Known for directing some classic horror/horror comedy trash (It’s Alive, The Stuff, God Told Me To, Full Moon High, The Ambulance, Q: The Winged Serpent, Wicked Stepmother, A Return to Salem’s Lot), Larry Cohen actually pens the Maniac Cop trilogy, while William Lustig (Uncle Sam, 1980’s Maniac) handles the directing duties. They totally feel like Cohen films.
MANIAC COP (1988)
Maniac Cop is a fun time killer from the late 80s, but I think many fans—including myself—are guilty of giving it more love than it deserves simply because both Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell are in it.
Truth is, neither icon is at the top of his horror game here or bothering to give it his all. Even more disappointing is that they don’t work together. In an odd move, Atkins is on the case for the first part of the film and then Campbell takes over the takedown of Maniac Cop in the second part.
Maniac Cop goes around the city killing people, but Robocop he isn’t. He kills innocent people! In an interesting reflection on a still troubling issue in our society, people begin distrusting the police as a result of the serial killer cop on the loose.
We do get a prison shower scene that explains what killed Maniac Cop in the first place and why he’s so angry, but that still doesn’t excuse who he chooses to kill.
This is not a scary film or even humorous (again, our two leading men are a total letdown), and the kills aren’t particularly hardcore (except the shower scene which is brutal), but it does at least move at a fast pace, and there’s a thrilling car chase with Bruce and his love interest detective against Maniac Cop at the end.
Keep an eye out for Blanche’s sister Virginia from The Golden Girls.
MANIAC COP 2 (1990)
After a quick recap of the first film, Bruce and his lady are sent to therapy for believing that the Maniac Cop came back from the dead in the first place.
Meanwhile, it’s Christmas time, strippers are being killed, and veteran actor Robert Davi is on the case. Just like the first film, the detecting duties are handed off; Bruce is out not too far into the film, and Davi is in. It’s kind of a clever move once you get into it being a thing for the series.
The plot is sloppy and disjointed, with Leo Rossi (Halloween II, Relentless movies) playing the stripper killer while Maniac Cop has a new tactic; he kills innocent people who are falling victim of petty crimes and sets it up to look like the bad guy killed them.
Will this cop ever get on the right side of the law?
At some point, Rossi joins forces with him, ruining his mystique.
Part 2 is definitely more fun than the first in terms of violence, and overall I enjoy it more. What wins it for me is a long scene in which the therapist is handcuffed to a steering wheel during a chase…while hanging on to the outside of the car! I couldn’t help but be reminded of the car chase scene in Larry Cohen’s film The Ambulance.
Maniac Cop also gets a hip hop theme song during the closing credits.
MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE (1993)
This one makes the second film look well written. It’s so bad I had to dig deeper to find out why. Turns out the movie clocked in at 50 minutes when Lustig was done filming, so the studio beefed up the running time by incorporating unused scenes from the second film and adding some new scenes Lustig didn’t direct.
The film begins with Maniac Cop being resurrected by some voodoo dude. Ugh. The series has definitely been infected by the 90s horror disease. It’s all downhill from there, with a large chunk of the film taking place in a hospital, which just lost me. There’s also some reporter dude running around filming everything just to add to the mess, plus that voodoo dude.
Most disappointing is that Robert Davi is the focus of the entire movie instead of it being handed off to someone else as in the other films. I guess Michael Ironside wasn’t available.
Meanwhile, it’s beyond me how this horrible sequel also includes numerous well-known actors, including Doug Savant, Robert Forster, and Mr. Vernon from The Breakfast Club.
The only thing I really liked about the third and final film is the mandatory car chase…with Maniac Cop on fire throughout the whole scene!