Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Sunday, January 28, 2007

DVD Review: Maniac Cop

I need a break from this script I'm trying to finish, so let's knock out one more DVD review before I head for Boston, kidney surgery, a week of hospital bed rest and legal drugs...

One of my favorite action/horror films, William Lustig's MANIAC COP (1988), has finally received the quality DVD release it deserves, thanks to the fine folks at Synapse Films.

Previously issued on laserdisc by Elite Entertainment and as a full-frame DVD by a budget label in a decidedly fuzzy version, this new release is not only the best the film has ever looked on home video, but includes all the great extras from the laserdisc, as well as a few new features created specifically for this edition.

When a psycho killer in a police uniform starts murdering innocent people on the streets of New York, the city is gripped in paranoia and afraid of their own police force. Soon, a young cop named Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell of EVIL DEAD and BUBBA HO-TEP fame) is wrongfully accused of being the "Maniac Cop" when his wife turns up dead and he's arrested. But while Jack may be an unfaithful jerk, he's no serial killer, so it's up to his policewoman mistress (Laurene Landon, YELLOW HAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD) and veteran NYPD detective Frank McCrae (the great Tom Atkins, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, LETHAL WEAPON) to find the real Maniac Cop – a scarred, Frankenstein-esque hulk named Matt Cordell (the imposing Robert Z'Dar of SOULTAKER) – stop him, and clear Jack's name.

A great B-movie cast (which also includes William Smith, Richard Roundtree, Sheree North and Sam Raimi!), slick, noir-ish photography, a nearly perfect script by exploitation vet Larry Cohen (IT'S ALIVE, Q, BLACK CAESAR, ORIGINAL GANGSTAS), an evocative score by Jay Chattaway, and gritty direction by William Lustig (VIGILANTE, MANIAC) combine to create a top-notch, fast-paced entertainment, with plenty of thrills, impressive stunts and some genuine scares.

Synapse's DVD presents MANIAC COP in a brand-new, high definition, 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer from the original vault materials. The movie looks amazing, with a level of clarity and detail unseen in previous video incarnations. The film has also been given a new DTS 6.1 surround audio mix as well as a crystal Dolby Digital 5.1 version.

There's plenty of extras, including a highly entertaining group commentary (ported over from the LD) with director Lustig, writer Cohen, star Campbell and composer Chattaway. There are several theatrical trailers and TV spots, a still gallery, a bunch of short scenes shot to pad out the running time for Japanese television (featuring Leo Rossi of Lustig's RELENTLESS), and a new-to-this-DVD on-camera interview with Robert Z'Dar.

As you may of gathered, I've been a fan of this movie (and its first sequel) for years, and I'm absolutely thrilled to have this new edition for my DVD library. As I mentioned before, despite its long history on video, it has never looked or sounded as good as it does on this new DVD. Synapse is to be commended for putting in the effort to present this cult favorite in such a high quality package. Strongly recommended.


Glen said...

I like this movie and its first sequel myself.

The Psycho Cop series isn't nearly as well done.

Christopher Mills said...

I love how the first (and only good) sequel begins with the surviving heroes of the original film – Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon – seemingly continuing as the stars... and then they're both suddenly out of the picture and Robert Davi and Claudia Christian take over. It's a great fake-out, and really puts the viewer off balance.

Now, if Synapse would just get the DVD rights to that one!

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Cool this is a must buy !! My UK DVD copy of this is well naff quality wise !!