Review: Maniac Cop Blu-ray

Bruce Campbell horror outing tackles police brutality in a suitably sensitive fashion

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Certificate: 18
Running Time: 82 mins
Year Made: 1988
Director: William Lustig Screenwriter: Larry Cohen
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, Laurene Landon

Released: 31 October 2011 Price: £27.99 Number Of Discs: 2
Distributor: Arrow Video

It’s a bit odd to see something like Maniac Cop on a format as spangly and futuristic as Blu-ray. It’s the kind of movie that needs to be experienced on a battered, worn videotape, preferably recorded from Channel 4 at 3 in the morning, adverts from 1997 awkwardly interspersed between all the cop killing carnage.

Maniac Cop has a lot going for it. It’s written by B-movie legend Larry Cohen and directed by experienced horror director William Lustig. It has a sweet tagline (‘You have the right to stay silent…FOREVER’) and a good cast. Cult messiah Bruce Campbell is present, playing it relatively straight after his demented turn in Evil Dead 2 (he turns up in the sequel too, but things don’t go so well for him there. Spoiler alert), and character actor Tom Atkins plays a hardened but kindly detective. Some lad called Sam Raimi makes a cameo too. No idea what he’s up to now though.

It’s got a simple premise. Someone dressed as a cop has been running around New York murdering people, so Atkins’ character’s been tasked with taking the killer down. Suspicions fall upon the shoulders of Campbell’s character, who then goes about trying to get to the bottom of it. Sounds fairly routine, until they realise the actual murderer is a dead cop, returned as some kind of vengeful, homicidal revenant. Eek!

Thankfully there’s no post-ironic Scream style nonsense going on here, as this is an Eighties film after all, and nobody really did irony in the Eighties. Maniac Cop is played dead straight, and it’s all the better for it. Despite the shonky effects (there’s a flash of lightning that looks endearingly naff) and some hammy acting, it holds up fairly well. It’s tightly directed and plotted, and knows exactly the kind of effect it’s after. It’s a bleak film too. Moodily shot, it depicts New York as a pretty barren, menacing place. Despite the schlocky premise it’s pretty understated all told.

If you’re just desperate to know about what the stars think, the Blu-ray is packed with interviews, including Atkins, Laurene Landon and Larry Cohen. Sadly there probably wasn’t enough room on the Blu-ray to render every inch of Campbell’s magnificent chin for an interview. It comes with a booklet too, all wrapped up with a wonderful bit of B-movie artwork on the front, so even if it does feel sort of wrong not owning the film on a 15 year old bit of VHS, at least it’s packed with content and will look pretty lavish among your expanding collection of grot.  Just don’t annoy any coppers after you watch it.