Thursday, March 12, 2009

Movie Review: Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop
MANIAC COP - 1988 Bad Cop Horror From Larry Cohen, William Lustig & Bruce Campbell
Written Larry Cohen
Directed by William Lustig

Tom Atkins...Frank McCrae
Jack Forrest...Bruce Campbell
Laurene Landon...Theresa Mallory
Richard Roundtree...Commisioner Pike

A blond woman leaves the bar where she works, and begins the late-night walk home. Almost instantly, she's attacked by a pair of muggers. She runs in a panic, and is thrilled when she finds a police officer walking his beat. Only the cop isn't about to help her--he lifts her off the ground with his bare hands and snaps her neck, lickety split.

In no time at all, more bodies begin piling up and eye witnesses all state that it is a uniformed police officer committing the crimes. Only homicide detective Frank McCrae puts any real stock into these reports, and takes it upon himself to discover who the perp is. Going against orders from the commissioner, McCrae goes to the press and releases a statement warning the public to be wary of men in police uniforms.

This, of course, strikes fear into the heart of the city. Paranoia begins to run rampant, and suddenly every police officer on the force is viewed as a killer. This culminates in the shooting of an innocent policeman by a terrified woman who was only being offered assistance.

This Maniac Cop is intelligent, though, and realizes that he will be caught eventually. Unless, of course, he finds somebody else to take the fall for him. Enter officer Jack Forrest, whose chronically depressed wife winds up a corpse in a motel room registered under Jack's name. He's promptly arrested, and although we know he's innocent, we're not the ones who need convincing.

Against all odds, McCrae continues his pursuit of the real killer, chasing down any number of leads and suspects--but it's a long and dangerous road.

This is a good, solid little exploitation film that was probably even more frightening a few years back, during the last 'fake cop' scare. The acting was great, and the casting was inspired--I mean, Shaft as the Police Commissioner? Sign me up! The musical cues were powerful at all the right moments, the special effects used effectively, and the action was always fun. And the truth of the matter is that if you don't want to see a movie written by Larry Cohen, directed by William Lustig, and starring Bruce Campbell, then you're reading the wrong blog.

Speaking of Bruce Campbell, he is a little less...Bruce Campbell in this movie than you would expect from seeing his later output--meaning that he's not a constant smart ass who is relishing his cheesiness and mugging for the camera. This isn't an insult to Bruce Campbell, by the way...all this is part of the B-Movie Big Daddy's usual charm, although it is refreshing to take a look back and see him in a more actor-y role.

I appreciated the fact that you never really see the killer's face until the very end of the movie--it's all carefully orchestrated to prevent his identity from being known. Usually all you see is his white-gloved hands, sort of like an American giallo. It also helps build the suspense and the mystery--it could be practically anybody, and Bruce Campbell was a nice little red herring. Hell, even I believed it for a moment or two!

I can't recommend this movie enough, if only for the immortal line: "You always take a leak with a gun in your hand? That's a good way to blow your balls off!"

91 Minutes
Rated R
United States

I fought the law and the law won...

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