“Maniac Cop” was originally intended to be a solid no-frills drive-in horror film with lots of guts, both literally and figuratively, and it succeeds with gritty abandon. Despite the artistic and intelligent overlay of its creators, director William Lustig (Maniac, Uncle Sam) and screenwriter Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Phone Booth), at the time of its inception there wasn’t too much to be read into the film. The cries of “police brutality” from the sixties were long gone, and the film goes to great lengths to not delve into stereotypes of the NYPD. Instead, it stays faithful to this new horror character of a silent slasher comparable to Jason Voorhees of “Friday The 13th,” or Michael Meyers of “Halloween” fame and dresses him up in the seemingly safe uniform of a police officer.
(SPOILER) This type of character portrait is demonstrated in a great opening piece wherein a woman is saved from muggers, and discovers she might have been better off with the muggers than she is with this massive figure with a disfigured face that could give Medusa a run for her ugliness. In true classic horror film style, they save the reveal for the last fifteen minutes of act three. What’s left is something like a “Fort Apache: The Bronx” setting with a Phantom Of The Precinct type framework.
It’s been quite a while since I sat hooting in the dark with a bag of over-buttered popcorn to this epic thrill feast, so I’ll definitely be at the Egyptian Theater next Wednesday, August 5th, to see Lustig host “Maniac Cop” and “Maniac Cop 2” as part of the “Night Of The Living 80’s: A New Wave Of Horror Series” presented by the American Cinematheque.
I’ll be anxious to see if the audience still reacts to the film with a sense of shock and fun or if it will take on a grimmer undertone in the grey light of recent police beatings and other suspicious deeds that social media has made more accessible and influential.
Regardless, it’s a great piece of in-your-face horror that made the 80’s so outside the box and memorable. The cast for this crime/horror/action mash-up features genre stalwarts Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead), Tom Atkins (Escape From New York, Night of the Creeps), and the late Robert Z’Dar (Tango And Cash), who shares with Bruce Campbell the nickname, “The Chin.”
The film will begin promptly at 7:30. Mr Lustig will be there for a discussion between films. It is not to be missed because he has had an amazing career that still flourishes with his own DVD/Blu Ray label Blue Underground, which specializes in cult, obscure and foreign language films. The Festival runs from July 30th to August 16th. Have a delicious “Midsummer Night’s Scream.”