig, who had already entered exploitation cinema infamy with the grisly shocker Maniac (1980), invests the film with a sense of style and panache that too many films of its ilk are often lacking. For every scene that feels like a wholesale rip-off of a scene in a better film (for example, the clearly Terminator-inspired machine-gun decimation of an entire police precinct), there are a half a dozen others that work entirely on their own merits. You can sense Lustig’s joy at having a bigger budget to work with, and he makes the most of every dime, staging a hectic, spark-spraying car chase across various sidewalks and a climax in which Cordell, having been set completely on fire, rampages through Sing Sing setting everyone else around him on fire, as well (stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos, already a veteran by this time, has gone on to work on such high-profile projects as The Expendables and the fifth and six installments of the Fast and the Furious franchise).

The film has a crazed sense of abandon that works with the pulpy material, reminding us at all times of its inherent absurdity, but never to the point that we completely lose interest in the plot. Cordell’s mission makes absolutely no sense, as he kills anyone and everyone, guilty and innocent, even though there is some lip service paid to the idea that he simply wants to have his name cleared. Lustig has even admitted that he punched up a lot of the style to help divert our attention from the plot holes, and it works. An early sequence in which Cordell first appears in a convenience store is garish enough to belong in a Dario Argento film, while the excessive blood sprays from bullet hits and manner in which bodies fly through the air against gravity is the clear product of Lustig seeing a few too many John Woo films. Set design and costumes seem to have been chosen purely for their style, rather than appropriateness to the time period (McKinney’s fedora is wonderfully out of place amid the late-’80s big hair around him and most of the cars are right of the early ’70s, for example, which makes the film feel older than it is). Points for originality are certainly scarce, but Maniac Cop 2 scores high on sheer bravura and devil-may-care B-movie pleasure. It is exactly what it should be.

Maniac Cop 2 Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray / DVD Combo Pack

Aspect Ratio1.85:1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby 2.0 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Audio commentary by director William Lustig and filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Back On The Beat: The Making of Maniac Cop 2 retrospective documentary
  • Cinefamily Q&A with director William Lustig
  • Deleted scene
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Poster & still gallery
  • Isolated music track
  • Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems
  • DistributorBlue Underground
    Release DateNovember 19, 2013

    Blue Underground’s presentation of Maniac Cop 2 boasts a new, restored 4K digital transfer from the original film negative. Most American viewers have only seen the film on home video, as it was released straight to video in the U.S. rather than theatrically, as it was in most of the rest of the world. Those who have only seen it on video or DVD will be duly impressed by the sharp 1080p picture quality on this Blu-Ray, especially the way it enhances the film’s visual style (loud primary colors dominate throughout, cutting through the darkness in consistently interesting ways). The image is slightly grainy at times, especially in the darker nighttime sequences, reminding us that this is a pre-digital low-budget movie. The transfer, however, does the best it can with the material, giving us a genuinely impressive looking image. The original two-channel soundtrack has been remixed into a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel mix that gives the various action sequences a new level of immersion and also benefits Jay Chattaway’s clever musical score, which at times incorporates a distinct, eerie whistling. Explosions are big and full, and gunfire resonates powerfully. My only real complaint is that the dialogue is sometimes a little low. The disc gives you the option of listening to Chattaway’s score on an isolated two-channel track, and it is also enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems.
    Blue Underground once again puts together an impressive array of supplements. The audio commentary track features director William Lustig, who is always more than happy to discuss the in’s and out’s of low-budget filmmaking, being interviewed by his friend, filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives). Much of their discussion early on revolves around the B-movie business and issues of financing, but Lustig also has plenty to share about how he made the film and what his influences are (he name-checks the 1986 Sylvester Stallone cop thriller Cobra a number of times, as well as classic horror movies like Son of Frankenstein and The Thing From Another World). The 45-minute retrospective documentary Back On The Beat: The Making of Maniac Cop 2 includes behind-the-scenes photos and interviews with virtually all of the major names involved in the film, including Lustig, writer Larry Cohen, actors Robert Davi, Leo Rossi, Robert Z’Dar, Michael Lerner, and Claudia Christian, composer Jay Chattaway, make-up effects artist Dean Gates, and stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos. Some of the highlights involve Rossi’s story of going to a strip club on Broadway to try out his serial killer character and the awkwardness of both Lustig and Christian discussing their mutually miserable experience working with each other on the film. For those who want more Lustig, there is also a Q&A with the director after a Cinefamily screening of the film. Also on the disc is a deleted scene that features Sam Raimi as a newscaster, several international theatrical trailers, and a poster and stills gallery.

    Copyright ©2013 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Blue Underground

    Overall Rating: (3)

    James Kendrick

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