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If anything can be said about this late 80s slasher, it is that it contains a virtual who’s who of 80s/genre icons both before and behind the camera. Produced by James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator, Shakedown), written by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q The Winged Serpent) and directed by William Lustig (Maniac), while starring Tom Atkins (The FogHalloween III), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead), William Smith (The Ultimate Warrior), Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Laurene Landon (All The Marbles) and started the career of genre favorite Robert Z’Dar… an impressive list. And while the film doesn’t quite live up to the potential of the sum of it’s makers and cast, it is a fun slasher made at a time where the 80s slasher genre had pretty much run it’s course and this flick is among some of it’s last gasps before Scream brought the slasher back as the subject of pop culture nostalgia 8 years later.

Maniac Cop is set in NYC and tells the story of a murder spree that is being committed by a large hulking assailant dressed liked a police officer or, worse yet, actually is a police officer. This killer is being hunted by Det. Frank McCrae (Atkins) who can’t seem to get a lead till fellow officer Jack Forrest (Campbell) is framed for the villain’s handiwork, with the murder of Forrest’s own wife. McCrea knows the cheating Forrest was with his mistress, Officer Theresa Mallory (Landon) at the time and begins to suspect the killer is indeed a cop getting information from the inside. What’s more, the man he suspects, Officer Matt Cordell (Z’Dar), a once hero cop sent to prison for rights violations to keep him from exposing city officials, was supposedly murdered in prison by vengeful inmates. If proving Forrest’s innocence is not hard enough, he now has to prove that the real culprit is a man long believed dead.

NYC set slasher is directed fairly by the numbers by William Lustig but, Larry Cohen’s script is filled with his trademarked sly humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s definitely a bit livelier then Lustig’s cult classic Maniac was though, far less gruesome. It’s not one of the best of the 80s slashers but, is entertaining and has enough gore and action to make it a fun nostalgic watch, especially when one sees NYC landmarks and once famous night spots that are no longer there. The plot, if thought about, makes little sense. While Cordell may have suffered brain damage when assaulted in prison, it still doesn’t make too much sense that he now preys on innocent civilians when he was once a dedicated cop. But, there is a deviation with him wanting to kill those responsible for setting him up and at one point, he decimates a precinct full of fellow officers whom he may feel betrayed him and it is an 80s slasher so, very little inspiration is needed for a killing spree and like other flicks of it’s kind, you just go with it. The film is well produced and looks good and there is some effective gore though, not as much as one might expect. The pace is rather brisk and there is an effective score by another genre favorite Jay Chattaway (Missing In Action, Star Trek: TNG).

And if nothing else, it’s great to see the cast in action. Atkins chews up the scenery as only Atkins can but, still takes the subject matter seriously so we do too. Campbell is actually playing a straight hero type here, though he spends a lot of time incarcerated and in cuffs while the perky and leggy Landon tries to free him and get him out of Cordell’s grasp. Not sure why Cordell wants his patsy dead but, like I said, go with it. The rest of the genre vets have lesser roles but, Smith and Roundtree add some nice character to their small roles. And Z’Dar may have no dialog but, cuts an imposing figure as the vengeful cop whose basically Michael Myers in a police uniform… but, it works and Z’Dar is a perfect fit for the badge and night stick. The cast go a long way in making this one a fun viewing.

So, while Maniac Cop is not a prime example of it’s sub-genre, is a fairly entertaining one and the cast of familiar B-movie faces makes it fun to watch as does the nostalgia of 80s NYC. It isn’t very stylish but moves quickly and has it’s share of well executed gore and stunts. Not among my favorites but, does have personal nostalgia from seeing it at the long gone Hyway Theater in Fair lawn, N.J. which showed a lot of B-movies like this back in those days.

3 maniac cops.

maniac cop

CAUTION: The trailer does show a lot of spoiler-ish scenes if you haven’t seen this cult classic yet.





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This is another favorite of mine. It’s not quite on a level with other apocalyptic 70s flicks like Omega Man and Soylent Green , but it is actually a decent flick and a lot of fun and is a lesser known film from that era. The film does fit in well with those other flicks for a 70s futuristic film fest featuring Ten Commandments actors…only a film geek would come up with that combo and as these films illustrate, it’s enjoyably do-able!

The film takes place in NYC of the year 2012 (was made in 1975, so we’ll cut their vision of our present decade some slack) in a world decimated by an epidemic, where food is now scarce and savage gangs roam the streets with the last, more civilized survivors living in secured compounds within the city. One such compound is run by The Baron (Max Von Sydow), a kind-hearted man who has provided a home, some hope and even food for a small group of survivors under his leadership. His man Cal (Richard Kelton) has even gotten vegetables to grow again in a rooftop garden. Baron sees the group deteriorating and if that’s not enough, there is constant harassment by the thugs of a larger and more aggressive neighboring compound run by the ruthless Carrot (legendary TV and movie bad guy William Smith). But hope arrives in the form of Carson (Yul Brynner), a man who makes his living as a fighter protecting such compounds. Baron hires Carson, but upon hearing the warrior’s plan to one day retire to a small island off the Carolina coast, Baron decides to send his pregnant daughter (Joanna Miles) and Cal’s seeds, along with Carson, to this sanctuary to start fresh and maybe give humanity a chance to re-bloom. With the discovery of his plan, compound members feel betrayed and start to turn on their benefactor and worse yet, Carrot has decided to destroy his rivals for good and take what’s their’s, as well as, their lives. Carson is the only one who stands in the way of what might be civilization’s final downfall, but the odds are great and his is but one man.

Written and directed by Enter The Dragon’s Robert Clouse, this is an entertaining action flick that shares similar 70s films’ bleak vision of what the 21st century would be like. It moves quickly and smartly uses it’s aging star to it’s advantage. Brynner was 55 when he made this and while he still is in fairly good shape, his age is showing and it gives the illusion of a man whose been physically punished by a violent life in the streets and would really like to retire his knife. Clouse’s script is not perfect. There are plot holes…such as why Carrot didn’t send his thugs to take out Carson before he was hired by Baron and eliminate a potential advantage to his rival. That and the film does have more of a TV movie look than a feature film, but it was made for a very modest budget even at this time. What Clouse does succeed at, is creating some interesting characters and keeping the action scenes very grounded, so they appear more as brutal street fights than choreographed and he takes his story seriously and the film never becomes campy. It’s humor comes from some nice interaction between characters, there are some nice dialog moments, especially between Carson and Baron, but otherwise maintains a dark and serious tone. He successfully portrays the disintegration of the group and the foolish things people do when panicked and scared and the harm their panic causes. He also creates an atmospheric world where desperate times can lead to savage actions and normally peaceful people will behave with almost gleeful brutality. It is ironic that fighter Carson may be one of the more civilized people when the others start to turn vicious. He at least only kills in self defense or with good reason. In the last third, Clouse also gives us a fairly suspenseful cat and mouse chase under the streets of New York, as Carrot pursues Carson who is escorting the about to give birth Melinda (Miles) through the subway system. The film’s last act is entertaining and has some brutal moments, but also provides some glimmer of hope that civility and peace might some day return to this shattered world.

The cast are also strong among the principles. There is some weak overacting by some of the lesser supporting characters, but the main cast all do strong work. Brynner is a legend and here he creates a Samurai like character in the noble but deadly Carson. Despite the savagery around him and being a killer, he actually is far more grounded than the panicked and desperate people he protects. All he really wants is a quiet place to live out his days and a good cigar. He seems to have made his peace with the world and how he is forced to live in it and is far more stable than those around him, who quickly turn on each other over a piece of fruit or a bag of beans. Von Sydow is also quite endearing as the Baron. A man of quiet strength and fortitude who still sees hope, but is also smart enough to know when a cause is lost. He is a self sacrificing man who knows when he has done all he can. He and Brynner have some very charming dialog scenes together and they seem to legitimately like each other. It creates a nice character dynamic. Smith is basically a stereotypical villain with the violent dictator that is Carrot. It is a role Smith made a career out of playing and he is damn good at it and gives the simply written Carrot a lot of character and threat with the minimal dialog he has. Smith has always had a strong screen presence and he uses it to good effect here. One of the film’s flaws is that the final confrontation with Carson and Carrot should have been a bit more epic, it was over a little too quick for the build-up of expectations and needed to have more impact. Rounding out is Joanna Miles, presenting a strong woman in Melinda. Richard Kelton is very likable as the scientist Cal and we get a young Stephen McHattie as a compound member and new father trying to do what’s right for his family, while dealing with an increasingly panicked wife. A solid cast in the lead roles.

Overall, I like this film very much as you can tell. Sure it’s cheesy by today’s standards and it’s not perfect. There are plot holes and a little overacting from the supporting cast. But Robert Clouse gives us some solid lead characters, some brutal violence and keeps a tense atmosphere. He gets great work from veterans Brynner and Von Sydow and creates a world where danger lurks both outside and within, as desperation makes people forget their civility and loyalty. It’s not a perfect film, but an entertaining one and one now enhanced by some good old fashioned 70s nostalgia. A personal guilty pleasure and one I recommend for those who haven’t seen or heard of it. Not a great movie, but a good one and one sadly overlooked and underrated.

Rated 3 (out of 4) knife-wielding, cigar-loving street fighters.

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